South West Bulletin No 4
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The problems of costly repairs and diminishing resources to pay for the upkeep of our historic churches are well publicised. However, we tend to be less aware of the condition of the historic monuments surrounding them.
Mowing, strimming and weeding between the graves is often carried out with little apparent regard for the deteriorating condition of the oldest monuments. Only when a family descendent intervenes, or when a monument becomes structurally unsafe, is action precipitated, which is not very often. The English weather relentlessly attacks detail and structure till they fade and crumble. Indeed, the speed of decay has accelerated on account of the extreme weather conditions experienced last winter and spring.
This might be viewed in a romantic Picturesque light, except that the headstones and table tombs form an integral part of the churchyard, and in some cases are of significant intrinsic historic, architectural or artistic interest. It is not surprising that a large percentage of listed table tombs and crosses should have a high priority grading as ÎBuildings at Riskâ. Descriptions of slow decay, immediate deterioration, or loss of fabric applies to most of these structures. And the degree of risk is often compounded by the absence of any agreed solutions.
In extreme cases, when the structure becomes dangerous to public safety, local authorities have an obligation under the 1984 Building Act to take appropriate steps to make it safe. If the owner cannot be found (unlikely in such cases) the local authority itself is obliged to take the necessary action. This might involve the dismantling of the tomb or simply erecting fencing around it. Neither course of action is a satisfactory solution, especially if it happens to be listed.
Financial help from local authorities to repair these structures tends to be on a percentage basis, requiring the balance of the cost from other sources. Given the specialist nature of stone repairs, the total bill can be high if more than the most superficial works are to be undertaken. So who pays?
There are a handful of success stories where County, District and PCC have financed a particular monument, or where a distant relative has emerged to make a donation. But these are few and far between. If we are to prevent the ultimate decay of this important part of our historic heritage, we need a better way of funding repairs and maintenance.
First we need to know where the historic tombs are located, what their historic and architectural interest is, and their structural and superficial condition. When this topic was raised at the meeting of the Salisbury Diocese/Local Authority Conservation Officers last May, it was suggested that these tasks might be included in the Church Architectâs Quinquennial Inspection. One advantage of this is that early treatment could reduce more costly repairs later on.
For a short time, a Millennium Grants Initiative provided Lottery help towards the repair of church bells. Although the repair of tombstones has a rather less jubilant tone, a parallel may be seen in the need to provide for the latter, perhaps administered through the Historic Churches Fund or County Building Preservation Trusts.
Or perhaps the best we can do, if funding cannot be found, is to make photographic records of these historic monuments for posterity and allow them to degrade peacefully into featureless slabs of stone.
Ray Bird East Dorset District Council
No doubt some clerical wit will be able to advise how many archdeacons it takes to change a light bulb·but the IHBC SW Bulletin can go one step further and reveal how many archdeacons it takes to demolish a churchyard monument.
In response to a crumbling tomb in the south west, an archdeacon has written to his local conservation officer thus: "I wonder whether you have seen the material put out by the Association of Burial Authorities and the National Association of Memorial Masons about the safety of monuments. They are recommending that all monuments should be tested to withstand a force of 500 Newtons. I suspect that several of our tombs would collapse under such pressure. The Blaker Tomb [name changed] collapsed when I exerted a force of less than 100 Newtons·
Setting aside the question of wilful damage of a listed building, can your local monuments withstand the pressure of five archdeacons?
About 70 delegates came to Somerset in June for the annual SW IHBC conference which this year tackled the topical theme of the role of the historic environment in rural regeneration. Ian Lund, David Stirling and Neil Buick from Wiltshire were responsible for the admirable organisation of the day.
The keynote address was given by the Chair for the day, Jeremy Worth, the South West Director of the Countryside Agency who described its manifold initiatives for rural England from Vital Villages to Eat The View. The Agencyâs role overlaps confusingly with other bodies, but it perhaps impinges on the historic environment most in its Market Towns Initiative (no catchy name yet!) where in parallel to the RDA it has money (£12.5 million over 3 years) for revitalising selected towns. There must be potential here for linking to HERS or THIs.
The RDA was represented by their Rural Manager, Rob Hatt. He described their own SW market and coastal town thrust which aims to pump funds into the regeneration of 200 towns of populations of 2-20,000 population. It was wholly unclear how this money would be spent - an action plan would be arrived at from a community base ö but will the community want to spend anything on their heritage? ÎBrokering Tablesâ to sort out how to use the money were advocated by both speakers; a first use of this fashionable term for me.
