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18 medieval Norfolk churches removed from Heritage at Risk register

PUBLISHED: 10:28 26 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:57 26 October 2017

The Gatehouse at West Acre Priory before repairs. The site has now been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2017. Picture: Historic England

The Gatehouse at West Acre Priory before repairs. The site has now been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2017. Picture: Historic England

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Norfolk features the largest cluster of medieval churches in the world. It’s even said you can’t see a horizon in the county without there being a church spire in it.

The Gatehouse at West Acre Priory in Norfolk after repairs. The site has now been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2017. Picture: Historic England The Gatehouse at West Acre Priory in Norfolk after repairs. The site has now been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2017. Picture: Historic England

And now, 18 of Norfolk’s treasured places of workship - some dating back to the 12th century, have been removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

The register, which is the annual snapshot of the health of the historic environment, reveals that 39 sites across the East of England were added this year due to concerns about their condition, while 53 have been removed - bringing the total on the register to 393.

The biggest success was for listed places of worship, with 32 entries coming off and 17 additions. Almost all of the removals were made possible with the help of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

More than half of the places of worship that were either removed (18) or added (nine) are in Norfolk.

The county is noted for its many fine large medieval churches, reflecting a former wealth based on agriculture.

Today, economic conditions have changed in Norfolk and, combined with dwindling congregations, the challenge is to maintain these places of worship in good repair.

Simon Buteux, Heritage at Risk principal for Historic England in the East of England, said: “The Heritage at Risk Register helps us to target resources to those sites which are most threatened.

“For the first time this year we have seen the number of entries on the Register in the East of England fall below 400, which is really good news.

“We will continue to invest grant aid and time and expertise in working with owners, developers, communities and other funders to find solutions for the region’s heritage at risk.”

On the downside, the number of Conservation Areas at Risk in the region has been steadily increasing year on year - 40 in 2015, compared to 49 in 2017.

This year, 11 conservation areas were added with five in Essex, three in Hertfordshire, two in Cambridgeshire and one in Suffolk. Four conservation areas were removed.

There has been a steady reduction in the number of archaeological sites on the register, from 193 in 2015 compared to 175 this year.

Nine archaeological sites were removed and one was added – Moot Hill, Wymondham, Norfolk, a large medieval ring motte.Scilla Latham, secretary of the Norfolk Churches Trust, said the preservation of medieval church buildings across Norfolk was “paramount”.

She said they were an important part of the county’s heritage.

“Norfolk has the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world and there is no reason it should not become a world heritage site.

“The churches hold so many records of the history of the county and chart the history of the area.

“We need to preserve them as a record of this history.”

The Norfolk Churches Trust assists through financial aid and advice in protecting many architecturally important religious monuments in the county. The buildings contain a range of rare works of art and craftsmanship including stained glass windows, painted screens, statuary and frescos, carved woodwork, bells and organs. The Trust’s grants have proved to be vital to the future of many churches.

Notable Norfolk sites removed

•West Acre Priory, West Acre. Historic England, working closely with the owners and Norfolk County Council, have been able to undertake a comprehensive programme of repairs and consolidation work.

•Grade II* Church of SS Peter & Paul, Honing. Repair work, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with advice from Historic England, is nearing completion.

•Grade I Church of St Andrew, East Lexham. A late Saxon round tower has now been repaired and conserved with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and advice from Historic England.

•Grade I Church of St Mary, Church Hill, Reepham. The tower has recently been repaired and adjacent roofs recovered with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and advice from Historic England.

•Grade I Church of St Edmund, Old Costessey. The nave and chancel roofs have been re-covered with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and advice from Historic England.

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