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More Than 50 Historic Sites Across North West Rescued

English Heritage reveals latest statistics on vulnerable historic sites across North West.

Across the North West 57 sites have been added to the Register because of concerns about their condition, while 50 have been repaired and removed from the Register, their future secured. Over the year more than £880,000 has been offered in grants by English Heritage to help some of the North West's best loved and most important historic sites.

The Heritage at Risk Register, published annually by English Heritage, identifies listed buildings and historic sites most at risk of loss or decay. It focuses attention on those that need help and targets resources to where they can make the most difference.

Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock, North Warehouse, Liverpool
Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock, North Warehouse, Liverpool

The Heritage at Risk headlines for the North West:

  • 10 buildings or structures have been taken off the Register and 1 has been added.
  • 4 churches and places of worship have been taken off the Register and 48 have been added.
  • 35 archaeological sites have been removed from the Register and 1 has been added.
  • 4 conservation areas including have been removed from the Register this year, 7 conservation areas have been added.
  • £881,000 of grant money was spent on 10 sites on the North West Register during 2013/2014.

Highlights from across the North West include:

Greater Manchester

Long Street Methodist Sunday School and Church in Middleton, Rochdale, by the innovative Manchester architect, Edgar Wood, is in a grave condition and needs significant repairs. The leaded windows are failing and stone slates are falling from the roof, causing rot, damp and mould growth. Regular but limited maintenance is carried out by committed volunteers but, unfortunately, the roof has reached such a poor state that the complete re-roofing is likely to be needed. The building, which is now owned by the Heritage Trust for the North West, really needs the support of the local community to bring it back into full use.
But the news is not all bad. The home of Victorian novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell, has been brought back to life following a lengthy campaign led by the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust. English Heritage provided technical advice and over £300,000 in grants. The site has been removed from the At Risk register and is now open to the public as a high quality visitor attraction. The restored interior now evokes the atmosphere of the 1860's when Mrs Gaskell lived and worked in the house and also provides office and community space.

Merseyside

Stanley Dock opened in 1848 as one of five inter-connected docks that helped to make Liverpool one of the greatest ports in the world. The site fell vacant after closing in 1980 and later became at risk. Thanks to the investment and vision of the developer, Harcourt, who embarked on the challenging conversion of the Grade II* listed North Warehouse into a hotel, with a conference centre in the former Rum Warehouse, life has now been brought back to one of the most complete warehouse and dock ensembles of the Liverpool World Heritage Site.
This successful project is stimulating further regeneration: the next part of the historic complex to be developed is the neighbouring Tobacco Warehouse, said to be the largest brick building in the world at the time of construction.

The Grade II* listed Royal Insurance Building, which stood vacant for over 20 years, had suffered water penetration and theft. Fortunately Ashall Property Ltd recognised its potential, with advice and funding from English Heritage and support from Liverpool City Council, have returned the Edwardian building to its original splendour. The building sits on one of the finest streets in Liverpool's commercial district and is held up by a self-supporting steel frame, one of the earliest in Britain.

Bracken control by volunteers co-ordinated by Holly Beavitt-Pike from Lake District National Park, at shieling settlements close to mouth of Scale Beck.
Bracken control by volunteers co-ordinated by Holly Beavitt-Pike from Lake District National Park, at shieling settlements close to mouth of Scale Beck.

Cumbria

Thanks to local volunteers the mysterious remains at Scale Beck, which had been on the At Risk register since 2009, are safe once more. The project was run by the Lake District National Park through a post part-funded by English Heritage. This successful scheme has already rescued 15 sites, but over 60 across Cumbria are still at risk from bracken infestation. Bracken has entirely covered many upland monuments in recent years, causing damage and hiding them from view.

The plant's destructive roots can cause irreversible damage to archaeological remains. One example is the fascinating pre-historic remains at Birkrigg Stone Circle, near Ulverston, which has been added to list of ten most important priority sites in the North West.

