Additions to the South West 2018 Heritage at Risk Register

This year, 49 historic sites have been added to the South West's Heritage at Risk Register. Here we highlight four cases which have been identified as being at risk, and what's being done to secure their future.

Wool Bridge, Dorset

Listed at Grade II*, Wool Bridge is the best-preserved Elizabethan bridge in Dorset. Following heavy rain at the start of 2018, the bridge collapsed and was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register. Since then, we've been working with Dorset County Council Engineering Team in advance of the repairs, which should be completed later this year.

A ‘Wullebrigg’ is first documented in 1244. The first record of a bridge crossing the river Frome here is in 1343, although the current structure dates for the most part to the 16th century.

One positive to come out of the damage and subsequent repairs will be the opportunity to record archaeology around the structure. We hope to uncover material from an earlier bridge, and potentially artefacts lost during the centuries that local people have used this place as a crossing point.

Flood damage to Elizabethan stone bridge in Dorset.
Wool Bridge in January 2018. The structure collapsed after heavy rain. © Historic England

Prehistoric cairns and tombs, Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly are home to a remarkable historic landscape, in which many hundreds of well-preserved prehistoric monuments survive. By far the majority are cairns and chambered tombs of the Early Bronze Age. Yet the beauty of the islands can make sites difficult to manage, with access limited by weather and tides. This year seven remarkable cairns and tombs have been added to the Heritage at Risk Register.

The sites have been overwhelmed by scrub, bracken, and invasive species like New Zealand Flax. We are now working closely with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, the Isles of Scilly Council, and the Islands’ Community Archaeology group to raise awareness of these features, clear them of vegetation and restore them as features in the landscape, for people to enjoy.

Great strides have been made already, with four of the sites removed from the register this year, thanks in particular to the efforts of local volunteers and the Wildlife Trust. A creative partnership between Historic England, the Isle of Scilly Council and Cornwall Archaeological Unit as the principal contractor has also played a significant role, as have grants from Historic England and Natural England-funded Countryside Stewardship agreements.

View of a hilltop on St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, showing three impressive chambered cairns which are all but invisible because the hill is so overgrown with bracken, bramble and gorse.
The top of Cruther’s Hill, St Martin’s, is crowned by three impressive chambered cairns which are all but invisible because the hill is so overgrown with bracken, bramble and gorse. This site has been added to the Register this year. Copyright Historic England © Historic England

Exeter City Walls

The walls of the city of Exeter include Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval sections. The walls were begun in 200 AD and survive as a rectangular circuit. The Roman walls were repaired and rebuilt throughout the Anglo Saxon, medieval and Civil War periods. The city was a key military objective during the first English civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, and later in the Civil War between the Royalists and Parliamentarians.

As a result, Exeter’s walls have reflected the need for defence throughout turbulent times and are a special part of the character of the city. Today the wall survives well and remains a much-loved feature of Exeter, but its condition is slowly deteriorating in some areas.

Repair and consolidation are needed for a section of the wall where ownership is being resolved. Historic England is offering to fund 50% of the cost of these works to the prospective owners, as well as to contribute to a condition survey of the City Council owned parts of the wall, to help prioritise repairs over future years.

A man walking beside Exeter City Walls
Exeter City Walls. Added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2018. © Nilfanion via Wikimedia Commons

The Axe Boat, Devon

The Axe boat dates to the late 15th or early 16th century. In 2001 shifting tidal patterns revealed the wreck in the silt of a former harbour.

These wrecks are extremely rare with very few surviving examples known around our entire coastline. Its timbers are well enough preserved to reveal details of the techniques used by medieval shipwrights.

The biggest threat to the wreck comes from fluctuating silt levels, as when its sodden timber dries out it begins to decay; exposed timber is also subject to biological attack. There is also a risk of accidental damage or loss of historic fabric due to floods, storms, and contact with small vessels using the channel.

The Axe Boat has this year been added to the Heritage at Risk Register. While we have the opportunity to do so, we hope that it will be possible to understand and record more of the vessel, to gain more information about our early shipbuilding history and medieval mercantile past.

A wooden bowl found on the Axe Boat which lies in the mud bank on the west side of the Axe River in south Devon.
A wooden bowl found on the Axe Boat which lies in the mud bank on the west side of the Axe River in South Devon. © Devon County Council
Was this page helpful?

Also of interest...