ARCHITECTURAL wonders of the past offer new generations important history lessons but some of Yorkshire’s most historic heritage structures are crumbling and are in dire need of protection if they are to continue to provide enlightening context of times long ago.
Across the region, 704 historic sites feature on a Risk Register published today by Historic England. The register is updated each year to give an annual snapshot of the health of the country’s historic environment.
This year, the public body has added 36 new sites in Yorkshire to its ‘at risk’ list but has also reported significant progress - with restorative work at 118 sites over the last 12 months proving enough for them to be removed from the register.
Some 700 sites across the country are on the register, leaving Historic England facing a significant challenge, Tammy Whitaker, the organisation’s heritage at risk principal, said.
The very things that make our region special, are the things most at risk. If they’re lost, then a sense of that region is lost too. Together we can safeguard our most precious places and buildings for future generations.”
She said: “This year we are celebrating an amazing achievement in Yorkshire. Over the last five years 43 per cent of Yorkshire’s heritage sites at risk on our register in 2010 have been rescued, beating our 25 per cent target. We’d like to thank all the owners, volunteers, local authorities and funding partners that have made this possible.”
Unfortunately though, some fascinating places full of history have been added to the register this year and are in need of rescue. They include a Grade II-listed water tower driven by an 18ft waterwheel in Wakefield. Dame Mary Bolle’s water tower in Warmfield cum Heath was built above a spring in the 1600s to supply water to nearby Heath Old Hall, which no longer stands. Some repairs were carried out in the 1980s but masonry and the interior are in bad condition.
Similarly, Bramham Biggin house on the Bramham estate in Wetherby has been empty for years and is in a poor state. The 18th century manor house, which is another new addition to the register, was once home to the likes of Charles Allanson, MP for Ripon in the early 19th century, and, as a child, the Wetherby-born 19th century ethnologist and archaeologist Pitt Rivers.
Historic England is working with its current owner to consider options for the site.
In East Yorkshire, a heavy anti-aircraft gun site in Walkington is also a new addition to the register. Listed as a scheduled monument, it was built around 1941 as part of a chain of defences on the East Coast to help defend Hull and the wider region from German air raids. It was staffed by a mixed-sex regiment which used women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service and was used until early in the Cold War.
Today, the remains are overgrown, sunken in places and its the masonry in ruin. Historic England said progress has been made to save it by a tenant farmer working on the land, and a scout group has cleared the site.
Ms Whitaker added: “Yorkshire has a full depth of history, from pre-history to post-war modern architecture, and it has evidence of habitation throughout history so it’s really rich. For at-risk buildings it’s about making sure they work in the modern day, not just the past. The best thing that can happen for these buildings is if they are brought back into use.”
Ms Whitaker showed us one such building, a 17th century malthouse near Wakefield which the owners of Blacker Hall Farm Shop hope to convert into offices.