Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
2:00 AM 9th November 2023

Historic England Reveals Heritage At Risk In The North West

Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Capernwray Hall, Carnforth, Lancashire (Grade II registered) © Historic England Archive.
Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Capernwray Hall, Carnforth, Lancashire (Grade II registered) © Historic England Archive.
Historic England has today (Thursday 9 November 2023) 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, six historic buildings and sites have been added to the Register in the North West because they are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development and three 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.


The Heritage at Risk Register 2023 reveals that in the North West:

113 Buildings or Structures (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments across England, plus Grade II listed buildings in London)

139 places of worship

82 Archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments)

7 parks and gardens

and 72 conservation areas

…are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.

In total, there are 413 entries across the North West on the 2023 Heritage at Risk Register.
In 2022/2023, Historic England awarded £730,000 in grants for repairs to 12 historic places and sites, including conservation areas, in the North West, 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.  

Catherine Dewar, Historic England’s North West Regional Director, 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."

Sites added to the register across the north west in 2023 include:

At risk: St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral (formerly St Ignatius) St. Ignatius Square, Preston; Grade II*

St Alphonsa’s is an early and important example of a Gothic Revival church designed by the London architect Joseph John Scoles.  The focal point of the St. Ignatius Square Conservation Area, the church is surrounded by Grade II listed terraces, and its spire is a major Preston landmark.  The building has been added to the Heritage At Risk Register as it is suffering from rot and movement in high-level masonry.

Constructed 1833-36, with later additions, its initial purpose was to serve the massive increase in Catholic residents of Preston during its industrialisation in the 19th century and followed the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in England. Few towns could boast such a richness and quality of 19th century Catholic churches, with St Alphonsa’s making a confident statement in the changing Preston landscape.

The generous windows illuminate an interior of quality, with notable decorations and furniture, including gold angel corbels, highly decorative carved stonework, mosaics and marble sculpture.

The church’s ownership was transferred to the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain in 2016 and it is now known as St Alphonsa of Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The Church has undertaken various phases of repair, but issues remain, and they are seeking further funds to complete the restoration.

At risk: Middleton Conservation Area, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Covering the pre-industrial core of the town, Middleton’s conservation area includes many notable buildings. This includes a selection of works by the prominent Arts and Crafts architect, Edgar Wood. Middleton’s historic retail area is centred in Long Street and Market Place, behind which sits Jubilee Park and the Grade I listed medieval church of St Leonard's. Historic industrial buildings include Lodge Mill.

The conservation area has seen some loss of historical character, especially on Long Street and Market Place, as well as some vacant buildings, including the Grade II listed Providence Chapel. Highways alterations from the last century have made it more difficult for people to walk across the area easily, which has led to areas like Market Place not reaching their full potential.

Rochdale Borough Council plans to tackle these challenges as part of Middleton’s Masterplan which was signed off earlier in the year. The Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund also recently worked together on the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which resulted in the restoration of a number of historic buildings in Middleton town centre, including the Long Street Methodist Church.

Working alongside Rochdale Council, Historic England is now funding a combined grant of £35,000 which will build on this work by exploring how some of the other buildings, still in need of support, can be brought back into use. This will help further regenerate the area and encourage improvements to other local buildings.

The Middleton Conservation Area Regeneration Plan and the Middleton Town Centre Masterplan both include the development of a new heritage trail to help members of the local community get involved with the regeneration and revitalisation of the area.

Sites rescued and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2023 across the north west include:

Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Capernwray Hall, Carnforth, Lancashire (Grade II registered) © Historic England Archive.
Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Capernwray Hall, Carnforth, Lancashire (Grade II registered) © Historic England Archive.
Saved: Capernwray Hall Park and Garden, Carnforth, Lancaster, Lancashire (Grade II Registered) 

The landscape at Capernwray Hall is a fine example of provincial 19th-century design with formal gardens and informal parkland. Part of the garden has been attributed to Edward Kemp who was an influential landscaper of the time. In 1901 a rose garden was added, the work of nationally renowned garden designer Thomas Mawson.  

Considerable works have been undertaken by the owners, including the restoration of the Mawson rose garden, repairs to the entrance terrace and the landscaping to the north and south of the main building. A conservation management plan has been produced for the site with tree planting across the parkland, restoration of woodland and repairs to the steppingstones across the River Keer.   

The estate was purchased by Major Ian Thomas and his wife Joan with the goal of creating a missionary centre for young people. Major Thomas, a decorated veteran of Dunkirk and Monte Cassino during the Second World War, saw the potential to create a place of tranquillity and peace for religious teaching of young people scarred by the effects of war. Visiting students to the bible school help with the conservation works.   

Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Church of the Ascension, Salford, Greater Manchester (Grade II listed) 
© Historic England Archive
Heritage at Risk 2023 SAVED: Church of the Ascension, Salford, Greater Manchester (Grade II listed) © Historic England Archive
b>Saved: Church of The Ascension, Clarence Street, Salford; Grade II

Dating from 1869, the church had been on the Heritage at Risk register since 2014. The Parish had worked hard to secure funding and from 2015 work was undertaken to repair the roof and red brick walls.

Disaster struck in February 2017 when a devastating fire reduced the building to a shell. The intensity of the blaze destroyed the church’s original timber and glazing, together with the roof and flooring. The sandstone arcade columns, rose window and masonry were all severely damaged.

Although some may have thought it was beyond repair, the hard work of the Church, the community and the expertise of their professional team and insurers has resulted in the total restoration of the building.

An award-winning scheme, this project has successfully used traditional materials and techniques, married with innovation to restore lost or damaged elements.

Oldknow's Limekilns
Oldknow's Limekilns
Saved: Oldknow's Limekilns, Strines Road, Marple, Stockport; Grade II

Named after renowned industrialist and cotton manufacturer Samuel Oldknow, Marple’s 225-year-old Gothic style lime kilns were used to burn High Peak limestone that was delivered on barges from the Peak Forest Canal.

The quicklime that was produced from the process was sent on to Manchester through the nearby canal network for widespread use, including as an important constituent of mortar for building, in agriculture as a fertiliser and for bleaching textiles.

On Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register for over a decade due to general neglect and loose masonry, the lime kilns have now been restored thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Friends of Oldknow’s Lime Kilns, a grant of more than £90,000 from Historic England, and match funding from Stockport Council and the Association for Industrial Archaeology.