Other contributions were more specific: Andrew Pate described a successful HERS in Langport, Somerset; Colin Johns the rescue of a problem building in Warminster by a Building Trust; Stephen Belli an attempt against the odds to create a televillage in Crickhowell. Chris Burke explained the workings of the Countryside Agencyâs Local Heritage Initiative and Ian Jones described how you test the viability of a pub. The last talk of the day by Andrew Richards on regeneration in the Camborne-Redruth area confirmed my view that everything is different in Cornwall!
It was a good day of presentations on varied topics from the general to the specific. Whether itâs worth chasing after the elusive gold of the regional agencies or whether its better to stick to old friends like English Heritage or HLF if you want money for the historic environment is debatable. What is clear is that it is possible to achieve results, but it does require plenty of time and plenty of focus.
Peter Child, Devon County Council
Advance notice: IHBC SW Conference 2002 'Making the historic environment accessible', 19th April, St Loyes College, Exeter
Much concern is being expressed about the implementation of the final stage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. From 2004 all service providers will need to take reasonable steps to remove, alter, or provide reasonable means of avoiding, physical features that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use its services. This is in addition to Part M of the Building Regulations.
So, what types of access improvements will need to be provided? How should the Act be interpreted? What is the definition of Îreasonableâ? Which should override the other, the character of a building or access measures? Are there are any examples of good practice out there? Are there any practitioners to call upon for advice?
English Heritage has commissioned two access consultants, Lisa Foster and John Adams, to produce an updated version of the guide Easy Access to Historic Properties. Lisa Foster, author of Access to the Historic Environment, will be a key speaker and it is hoped that the updated guide will be available at the conference.
The conference,supported by the South West Access Officers Group, will be a forum for practitioners from both the conservation and access fields. Legislation will be explained, case studies presented and your questions answered.
Please note the date in your diary. Further details will be distributed soon. If you would like any more information now, or want to be placed on a mailing list to be sure of a place at the conference, please contact:
Nichola Mason, Historic Buildings Advisor, Devon County Council. Tel: 01392 382261 email@example.com
You may have noted that the November Issue of the IHBC News was the last. Next year there will instead be five issues of Context and it will be published by Cathedral Communications, which is based near Salisbury. This has reduced the costs of production, will provide access to additional services. It is no co-incidence that this fourth issue of the South West IHBC Bulletin has also been published by Cathedral Communiacations.
One of the main objectives of the Bulletin is to provide the opportunity for regional members to disseminate news; share successes and promote events and courses. However, more and more information is arriving to the Committee electronically and only a limited amount of this will be communicated timely through Context and the South West Bulletin. The IHBC Web site (www.ihbc.org.uk) provides up to date information on some important news issues.
In order to keep regional members abreast of consultations, news items etc the South West Committee has considered setting up an e-mail group to cascade information; and where necessary to co-ordinate any consultation responses we receive. To achieve this we need your e-mail address. Your County Representative may already have it but, if not, please can you send it to them (by e-mail please!). It is also intended to post events and news items on the IHBC web site under the Branches header for the South West Region. You can do this through the regional IHBC e-mail address (send firstname.lastname@example.org) .
The long awaited Government response to the Historic Environment Review is expected before the New Year. Some matters raised in Power of Place are beginning to be considered by English Heritage and the first meeting of a South West Heritage Forum, bringing together stakeholders and partners, is due to take place in December. The IHBC have been invited to participate. Please see the South West Branch News on the IHBC web site for more information in the New Year.
Have a good New Year. David Stirling, IHBC SW Branch Chairman
Recently C Company 6 Light Infantry moved out of its Territorial Army base in Bar Road, Falmouth and Defence Estates have proceeded to dispose of the site. The base has a long history having begun as a submarine miners barracks in the late 19th century defending the harbour by laying submarine mines, and employing quick-fire guns and defence electric lights.
Despite this long history the Secretary of State declined to add the original barracks to the statutory list. The site is outside the Falmouth Conservation area and Carrick District Council has approved a development brief for total demolition. New owners Emlor Homes Ltd have been persuaded to undertake an historic building record prior to demolition and during this survey the consultant, Mike Heaton of Archaeological Site Investigations, has discovered that one building at the base known as the ÎDomeâ is of special architectural and historical importance.
