Heritage at Risk Register lays bare England’s crumbling industrial heritage - Museums Association

Heritage at Risk Register lays bare England’s crumbling industrial heritage

Belper’s North Mill and Papplewick Pumping Station among museum sites at risk
Papplewick Pumping Station has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register after suffering age-related deterioration
Papplewick Pumping Station has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register after suffering age-related deterioration © Historic England

Museums on former industrial sites are heavily represented among the 4,919 entries on this year’s Heritage at Risk Register, which was published by Historic England this week.

In total, 175 new sites have been added to the register this year because of their deteriorating condition, while 233 entries have been removed after successful efforts to secure their future.   

Covering all of the English regions, the report identifies 39 current or former museum sites as being at risk. Many of those are on sites such as collieries, pumping stations, mills and gas works.

Among them is Fakenham Gas Works in Norfolk, the only remaining gasworks of its kind in England, which operates as a museum. The site is listed as being in “poor condition” due to damp and ground movement causing structural weakness to industrial buildings and machinery.  

Papplewick Pumping Station museum in Nottingham, England’s only pumping station to still have all its original features, is a new entry on the register, found to be in “poor condition” due to age and water-related deterioration.

The Engine House and Boiler House at Mill Meece Pumping Station, which was built for the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company and is now a museum, is listed as being in “poor condition” and in need of roof repairs.

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The North Mill in Belper, which is part of the Derwent Valley Mills Unesco world heritage site, was found to be in poor condition and in need of wholesale re-roofing. The building housed a museum that was forced to close in September this year after the withdrawal of a council grant.

The Tank House at the World of Glass museum in Merseyside has been newly added to the register following the appearance of extensive cracking caused by movement in the building’s west corner.

Other museums listed include Tewkesbury Museum in Gloucestershire, another new entry on the register, which was found to be in “very bad” condition. The building is categorised as a priority A site, which means it is at immediate risk of rapid deterioration.

The report said: “The museum received a Covid recovery grant in 2021 for roof repairs but when the protective scaffolding was taken down it emerged that a new leak had formed, in a chimney previously screened from the elements by the scaffolding. There is active water ingress into the upper two floors and the roof space. In addition, the earlier leak has caused damage to an elaborate Jacobean plaster ceiling on the second floor.”

Historic England said it is working with the museum trustees and the town council to find a solution.

The Ragged School Museum in London is also listed. Housed in a converted warehouse, the building is described as “underutilised due to the poor condition of the roof” and is also affected by structural issues and damp problems.

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King Arthur's Great Halls, a 1930s heritage attraction in Tintagel, Cornwall, has been added to the register due to the deterioration of the roofs. The building's interiors and collections are also listed as being at risk.

Urgent repairs are in progress at the Former Stow Maries Airfield in Essex, which now operates as a museum. The site consists of 24 surviving buildings of a World War I Royal Flying Corps airfield, the largest known surviving group of this kind. “A long term plan is needed for the funding of future repairs and the use of all the buildings,” said the report.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum has been removed from the register © Historic England

But a number of museums and heritage attractions have been removed from the register thanks to repair grants and the hard work of local communities. These include Wisbech & Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire, one of the first purpose-built museums in England and home to the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

The building had been at risk due to major problems with the roof and drainage but was rescued thanks to a £684,000 restoration project.

Boston Manor House, a Jacobean manor house in west London, has also been taken off the register after restoration to repair its roof and fragile interiors. The house is due to reopen to the public this autumn.  

In total, Historic England awarded £8.66m in repair grants to 185 sites on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2021/22. In addition, 15 sites benefitted from £3.25m in grants from the Heritage at Risk strand of the Culture Recovery Fund during 2021/22.

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