2019 Yearbook

5 FOREWORD I AM DELIGHTED to introduce this 2019 edition of the IHBC Yearbook , and its highly relevant theme, ‘Heritage Risk and Resilience: confronting conservation calamities’. Although it may come as a surprise, there couldn’t be a more fitting topic for English Heritage, as our conservation specialists find themselves addressing on a daily basis the impacts of more than 500 years of historical calamities wreaked upon the historic sites in our care. Later in the yearbook, you will read about the impacts of earthquakes, climate change, war and fire damage, and these are all issues English Heritage has tackled over the three years since we became an independent charity and began the largest conservation programme in our history. Last year’s £3.6 million conservation project on the Iron Bridge in Shropshire – the world’s first cast iron bridge and a world heritage site – is one such example. The many thousands who visited the project via our ‘see conservation in action’ walkway last summer learned that among the issues the team addressed were the results of a 19th-century earthquake! Subsequent ground movement in the surrounding gorge resulted in cracks in the historic ironwork – all now masterfully repaired. Fortunately, we have not had to tackle a major fire in recent years but we are still dealing with the long-term effects of the devastating 1937 fire at Witley Court in Worcestershire. It is only as a result of careful masonry conservation that the romantic ruin in our care still stands today. With no roof to protect it from the elements, its historic fabric simply would not survive without the frequent care and attention of our teams and visits by the public would become impossible due to the risk of falling masonry. We invest constantly in preventive measures, always vigilant against the threat of fire, and look to learn from recent tragic events across a full spectrum, from Grenfell Tower to the Glasgow School of Art. Calamitous events do indeed cast a long shadow. Even the effects of war are a current issue for us, and we will shortly begin a major conservation project at Bristol’s Temple Church – known locally as the leaning tower of Bristol – addressing issues brought about by the German bombs which gutted the ancient church during the Bristol Blitz. Conservation is also about looking forward of course. We must address future challenges, and I read with interest Dr Mairi Davies’ account of how climate change is affecting Skara Brae and Scotland’s dynamic coast. These issues are only too familiar following English Heritage’s battles at Hurst Castle in Hampshire, where we have had to invest heavily in repairs to the castle’s historic fabric after a sudden shift in the pattern of coastal erosion in 2013. We face similar issues at our sites on the Isles of Scilly. Thinking far ahead as to how we ensure our grandchildren can still enjoy discovering the story of England where historic events took place, we are taking a ground- breaking approach to caring for the nation’s unique collection. Addressing risk and resilience, linked to significance, is the cornerstone of English Heritage’s progressive, new outcome-centred ‘sustainable conservation’ strategy. Building on a solid foundation of research and survey data over many years, we will be approaching the care of individual sites from a different perspective. Rather than itemising every defect identified by our surveys, and setting out systematically to remove these, we will now take a more holistic evidence-based view of what it will take to ensure the building remains in good condition in the long-term. We will focus attention away from individual defects and towards areas of vulnerability, and prioritise significant aspects rather than every inch of a building. Our measure of good stewardship will be that each site will be in ‘sustainable condition’, meaning that it will stand the test of time with regular preventive maintenance. In some cases, this will mean a major intervention to achieve a long-term benefit, rather than repeated and costly works to address recurring problems that arise from failing to address the root cause. Our teams will draw on historical records and survey work to examine rates of deterioration, and will anticipate vulnerabilities such as fire risk and climate change in their repair and maintenance plans. Whatever challenges face the 400-plus unique places in our care, by focusing on a sustainable approach to conservation we can reduce risk and increase their resilience in the long-term. I commend to you the excellent articles in this edition of the yearbook and this year’s IHBC annual school which shares the same theme. Kate Mavor, Chief Executive, English Heritage