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Thousands of heritage sites ‘at risk and in need of rescue’, register reveals

Historic England warns the high number of conservation areas on the Heritage At Risk Register this year is of “particular concern”.

The world’s oldest gasholder, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion gardens and “Little Dorrit’s church” have been added to the list of heritage sites at risk, it has been revealed.

A gunpowder works which has been hit by flooding, a medieval timber-framed building hit by a lorry and a church designed by architect Nicholas Hawksmoor are also now considered to be under threat.

But there is better news for other historic sites including a bombed-out church in Liverpool, an atomic bomb store, a prehistoric stone circle threatened by a bracken infestation, and artist JMW Turner’s retreat, whose futures have been secured.

The Heritage At Risk Register 2017 from government heritage agency Historic England reveals 5,290 historic buildings, places of worship, gardens, battlefields, protected wrecks and conservation areas are under threat.

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The Number 2 Gasholder at Fulham gasworks in London has been added to the list of heritage sites at risk (Historic England/PA)

The figure is down on last year, with 387 sites rescued from decline or decay, while 328 were added to the list because they are at risk.

Historic England warns the high number of conservation areas on the register this year – the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the designation – is of “particular concern”, with 47 historic town areas added in 2017.

There are now 512 conservation areas at risk, facing common problems such as unsuitable replacement windows, doors and extensions, poorly maintained streets and neglected green spaces.

Among the other sites added to the list this year is Gasholder number 2 at Fulham Gasworks, south-west London, built in 1830 and the oldest in the world, but deteriorating due to vegetation growth.

The Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton, designed by John Nash, have been affected by increased popularity with visitors since a restoration in the 1980s and their character is being further eroded by a “disparate” range of fencing, litter bins, signs and lighting.

The Church of St George the Martyr in Southwark, south London, often referred to as Little Dorrit’s Church because it features in Charles Dicken’s novel and is next to Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison where the Dorrits are imprisoned, is on the list because of its poor condition.

New Sedgwick Gun Powder Works in Cumbria, the timber-framed 14th century Lady Row in York and the Hawksmoor-designed St Anne’s Limehouse Parish Church in Stepney, east London, which is suffering water damage, have also been added to the register.

But the former RAF Barnham Atomic Bomb Store, on Thetford Heath, Suffolk, has come off the register following funding from Historic England to repair structures, and St Luke’s “Bombed Out” church in Liverpool has been refurbished.

Sandycombe Lodge, in Twickenham, south-west London, designed and lived in as a retreat by artist JMW Turner, has been saved with a £2.4 million restoration and Birkrigg Stone Circle, near Ulverston, Cumbria, has been rescued with “bracken bashing” from an infestation of the plant.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, welcomed the saving of 387 historic sites across England by organisations and communities working with Historic England.

He said: “From the volunteer bracken-bashers at prehistoric sites to the apprentices learning and applying traditional craft skills to medieval buildings, this is a huge, collective labour of love and it is well worth it.

“But across England, thousands of fascinating buildings and places full of history are still at risk and in need of rescue. There is much work to do to secure their future.”

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