Roydon’s Cold War anti-aircraft gun placed on heritage at risk register

History / Sun 19th Nov 2023 at 12:35pm

HISTORIC England has revealed its Heritage at Risk Register 2023. The Register gives an annual snapshot of the health of England’s valued historic buildings and places.

Over the past year, 31 historic buildings and sites have been added to the Register in the East of England because they are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development and 9 sites have been saved and their futures secured.

In total in England, there are 4,871 entries on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2023 – 48 fewer than in 2022.

Across the East of England, significant sites added to the Heritage at Risk Register 2023 include: The Great White Horse Hotel in Ipswich, the inspiration for the inn in Dickens’Pickwick Papers; the Cold War Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Site at Roydon; a rare Cold War defence system; and the Church of St Mary in Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, which was painted by landscape artist John Constable.

Significant sites saved and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2023 in the East of England include: Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire, one of the oldest windmills in England; Creeksea Place in Essex, an Elizabethan manor now thriving thanks to generations of devoted family care; and Minsden Chapel in Hertfordshire, an isolated ruined chapel neglected for centuries but now saved for future generations.

In 2022/2023, Historic England awarded £1.04 million in grants for repairs to 22 historic places and sites, including conservation areas, in the East of England, on the Heritage at Risk Register.

Many buildings and sites have been rescued with the help and commitment of local people, communities, charities, owners and funders including The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Historic England’s expert advice, grant aid and creative thinking has also been key in delivering people’s visions for how these historic places can be used again. However, more work needs to be done as more buildings and places become at risk.

25 Years since the first national Heritage at Risk Register

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first national Heritage at Risk Register (previously known as the Buildings at Risk Register). Over the past 25 years, since it began in 1998, around 6,800 entries have been removed. This equates to around three-quarters of the entries that were on the original Register. Many of the remaining entries from the 1998 Register have seen good progress despite often being the hardest cases to solve.  

Tony Calladine, East of England Regional Director, Historic England said: “Protecting our heritage is so important. It is truly inspirational to see communities coming together to help save historic buildings and places and find new uses for them. The Heritage at Risk programme shines a light on our historic sites most in need and can help to attract funding and help. After a quarter of a century of the Heritage at Risk Register, we are celebrating how many places have been saved, and continue to find new ways to involve local people in caring for and enjoying their heritage.”

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “For a quarter of a century, the Heritage at Risk Register has helped to focus efforts to preserve cherished sites across the country. It is heartening to see that so many sites have had their futures secured and have been taken off the Register over the past year thanks to the hard work of Historic England and local people. I look forward to the new additions to the Register receiving similar care and attention so that future generations can continue to enjoy and learn from our rich heritage for years to come.”

A number of the sites, such as Bourn Mill in the East of England, that have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register have received crucial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It is so heartening to see a number of significant heritage sites removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in the East of England, and given a new lease of life as part of their local communities and places. Saving heritage at risk so that it can be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future, is core to our purpose, and we’re incredibly proud that the Heritage Fund has been able to support this important work to make this fantastic news possible.”


Rare Cold War defence system is at risk of decay

The scheduled monument at Roydon includes the standing and buried remains of a Cold War Heavy Anti-Aircraft battery. It includes four gun emplacements in an arc, a generator block, a connecting section of the access road and a control room.

The battery became operational in 1949-50 and was listed as part of the London and South East section of the national defence plan, known as ‘Igloo’, from 1951 to 1955. 

A rare survivor, it gives an insight into the development of anti-aircraft measures immediately after the Second World War.

The site is suffering from progressive decay and the concrete has failed in the control room. The site as a whole is suffering from vandalism as well as scrub growth and encroachment, and general lack of management.

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