King Arthur hall and institute led by Dickens named among at-risk historic sites

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A hall linked to the legends of King Arthur and an educational institute once run by Charles Dickens are among historic sites at risk of being lost forever.

Over the past year, Historic England has added 175 places to its Heritage at Risk Register of buildings under threat as a result of decay, neglect or inappropriate development.

The organisation publishes the register to give an annual snapshot of the health of valued historic sites, as well as sharing updates on places that have been saved with help from repair grants.

Birmingham & Midland Institute (Historic England Archive/PA)

Charles Dickens was one its earliest presidents and gave reading recitals in the nearby town hall to raise funds for its development.

Once a bustling cultural hub offering arts and science lectures, exhibitions and concerts, the building has fallen into disrepair in recent years, with a leaking roof and cracked windows.

Also under threat is King Arthur’s Great Halls in Tintagel, Cornwall, where a group known as the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table once gathered.

King Arthur's Great Halls, Fore Street, Tintagel, Cornwall (Historic England Archive)
King Arthur’s Great Halls (Historic England Archive/PA)

Its 73 stained-glass windows depicting the tales of King Arthur are widely considered to be among the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship.

Historic England said that while more than 100 sites had been added to the register, 233 places have been rescued with help from volunteers, community groups, charities and councils.

The organisation has awarded £8.66 million in repair grants to 185 historic places and sites, including conservation areas, over the past year.

Fifteen sites have benefitted from £3.25 million in grants from the heritage at risk strand of the Culture Recovery Fund during 2021/22, it said.

King Arthur's Great Halls, Fore Street, Tintagel, Cornwall (Historic England Archive)
King Arthur’s Great Halls (Historic England Archive/PA)

In Merseyside, a nine-year restoration of the Church of Saints Peter & Paul and St Philomena – known as the Dome of Home that signposted the entrance to the River Mersey for the returning Royal Navy – has been completed.

The church, which served as a sign to sailors that they had survived the perils of the Atlantic, underwent conservation work to fix its roof, poor insulation and water damage.

Steel Rigg in Northumberland and Port Carlisle in Cumbria – two scenic viewpoints along Hadrian’s Wall – have been protected through conservation work in time for the wall’s 1,900th anniversary this year.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul and Saint Philomena, New Brighton, Wirral (Historic England)
Church of Saints Peter and Paul and Saint Philomena in New Brighton (Historic England/PA)

The manuscript, full of handwritten pages littered with corrections and notes, was bequeathed to the museum in 1868 and will remain there after a £667,300 grant awarded by Historic England helped with roof repairs.

Heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register plays a vital role in our ongoing mission to protect and preserve our rich heritage across the country.

“It helps to ensure that future generations can continue to benefit from everything our historic sites and buildings have to offer.

Manuscript of Great Expectations on display at Wisbech and Fenland Museum (Stephen McGregor)
Manuscript of Great Expectations on display at Wisbech and Fenland Museum (Stephen McGregor/PA)

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “It is central to Historic England’s mission that we pass on to future generations the rich legacy of historic buildings and places that we have inherited from previous generations.

“Our Heritage at Risk programme is a key contributor to this ambition. With the help of local communities and partners, imaginative thinking and business planning, we can bring historic places back to life.

“As the threat of climate change grows, the reuse and sensitive upgrading of historic buildings and places becomes ever more important.

“Finding new uses for buildings and sites rescued from the register avoids the high carbon emissions associated with demolishing structures and building new.”

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