Thanks to a partnership between English Heritage and Carlisle City Council Carlisle Conservation Area has come off the Heritage at Risk Register. An English Heritage grant has been part of the funding package delivered by Carlisle City Council which has seen the refurbishment of several key buildings including the Crown & Mitre and the Old Town Hall - buildings that make a huge positive contribution to the appearance of the conservation area as a whole.

Another site saved and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register this year is the Grade I listed, medieval Devil's Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale.

Cheshire

Two sites in Cheshire are still on the Top Ten Priority list for the North West: Castle Hill motte and ditch system, in Oldcastle and the Central General Service Hangar, Hooton, Ellesmere Port. Amongst the long-standing cases on the register in Cheshire is Combermere Abbey. It first appeared on the 1998 Register because the north wing was all but vacant and substantial parts of the timber framing had collapsed. An English Heritage grant has focused on conserving the medieval great hall (library), with extensive investigations and the careful conservation of the fireplace, coved ceilings and oak panelling of the 1600s.

The conservation works to the library are complete and repairs to the north wing have just started. Cheshire has 15 archaeological sites coming off the register this year. Many of these successes have been the result of improved management of agricultural land through funding from Natural England.

Lancashire

The former lime works at Bellmanpark stand near a busy quarry that is still in use today for the manufacture of cement. However, the limekilns themselves are industrial relics no longer at the heart of a thriving and essential business. Lack of any maintenance has left the furnace structures in danger. The underground tunnels that once provided an engineered solution to making the manufacturing process quicker, safer and more profitable are beginning to show their age. Where the elegant arches and brick-lined walls are collapsing, the tunnels are partially flooded and piled with debris and invasive vegetation have taken root.

An approach is currently being formulated that plans to see the monument cleared of vegetation with the involvement of the owners and volunteers from the Clitheroe Civic Society. Once the kilns are more accessible and before any further work commences, English Heritage plans to assist with the accurate recording of the structures. A combination of private and public funding will then be necessary to address the worst structural issues, make the monument safe, and provide interpretative material on site.

This autumn we are holding a conference in Lancaster, 'Saving your Heritage', to link together community groups, local authorities and other key stakeholders. We will reflect on what's been achieved and explore new ways to work together so that more of our treasured heritage is saved for the future.

Combermere Abbey, Cheshire. General view of the Library ceiling from the south showing completed ceiling repairs which have been grant aided by English Heritage.
Combermere Abbey, Cheshire. General view of the Library ceiling from the south showing completed ceiling repairs which have been grant aided by English Heritage.

Places of Worship in the North West

This year's Register is the most comprehensive to date, after a thorough review of all listed places of worship in England over the past year. The good news is that 6% of places of worship are At Risk, a lower number than predicted. Of those places of worship considered At Risk, congregations will face a combination of failing roofs, broken gutters and downpipes and damage to high level stonework, huge challenges requiring not only large amounts of funding but determination and know how.

Our architects and Diocesan Support Officers will be liaising with congregations and the Heritage Lottery Fund to support their repair, allowing these much-valued buildings to continue to play an important role in local life.

Grade II buildings

Despite having the most complete view of At Risk heritage to date, the state of the majority of our listed heritage, Grade II listed buildings, is still unknown. Currently with the exception of London, only Grade I and II* buildings are included on the Register. English Heritage is sharing its expertise with volunteers, owners and local authorities to tackle this and is asking people up and down the country to survey Grade II buildings. With this information, a national picture can be built to see how many of these buildings are at risk and uncover the underlying causes.

Test surveys in Stockton, Cumbria, York, Derbyshire, Worcester, Birmingham, Essex, Hounslow and Aylesbury are happening right now; laying the groundwork for volunteers to get to work when the project launches nationally in Spring 2015.

For more information on heritage successfully rescued and removed from the Register this year please see the North West fact sheet.

To search the Heritage at Risk Register 2014, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/risk

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