The ÎDomeâ was erected c.1939 and is more accurately described as a geodetic barrel. The construction method is similar to that of the Wellington bomber and R80/100 airships designed by Barnes Wallis of Vickers. However it has since come to light that the Dome is a 'Lamella' construction developed in Germany in the 1920s for factories and aircraft hangars by German aircraft company Junkers. Originally known as Lamellendach (segmental roof), British rights to manufacture were acquired in 1929 by Horsley Bridge & Engineering Co Ltd of Birmingham who marketed the design as Lamella Construction. 16 buildings were built in England at least 9 of which were in Cornwall.
The Dome is architecturally important because it appears to be an early application of geodetic construction to buildings rather than aircraft, and would pre-date the first known barrel-shaped geodesic buildings erected in Detroit by the American architect R. Buckminster Fuller. This case highlights the benefits of historic building assessment and recording in identifying and understanding our built heritage as part of the planning process. In this case it is perhaps unfortunate that the development brief for demolition has already been approved. Emlor Homes Ltd are keen to assist in the dismantling of the Dome but so far no new locations or uses have been found.
Simon Thorpe, Senior Archaeologist, Cornwall County Council
According to the residents of Cheltenham, yes there are!
But one such building is currently being dismantled as there was no need for the owner to seek any kind of planning permission - thus there is no consideration of the merit of the building in the local context. In this case DCMS had declined to list, though they did recognise that the building was important locally, so we have included it on our newly inaugurated Local List - though this alone affords it no protection from demolition of course.
This is the second case here recently, and both relate to former educational buildings which have become surplus to requirements and are being disposed of. You may also have seen papers relating to a similar case in London, and a campaign known as the St William of York Deposition which is seeking a change in the law which would bring this kind of demolition within planning control. This can be achieved by a simple change to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). This document has been much altered since it first came into effect - as will be shown by the state of most planning officers copies, with bits stuck in and manuscript changes - so pressure for another change, to remove the right to demolish, will not require a major legislative process.
A large number of groups including IHBC and individuals have signed up to the St William of York campaign, but in addition to this I feel that the IHBC might usefully look further at this issue of the potential uncontrolled loss of historic buildings. They may not be of listable importance in the national sphere, but as part of the local character and context they deserve to be considered on their individual merits.
If you have seen cases where locally valued but unlisted buildings outside conservation areas have been lost or are under threat, can you let me know by Email, with a BRIEF summary of the case. (JanetD@cheltenham.gov.uk) If there is sufficient volume of evidence, I will write it up and publicise it in the context of this gap in the legislation. For more information on the St William of York Deposition, telephone Moyra McGhie on 020 7700 6151.
By Janet Dore, Heritage and Conservation Manager, Cheltenham B.C.
A month or so after the foot and mouth outbreak started in Devon, we were alarmed to hear that MAFF had required the demolition of farm buildings at Hatherleigh, as they believed them incapable of disinfection because of their cob construction. As probably a majority of farm buildings in Devon are made of cob, this was potentially a disaster in the making. In the event the owner managed to persuade MAFF that lime plastering and limewashing the buildings would meet their requirements, as lime has antiseptic properties.
Hearing about this, and because Peter Messenger the Carlisle Conservation Officer had been telling me about the damage being done to Cumbrian cob buildings, I wrote to MAFF, pointing out that excessive zeal in cleansing could easily harm traditional farm buildings, especially cob ones. I included simple guidelines which I hoped they might follow. English Heritage wrote along the same lines but a six-week silence followed after which we had a letter asking which of the 800 affected premises were listed!
Finally, after intervention at a higher level, we achieved direct contact with the senior DEFRA vet who was responsible for disinfection policy. An amiable meeting followed, when we were assured that no demolition was taking place, disinfection was largely lime based and that no new lagoons were being dug to the detriment of buried archaeology.
We were largely reassured by this meeting and I am hopeful that damage will not have been too drastic. Certainly we have had no confirmed reports of damage. Much of the disinfection is carried out by the farmers themselves, whom one would hope would have respect for their own buildings, which sadly now represent a significant capital asset as conversion rolls on. We did not press for the appointment of staff to advise on the protection of historic buildings as has happened in Cumbria, because we could not identify a sufficient problem. Time will tell if we were right.
Peter Child, Devon County Council
At the very moment when Bob Kindred at the EH 'Stopping the Rot' seminar in Bristol was telling the audience that " conservation is going off the radar", the billboards on the street outside were proclaiming a conservation headline. See inset.
