East London museum among list of historic sites at risk

Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register
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Simon Stephens
The Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets has been added to the 2020 Heritage At Risk Register
The Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets has been added to the 2020 Heritage At Risk Register © Historic England Archive

The Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets is among the historic sites that have beed added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register 2020.

The Historic England list shows the historic sites most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

The Mile End Ragged School was opened in 1877 by Dr Barnardo as a free school providing a basic education for poor children in London’s East End. The school closed in 1908, when local government provision became adequate, and the building was used for a time as a factory.

A campaign by local residents in the 1980s saved the building from demolition and the Ragged School Museum Trust opened the site as a museum in 1990. But the Grade II building is underused due to the deteriorating condition of the roof, structural issues and damp problems. The trust recently received a grant offer from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a repair project, which will also provide a refreshed visitor experience, improved education facilities, events space and flexible office facilities.

Among the other 216 sites added to this year’s register are Brighton’s Victorian Madeira Terraces, one of England’s oldest public libraries, and a Liverpool cemetery built within an abandoned quarry

Over the last year 181 historic buildings and sites have been saved thanks to the work of local communities, charities, owners, local councils and Historic England.

Examples include an 800-year-old footpath in North Yorkshire, once used by Cistercian monks to transport goods, which has been saved by a local history group; a restored church in London where women's rights campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft worshipped; and a hillfort in Somerset, thought to be King Arthur’s “lost Camelot”, which has also been restored.

Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, said: “In testing times such as these, heritage can give us a sense of continuity and bring us solace. We also know that investing in historic places can help boost our economic recovery.


“The 181 places rescued from the register this year show us that good progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go. Many more historic buildings and places need caring for, financial support, strong partnership working and community engagement to give them a brighter future.”

The Heritage at Risk Register 2020 shows that, in England, 1,475 buildings or structures, 2,090 non-structural archaeological sites, 932 places of worship, 103 registered parks and gardens, 491 conservation areas, three battlefields and three protected wreck sites are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. There are 5,097 assets on the register, 24 more than in 2019.

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