Heritage at Risk in London Revealed
Historic England today reveals the historic sites most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development by publishing the annual Heritage at Risk Register 2020. The Register provides an annual snapshot of the critical health of England’s most valued historic places, and those most at risk of being lost.
Highlights from the sites saved in 2020
Over the last year 18 historic buildings and sites in London have been saved thanks to the determination of local communities, charities, owners, local councils and Historic England, who together want to see historic places restored and brought back to life.
Saved: Newington Green Meeting House, Hackney
Newington Green Unitarian Church, now known as the Newington Green Meeting House, is London's oldest Nonconformist place of worship still in use and has had connections to political radicalism for over 300 years. The church was built in 1708 and partially rebuilt and enlarged in 1860.
The church’s most famous minister was the political radical Dr Richard Price, and the most famous member of his congregation was Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' (1792), earning her the name 'the Mother of Feminism'. Many others visited Dr Price, including Founding Fathers of the United States Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
The building has had problems with leaking roofs, damp, and structural movement. The congregation of New Unity carried out a comprehensive project, 'Recovering the Dissenters’ Legacy', which encompassed full repairs to the historic fabric and improved access and facilities. The project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and repairs were completed in June 2020.
Saved: St George’s Garrison Church, Woolwich, Greenwich
St George’s Garrison Church was built in 1862-3 to serve the garrison of the nearby barracks of the Royal Artillery in Woolwich. It was designed by T H Wyatt in the Romanesque style, with spectacular mosaics by Salviati added in 1903. It includes a Victoria Cross Memorial added in 1920 with tablets commemorating all those who were awarded this highest honour for bravery from the Crimean War to the middle of the Second World War. In 1944 the church was hit by a V2 rocket and burnt out, leaving a ruin. The war memorials survived, together with a stunning mosaic in the apse depicting St George slaying the dragon.
The Grade II listed building was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2000 due to various issues caused by exposure to the elements. To protect the mosaics and altar, a permanent fabric roof was erected in 2015, grant-aided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. A complex restoration project – two phases of repairs funded by Historic England, managed by the London Historic Buildings Trust and undertaken by Skillington Workshop – is now complete and two decades later, the church can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.
The church remains consecrated and an important location for the Royal Artillery, with services and events taking place every year, and is run by the Woolwich Garrison Church Trust, which was formed in 2016.
Saved: Five tombs at Huguenot Burial Ground, Wandsworth
The Huguenot burial ground in Wandsworth opened in 1687 and was linked to the (now demolished) church used by Huguenot refugees who had settled in the area having fled religious persecution in France for adopting the Protestant faith. French church services were performed at the old Presbyterian Chapel for more than a century after the first Huguenots arrived. The burial ground later became known as ‘Mount Nod’. It was closed to burials in 1854.
Five Grade II listed ‘table tombs’ from the 18th century were added to the Heritage at Risk register in 2012 due to a range of issues, including structural instability, cracking, vegetation damage and delamination of the stone work. Although delayed by Covid-19, repairs were completed this year with the support of Wandsworth Council, specialist advice from Historic England, and the work of skilled conservation experts.
Highlights from sites added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2020
20 sites in London have been added to the Register because of concerns about their condition. Over the past year, Historic England has offered £1.9 million in grants to help some of London and the South East’s best loved and most important historic sites
At risk: Ragged School Museum, Tower Hamlets
The Mile End Ragged School was opened in 1877 by Dr Barnardo as a free school providing a basic education for poor children in London’s East End. It occupied converted warehouses on the Grand Union Canal, and in its day was the largest ‘ragged school’, with over 1,000 pupils on weekdays and 2,400 for Sunday School. The school closed in 1908, when local government provision became adequate, and the building was used for a time as a factory.
A successful campaign by local residents in the 1980s saved the building from demolition. The Ragged School Museum Trust opened the site as a museum in 1990, aiming to make the history of the ragged schools and the broader social history of the Victorian East End accessible to all.
The Grade II building is underutilised due to the deteriorating condition of the roof, structural issues, and damp problems. The Trust has recently received a grant offer from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a sustainable repair project, which will also provide a refreshed visitor experience, improved education facilities, café/ bar, events space and flexible office facilities
At risk: Prehistoric Animal Sculptures, Crystal Palace Park, Bromley
The iconic 166-year-old sculptures of dinosaurs and other extinct animals at Crystal Palace Park were added to the Heritage at Risk Register in February due to growing concern about their deteriorating condition. Since then, one of the sculptures, of a Megalosaurus, has lost a large part of its jaw.
The 30 Grade I listed statues include land-living prehistoric animals situated on artificial islands, while the surrounding artificial lakes are home to marine creatures emerging from the water. It is thought ground movement on the islands, changing water levels in the lakes, and rusting of the internal iron frames supporting the concrete bodies are causing the cracking. The addition of the statues to the Heritage at Risk Register will help Historic England, Bromley Council and the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs to work together to develop a long term-strategy for their repair and conservation.
London Heritage at Risk statistics
The Heritage at Risk Register 2020 reveals that in London:
- 442 buildings or structures (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments across England, plus Grade II listed buildings in London)
- 96 places of worship
- 27 archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments),
- 11 parks and gardens
- and 74 conservation areas
…are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.
In total, there are 650 entries across London on the 2020 Heritage at Risk Register.