Unfortunately, the Bristol Evening Post's full front-page report (October 1st ) about a proposal to list 1940s prefabs in the St George area of Bristol ridiculed the idea of ranking a prefab alongside Temple Meads Station and Clifton Suspension Bridge. A 'leading city architectâ described the proposal as "ludicrous" (although, to be fair, he was angered at the loss of Victorian dockland warehouses which had not been listed). Under an editorial entitled, "An absurd moveä, the editor opined, "This is sentimentality gone mad·Save one of them somewhere for a museum and then, in time, consign the rest to historyä. He posed the question, "What does it say about this country that we are listing pre-fabs?" Answers on a postcard please·
Work continues on the SW Historic Environment Strategy, which is the pilot for an intended national coverage of regional strategies. The project has been initiated by English Heritage with Land Use Consultants leading the work in association with Wessex Archaeology and Conservation, Architecture and Planning, but the intention is that the strategy will be for the whole of the historic environment sector.
A workshop was held in July in Bristol to widen involvement and hear the views of those who would implement the strategy. A representative sample of local authority archaeological and historic buildings professionals was invited along with staff the National Trust, national and regional EH and other environmental agencies.
Discussion focussed on the content and application of the strategy and time was spend trying to identify historic character areas parallel to the existing Countryside Character Areas. There was a strong desire to see the publication of a strategy and general acceptance that as it was breaking new ground difficult decisions would have to be made about content and format but these could be improved in subsequent reviews. The first draft should be available soon.
For more details please contact email@example.com or on 0117 975 0685.
South west branch committee
Chair - David Stirling
01380 828528 (H)
Dorset - Colin Ellis (Treasurer)
Cornwall - Alyson Cooper
Devon - Peter Child
Somerset - Adron Duckworth
Glos - Mike Hill
Wiltshire - Ian Lund
BANES - Greg Beale
Bulletin - Neil Buick
NEWS FROM THE SOUTH WEST
The trouble with printed Buildings at Risk registers is that they are out of date almost as soon as they are published. A solution to this, which also increases ease of access to the register, is to issue an on-line version.
In Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean District Council's register can be found under the Conservation menu atwww.fweb.org.uk/fddc . It divides the register into buildings at each risk category, including vulnerable buildings. Usefully, and encouragingly, it has a section on success stories. In addition, Gloucester City Council has issued its first register concurrently in printed and on-line versions. It follows the Forest model, and usefully includes a location map in each entry, for ease of identification. It can be reached via the Gloucester City website (go to the Shaping the Future menu and select Urban Initiatives) atwww.glos-city.gov.uk . Their printed register costs £3. For more information contact Nerissa Krantz, Historic Buildings Project Officer on 01452 396826.
SAVE Britainâs Heritage currently run an on-line register atwww.savebritainsheritage.org and English Heritage now publish their registers of Grade I and II* buildings at risk on a useful website athttp://ehbar.cassium.com . It is a very useful site and, as a great deal of work obviously goes into researching progress with the cases before each yearâs register is released, is relatively up to date and accurate.
A Compulsory Purchase Order has been served on the owner of Arnos Vale Cemetery in South Bristol by the City Council. It follows a study by Niall Philips Architects that proposes that the cemetery be taken over by a charitable trust that would restore the historic buildings with the aid of grants. The private cemetery was opened in 1840 and has a number of listed buildings and monuments, including the tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy, the notable Hindu reformer who died on a visit to Bristol in1833. The owner is contesting the CPO, so there will be a public inquiry in the near future.
Bob Kindred has been liaising with a group of local authorities including Bristol, Birmingham, Chester, Salisbury, Derby, Newcastle and York to establish performance indicators for conservation advisory panels under Best Value benchmarking. As different authorities organize their panels in rather different ways, and at least one is self-organized, this is a complex matter with no easy answers, but it is key to the Best Value evaluation process.
The South West Region of the Association of Preservation Trusts is seeking closer links with the IHBC, and also greater input into government activities that impact on conservation of the built environment. In particular, SWAPT is seeking input to the 'Culture South West' strategy. For further information on SWAPT activities contact the Secretary, Kingsley Fulbrook on 0117 9222966.
Architectural theft now extends to paving slabs and kerbstones. Police recently apprehended a party in the act of loading pennant stone kerbs into the boot of his car. Several similar thefts have been noted around Bristol in recent weeks. The theft is being organized to order to raise funds for drug-trafficking, it is thought. The police say they hope to put a curb on it.
The Cornwall & Scilly Urban Survey (CSUS) is up and running! (See Bulletin 3). CSUS has been set up in the context of current regeneration initiatives in Cornwall. These will inevitably bring substantial change to many urban centres and the project is aimed to provide a framework for sustainable regeneration planning in these settlements. For each of the study settlements CSUS will produce GIS-based historic development mapping and a comprehensive gazetteer of the historic environment. The team will also carry out detailed 'characterisation' assessments, describing and cataloguing the distinctive aspects of each town, and identify local opportunities for heritage-led regeneration.
