HISTORIC ENGLAND has added 53 places of worship to its Heritage at Risk Register 2023, representing, for the first time, one third of the total number of endangered heritage sites registered this year.
The Heritage at Risk Register includes buildings, places of worship, archaeological sites, battlefields, wrecks, parks and gardens, and conservation areas known to be at risk as a result of neglect, decay, or inappropriate development.
To be considered for inclusion, places of worship must be listed Grade I, Grade II*, or Grade II on the National Heritage List for England, and be used as a public place of worship at least six times a year. They are added if their condition is assessed to be “very bad” or “poor”. Once on the register, progression is possible, from “very bad” to “poor”, “fair” or even “good”, as repairs are implemented.
There are now 943 places of worship on the register, compared with 919 last year. Those newly added include St George-in-the-East, Stepney, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and now in need of full repair, owing to water damage. Also on the list is St Mary’s, Stoke-by-Nayland, in Suffolk, which was depicted by the painter John Constable, who said of it: “The lofty and slender proportions of the tower arch are the crowning beauty of the whole interior.”
© Historic England ArchiveThe Grade I listed St Mary’s, Stoke-by-Nayland, in Suffolk
Another new entry is St Michael and All Angels, a small, rural church in Plumpton, East Sussex, which contains medieval wall-paintings at risk from internal damp.
Twenty-nine places of worship have been removed from the register because they are deemed to be no longer at risk. Those rescued include the Ascension, Salford, first added in 2014. It then suffered a fire in 2018, which destroyed the roof, glazing, fittings, and floor. The church has now been completely restored (News, 21 November 2022).
© Historic England ArchiveOur Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, in London
Another success story is Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, designed by the Victorian architect John Seddon. The church was removed from the register after the completion of roof repairs to the aisle and church offices.
St Mary’s, North Tuddenham, in Norfolk, came off the list after repairs to its 14th-century church tower. Another church removed is the Tolpuddle Old Chapel, Dorset, built in 1818 and used for worship by four of the six men who became the Tolpuddle Martyrs (Faith, 7 July).
In total, there are now 4871 entries on the register: 48 fewer than last year. While 159 sites have been added this year, 203 have been removed after repairs. In the 25 years since the publication of the first Heritage at Risk Register (previously known as the Buildings at Risk Register), about 6800 entries have been removed. Rescue tends to come as a result of the commitment of local people, communities, charities, owners, and funders, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund.