East Anglia: Fire ravaged Cupola House and iconic Clare Castle among historic buildings added to at-risk register

TEN of East Anglia’s most vulnerable Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings have been added to England Heritage’s at-risk register.

The announcement that the iconic Clare Castle and fire-ravaged Cupola House in Bury St Edmunds will join a list of 92 other buildings that could be lost due to neglect, decay or dereliction, came at the same time as plans to assess some 50,000 Grade II listed buildings were unveiled.

Heritage bosses last night said that the loss of any historic building was like “rubbing out the past” and added that the county’s “wealth” of important Grade II buildings deserved special attention.

Greg Luton, English Heritage planning director for the East of England, said that the 52,396 Grade II buildings in the region accounted for 90.8% of the region’s listed buildings.

“Grade II listed buildings are the bulk of the East of England’s heritage treasury. When one of them is lost, it is as though someone has rubbed out a bit of the past – something that made your street or your village special will have gone.”

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Mr Luton said the number of Grade II listed buildings was too great for English Heritage to survey on its own.“We need help from local authorities, national parks, heritage and community groups to find the most efficient way of conducting such an exercise,” he added.

English Heritage said they plan to fund nine to 15 pilot surveys around the country, which means that councils and community groups will receive assistance to locate at-risk buildings.

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Mr Luton added: “This is not just bean-counting. It really works. In London, Grade II buildings have been included on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1991, and 96% of them have been saved since then.”

Simon Cairns, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, said there has been a tendency to be “complacent” about Grade II buildings. “Traditionally we’ve only looked at the Grade II* and Grade I, the sexy or intriguing buildings. But the mainstays of our historic building stock is the Grade II buildings – the day-to-day buildings that we live in and around.

“There has been complacency, a tendency to think, ‘It is only Grade II’. Suffolk is highly unusual in the amount of medieval churches and the wonderful stock of medieval farm houses and cottages that you just don’t find in other counties. But once it is gone, it is gone.”

Mr Cairns said it was particularly important that resources were in place to look after historical buildings given the economic climate, which he said, could mean costly maintenance is not carried out by owners. He was also concerned that cuts to national and local government would mean councils had a “reduced capacity” to deal with vulnerable properties.

Brian Moody, a trustee at Essex Heritage Trust, said it was “vital” to protect the region’s heritage and encouraged owners of listed properties, which are open to the public and need renovations, to apply to the trust for funding. Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, whose wards Mr Cairns said contain many of Suffolk’s listed properties, said they wanted to know how the English Heritage funding could be assessed.

Essex county councillor Jeremy Lucas, Cabinet member for Environment and Culture said their authority has recorded the condition of Grade II listed buildings in the Essex Heritage at Risk register for many years.

She added: “Like most local authorities across the country, maintaining this important work with increasingly squeezed resources is a challenge. We are always looking for innovative solutions to address these challenges and this is why we offer our full support to English Heritage, to carry out this important work.”

HIDDEN off a country road is a site which was once one of the most secret places in Britain

But now the Atomic Bomb Store on Thetford Heath, Barnham, north Suffolk, has been put on Heritage at Risk Register.

At the height of the Cold War, the building, which was bought by Keith Eldred for �20,000 in 1966, stored about half the country’s arsenal of atomic bombs.

Mr Eldred, 77, who makes a living by letting the former military buildings as industrial units, has spent the last ten years working with English Heritage to bring the Grade II* site back to its former glory.

The region’s inspector of monuments, John Ette, believes that despite the new listing, the buildings could be restored within two years.

He said: “When you first walk on to a site like this it is a real headache. Places like this were never meant to last. But this is a really good example of how we can work with landowners and help them,” he said.

“Keith has gone far beyond what he is required to do and it has become a passion for him.”

Another defensive building, the medieval Clare Castle Keep in Clare, has also been added to the register.

Also at risk, is 17th Century Cupola House, in Bury St Edmunds, which partially collapsed after a fire in June. The front facade of the building which dates from 1693, is currently being supported by scaffolding while a repair programme is agreed.

Architects have suggested that it could be two years before renovation is complete. A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said the listing was thought to be because of the fire and “not in any way the widely supported recovery effort currently being undertaken.”

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