Landscape gardens, lake, rocks and dam wall at Plumpton Rocks. A man walks along the dam wall on the right of the image.
Plumpton Rocks, Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire © Historic England Archive DP289772
Plumpton Rocks, Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire © Historic England Archive DP289772

Heritage at Risk in Yorkshire Revealed

Today, Historic England publishes its annual Heritage at Risk Register for 2021. The Register is the yearly health-check of England’s most valued historic places and those most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Sites rescued and removed from the Register

Over the last year, 17 historic buildings and sites in Yorkshire have been saved thanks to the determination of local communities, charities, owners, local councils and Historic England, who together want to see historic places restored and brought back to life.

Saved: First White Cloth Hall, Leeds

The First White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate in Leeds was built in 1711 for the sale of undyed cloth, a role successively taken on by the second, third and fourth White Cloth Halls. Today only the first and third survive.

The hall represents the beginnings of the city’s wealth, through its successful cloth trade. It was originally built to dissuade traders from moving away to a new covered cloth hall in Wakefield. Over the years the building was used for many purposes, but by the 1980s it was largely vacant. Completely disused by 2010, it fell into very poor condition.

Today, thanks to the passion of the Leeds Civic Trust which argued for its preservation, and a regeneration project led by Rushbond, in partnership with Historic England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Leeds City Council, the story of this Grade II* building begins a new chapter as an ambitious and dynamic occupier is sought for this amazing space.

Saved: Plumpton Rocks, Harrogate

Plumpton Rocks is a Grade II* listed landscape designed in the mid-18th century, one of a collection of fantastic historic gardens across North Yorkshire.

The site’s condition had declined largely due to silting of the lake and the growth of self-set trees. But a long-running project with vital support and funding from Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship scheme, Historic England, the Historic Houses Foundation and the owner, has seen the site restored. The lake has been dredged to recover its 18th-century proportions, there have been repairs to the dam and work to manage trees and vegetation growth, as well as restoration work to the remaining parkland.

Plans are being developed to manage public access to this beautiful site as part of Harrogate’s rich landscape offer and already the local angling club are helping to control invasive vegetation.

The site features a man-made lake and dam, wood and parkland, with dramatic natural outcrops of millstone grit rock formations, shaped and eroded by wind and water. Considered one of the finest 18th-century landscapes in the North of England, it was twice painted by J M W Turner, with both works now hanging in Harewood House.

The site has a rich history: the Plumpton family owned the estate from the Norman conquest, until it was sold to the Lascelles family of Harewood House in the 18th century. In the 1950s, descendants of the original Plumpton owners bought it back.

Saved: Butt Farm anti-aircraft site, East Riding

The H31 or Walkington gun battery, now a scheduled monument, is located on a farm and campsite. First operational in 1941, it was built to defend Hull from the attacks of high flying bombers in the Second World War.

It was initially equipped with four mobile guns, and later with static guns mounted in permanent gun emplacements. The emplacements are built from brick and arranged in an arc around a semi-submerged Command Post.

The 3.7-inch guns were operated by men of the 62 HAA Regiment, with women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service carrying out all other roles on the site including operating radar and communications systems, some 300 personnel in total.

The site was last used in the 1950s, after which it was abandoned, falling into disrepair and becoming overgrown with brambles and nettles. New tenants took over the farm in 2015 and they worked hard to clear vegetation, enlisting volunteer support from a local Scout group.

More recently, Albanwise Environment, acting as managing agent on behalf of the landlord, partnered with Historic England on a programme of repair including replacing decayed bricks, repointing and roof repairs. The works have seen interest in the site flourish. The public can now see the battery on one of the weekly guided tours run by local military historian Dennis Chapman, who also arranges visits for military enthusiasts, history and walking groups, and most recently 130 people as part of Heritage Open Days.

The site is on private land, accessible for tours by prior arrangement with Butt Farm.

Saved: Howardian Hills Monument Management Scheme

The Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a landscape shaped over the centuries by the owners of several large country houses: Castle Howard, Hovingham Hall, Newburgh Priory, Gilling Castle and Nunnington Hall.

The AONB covers 79 square miles of countryside, farmland and parkland, as well as many archaeological features including Iron Age earthworks. Maintaining these features is important as they tell the story of this land’s human occupation over thousands of years.

Since the start of the monument management scheme in 2015, volunteers have worked with the AONB team to care for vulnerable monuments and learn the skills necessary to manage them. As a result of the scheme, 16 scheduled monuments have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, six have seen their condition improve, and work to a further 20 has prevented decline.

Volunteers were key to the success of this scheme, assisting with surveys and inspections as well as clearing invasive plants to allow native species to flourish, relishing the chance to be active outdoors and help care for this precious landscape.

Heritage at Risk in brief

The Heritage at Risk Register 2021 reveals that in Yorkshire:

  • 106 buildings or structures (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments across England)
  • 58 places of worship
  • 294 archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments)
  • 11 parks and gardens
  • 2 battlefields
  • 52 conservation areas

…are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.

In total, there are 523 entries across Yorkshire on the 2021 Heritage at Risk Register.