The front of a chapel building is scaffolded and under repair. Charlestown Methodist Chapel.
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Works began at Charlestown Methodist Chapel in December 2017 © Cornwall Council
Works began at Charlestown Methodist Chapel in December 2017 © Cornwall Council

Heritage at Risk in the South West - 2018 Summary

Here are our Heritage at Risk headlines for 2018.

The great news is that we have managed to remove 99 sites from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2018, awarding grants of £1.53 million to 69 historic places across the region. John Ette, Principal Heritage at Risk Adviser, South West

Volunteers working at Clarendon Palace in Wiltshire.
Volunteers at Clarendon Palace, Wiltshire, once an important royal medieval residence. © Historic England

The year in figures

In the last 12 months, we have removed 99 sites from the Heritage at Risk Register and awarded £1.53 million in grants to 69 historic places at risk across the region. 

This year's removals include:

  • 21 places of worship, many of them at the heart of communities across the South West. This represents 18% of the national total removed from at risk status this year
  • 16 buildings or structures, making up 20% of the national total of 80 buildings secured in 2018
  • 62 archaeological sites - a huge 59% of the national total of 104 saved this year. One example is Clarendon Palace, Wiltshire (above), where volunteers and students have worked with the owner in partnership with Natural England to conserve the ruins of this once mighty royal site, abandoned and ruined since 1485

We are pleased to have helped secure significant additional grants and resources from our partners in the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, various trusts and charitable bodies, and also private individuals. All this support is vital to reduce risk to our most cherished historic places.

But there are still many challenges remaining. Whilst 99 sites were removed from the register this year, 49 new sites have been identified as being at risk and added to it. This includes the Axe Boat (a Medieval sailing vessel) in Devon, which is periodically exposed at low tide as the silt bank erodes, leading to it being placed at high risk. 

The South West still has around 25% of the entries on the national Heritage at Risk Register - that's a total of 1,455 sites whose futures still need to be secured. So whilst we have a lot to celebrate this year, we will remain very busy helping owners and partners rescue heritage sites across the region. 

Priorities for 2019: The Wellington Monument

A priority case for the coming year is the Wellington Monument, near Taunton, Somerset. It is the largest stone pillar in the UK and the tallest triangular obelisk in the world. Built after the battle of Waterloo to celebrate the Duke of Wellington and his victories for the nation, it was funded by public subscription. We have offered expert advice and grant aid towards a £3.9 million scheme to restore the monument.

 

Wellington Monument, Somerset
Wellington Monument, Somerset. A current Heritage at Risk priority. © Chris Andrews via Geograph

Priorities for 2019: Industrial heritage

Our industrial heritage sites remain a priority and we are working closely with local authorities, trusts and owners of major and long-term difficult sites across the South West. Sites we will be focussing on in 2019 include The Mechanics Institute in Swindon, Wiltshire and the Tonedale Mills sites in Wellington, Somerset, where we are helping fund a Project Officer to provide dedicated time and resources to progress solutions for their rescue and repair.

 

Railway Mechanics' Institute, Swindon
Railway Mechanics' Institute, Swindon. A priority heritage at risk case. © Historic England

Priorities for 2019: Partnerships

Partnerships are critical to our success in tackling heritage at risk. 

Working together we can start to understand what makes historic places vulnerable in the first place. For example, we are currently working with Exeter University on the threats posed by climate change including studies of ancient cliff castles and promontory forts in Devon and Cornwall.

And once a place becomes vulnerable, we share expertise and experience to find workable solutions. We do this with our partners in local authorities, National Parks, key landowners, and other major heritage bodies including the National Trust. We also assist Natural England to target Countryside Stewardship schemes to tackle vulnerable monuments in the countryside. We also value our relationship with the Architectural Heritage Fund and Princes Foundation building the capacity of local trusts to take on problem buildings and archaeological sites.

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