How to get depressed quickly: the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register 2010

Winstanley Hall, Lancashire (Image: English Heritage)

Winstanley Hall, Lancashire (Image: English Heritage)

This blog has highlighted several country houses which are at risk but the true scale of the issue is unfortunately much larger, as the publication of the 2010 English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register shows.

Country houses all too easily can move from being secure, watertight buildings to having minor problems to becoming seriously at risk due to their size and the high standards required to repair them necessarily making even simple tasks much more expensive.  For the owners this can mean that the burden of looking after their ancestral family home becomes a daily challenge which, rather than facing, can be easier to ignore – especially if they are able to simply shut the door to a wing and forget the damp and leaks.

One of the greatest enemies of the country house is obscurity – particularly when combined with negligent or incapable owners. For some the house is merely an obstacle to redevelopment and so it is in their interest to forgo maintenance and hope that the house quickly and quietly deteriorates to the point where they can apply for permission to demolish.  Unfortunately under-resourced councils are rarely able to regularly survey all the listed buildings in the area meaning that houses can slip through the cracks.  The current economic climate means that it is even more unlikely that councils will be able to fully fund the heritage teams to ensure that they are able to ensure owners meet their obligations.

Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk (Image: English Heritage)

Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk (Image: English Heritage)

Although English Heritage have had some limited successes (e.g. Sockburn Hall, County Durham) there are still far too many houses at risk – I counted nearly 100 in a couple of searches.  It should be noted that houses are included even where works are planned or under way such as at Clarendon House, Wiltshire which was recently sold (with estate) for a reputed £30m and where restoration is expected to be completed by the end of 2010).  However, other examples include:

Others on the list include:

The head of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, said at the launch:

“Neglect is a slow, insidious process whose costly damage takes time to become clearly visible. Cuts in both private and public spending are currently inevitable but armed with our Heritage at Risk Register, English Heritage is well-equipped to guard against the loss of the nation’s greatest treasures and to suggest effective and economical strategies to protect our national heritage.”

One can only hope that this proves to be the case and that EH are able to fully fulfil their role particularly in relation to country houses and ensure that these beautiful buildings aren’t allowed to quietly slip into dereliction, depriving future generations of wonder of these grand houses.

More details: English Heritage Buildings at Risk 2010 or you can search the 2010 Register

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About Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat

An amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms.
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3 Responses to How to get depressed quickly: the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register 2010

  1. Kevin Craske says:

    I grew up knowing Melton Constable Hall, I still live near it. How can little me do something before this building is lost forever. Another example of out heratiage being thrown away.
    I could cry.

  2. Tokyo MB says:

    Brogyntyn Hall is back on the market – http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2013/12/26/ormsby-gore-familys-ancestral-estate-for-sale-with-5m-price-tag/
    Seems the current owners (J Ross Developments) didn’t get to go ahead with the retirement community they were considering – http://www.gauntfrancis.co.uk/caring/i/66/
    Unfortunately it also seems to have been stripped of a large proportion of its land. Sales particulars at: http://search.knightfrank.co.uk/cho090108 and with it offered as 14 lots there’s a high likelihood of the estate being further dismembered.
    May be worth a more in depth post?

  3. Toria says:

    Unfortunately on 18th November 2014, permission was granted by Shropshire Council for J Ross Developments to build at least 50 dwellings on this conservation Park land in order to renovate the existing Estate buildings and restore the Grade 2* listed Hall. This includes demolishing a large section of the hall to do so and creating a new entry road off the B4580 into this ‘new village’.
    The plans were objected by many locals due to the destruction/demolition of a conservation area and graded buildings and removal of rural parkland bridging the gap between Oswestry and Brogyntyn, and road safety but permission was granted with little discussion.

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