Our region’s heritage under threat: 49 sites placed on ‘at risk’ register
In a region where tourists flock to visit historic sites, you’d have thought ancient monuments and old buildings would be cherished and saved for posterity – but this year in the South West 49 sites have been added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
The structures in danger include the ancient city walls of Exeter, a medieval farmhouse in Devon and prehistoric cairns and tombs on the Isles of Scilly.
Historic England yesterday unveiled the latest chapter in its fight to save important parts of our history by saying there had been good news and bad in the 20th year of its “at Risk Register”.
Staff at the organisation say nearly 70 per cent of entries from the original register have had their issues dealt with and been removed – but that 1,455 sites in the South West region remain.
In publishing the 2018 Heritage at Risk Register (the annual snapshot of the health of England’s historic places) HE highlighted some of the Westcountry locations where work badly needs doing, including many places of worship.
But HE also pointed to schemes where historic structures has been saved for posterity. They included a 19th century fort in Plymouth, “repaired and ready for a new use”; a prehistoric hill-fort on Bodmin Moor and an ancient Cornish standing stone.
John Ette, HE’s Heritage at Risk principal in the South West, said: “Over the past 20 years we have used the register to highlight places in need of care and attention. We have dedicated time, expertise and money to bring cherished places back into use and we are proud to have played our part in saving them from neglect.
“Despite the successes, other places continue to fall into disrepair. They have been added to this year’s register and we will focus our attention on them in the years ahead.”
New sites in the region which have been added to the danger list include prehistoric cairns and tombs in the Isles of Scilly.
“The beauty of the islands can make sites difficult to manage, with access limited by weather and tides,” said an HE expert. “This year, seven remarkable cairns and tombs have been added to the 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 such sites removed from the register this year.”
Bunksland Farm, at East Anstey on the southern slopes of Exmoor, is another structure at risk.
“This is a farmhouse with medieval origins, adapted over the centuries that has now survived almost untouched since the early 1800s,” said the spokesman. “The farmstead is built of cob, a traditional building material made by mixing local sub-soil with straw and water.
“The building was last occupied in 2009, and now one internal cob wall and part of the southern wall have collapsed, and the rear of the shippon (barn) is fractured and unstable, prompting us to add the site to the register this year. We are currently carrying out surveys and research, and planning emergency work.”
Better known are Exeter’s ancient city walls, now also on the endangered list.
“The walls include Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval sections,” said the spokesman. “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 required for a section of the wall where ownership is being resolved and Historic England is offering to fund 50 per cent of the cost of these works to the prospective owners, as well as contribute to a condition survey of the City Council owned parts of the wall, to help prioritise repairs over future years.”
And on the Devon-Dorset
Above, Bunksland Farm in East Anstey and, right, Exeter’s city walls, which are both on the Heritage England ‘at risk’ register