The first three towns to be assessed are Helston, Launceston and St Austell. The project will run over the next two years and is jointly funded by Objective 1 for Cornwall and Scilly and English Heritage. For further information on CSUS, contact Graeme Kirkham on 01872 322360.
Andrew Richards of Kerrier and June Crossland and Jeremy Pearson of the National Trust organised a meeting of Cornwall Conservation Officers earlier this year. This was our second joint meeting and has been an exceptionally useful way of forging links. The afternoon was spent at Godolphin, a visit which is always to be recommended.
In June we met at my house, partly to see Rashers our Pot Belly Pig but mainly to discuss the progress of the Mineral Settlements Initiative. Brinn Tapper gave us an amazing presentation of GIS based mapping techniques and Mary and Nick Cahill took us on a walk around St Day.
Objective One funding in Cornwall has helped stimulate a number of prospective and successful regeneration initiatives and provide welcome match funding for both HERS and THI schemes. However, satisfying the requirements of all match funders can bring a number of headaches. I am currently tearing my hair out over the complexities of European State Aid. Eighteen months into the Falmouth HERS we have recently been advised that as the scheme constitutes State Aid, block exemption regulations will apply. This has meant that all application forms and guidance notes have had to be revised and re-issued, grant percentages altered, expenditure re-profiled, accounting systems adjusted, complicated monitoring systems introduced and of course this has had to be explained to grant applicants. I would be very interested to hear from others who are experiencing similar problems. Maybe we could set up a support group for other desperate colleagues!
Somerset Building Preservation Trust have started work on the restoration and conversion of Grade II* St Margaretâs Almshouses, Taunton. Founded in 12th century as a leper hospital, rebuilt as almshouses in the 16th century by Glastonbury Abbey and converted to offices in the 1930âs, the building has stood fire damaged and in need of extensive repairs. The SBPT has struck up an imaginative deal to pass on St Margaretâs after repair to the West Somerset Rural Housing Association. Contact SBPT on 01823 669022 for details of open days.
The 15th September saw unusual crowds of visitors at Muchelney Abbey, near Langport, drawn to the EH/SCOG Traditional Buildings Fair. With displays and demonstrations by around 40 local craftspeople, specialist conservation contractors and suppliers, the event surpassed all expectations in popularity, even to the extent that IHBC members were to be seen in yellow jackets honing their skills as car park attendants. Thanks to all who assisted in making the event a success. As we discovered at Dunster Show last year there exists a great interest in and demand for information on building conservation by the public particularly in this sort of accessible, non-regulatory format. Other areas in the southwest should try similar events.
Exmoor National Park Authority has started work restoring Simonsbath watermill, a sawmill dating from the 18th century which has been disused since its weir was destroyed in the Lynton flood disaster in 1952. Money from the HLF and Regional Development Agency will see the water supply leat, turbine and sawmill machinery repaired and the mill in use again cutting timber from the Parkâs estate and possibly generating electricity.
The 2002 William Stansell Somerset Building Preservation Trust Award Scheme is now open for entries. Awards will be for new buildings in sensitive settings, conversions to new use and conservation projects. Contact Adron Duckworth on 01935 462652 for details.
Following a recent meeting between the County Building Preservation Trust, three town trusts, English Heritage and representatives from the local authorities a total of about 580 listed buildings in the county have been identified as 'at risk'. The scale of the problem has to be seen against declining local authority and English Heritage grant aid. As a first step conservation officers have been tasked with selecting a shortlist of achievable projects for consideration by the Association of Preservation Trusts (SW) and relevant local trusts. The trusts are also being advised of where the best opportunities of targeted funds are potentially available, for example HERs and RDA initiatives.
In the absence of an in-put from the County Council, the District and Borough Councils are considering the possibility of setting up a joint Task Force that might provide examples of good practice and professional help for individual projects.
In the meantime, staff changes have been notified as follows. Liz Smith joins the team at Swindon Borough from the National Monuments Record Centre. English Heritage South West have snapped up field archaeologist Duncan Coe from the County Archaeology Unit. He is replaced by Susannah Farr from Lincolnshire.
Finally, we are reliably informed that what appears to be a garden shed has been sited beneath the thatched roof featured in the last SW bulletin. The shed is occasionally visited by a public omnibus. It is not clear whether this is in response to publicity generated by the IHBC Bulletin report.