Express & Star

Holbeche House among new entries to Heritage at Risk register

The house where the Gunpowder Plotters made their last stand has been added to Historic England's 'heritage at risk' register.

At risk - Holbeche House, Wall Heath, near Dudley

Holbeche House, in Wall Heath, near Dudley, is one of 19 sites across the West Midlands which have been added to the annual list, published today.

But 21 sites have been removed after being deemed to have been 'saved'.

Holbeche House, which dates back to circa 1600, is empty following the closure last year of a care home which occupied the building. Concerns have been raised about its future.

It was originally home to Stephen Lyttleton, one of the Gunpowder Plotters, and two days after the failed attempt to blow up Parliament, surviving members of the plot took refuge inside the property.

During their flight, the plotters’ gunpowder had become sodden with rain, and there was an explosion when they tried to dry it in front of the fire.

The following morning the building was surrounded by 200 men led by Sheriff Richard Walsh.

Ringleader Robert Catesby was fatally wounded, and most of the other plotters were either killed or wounded in the ensuing fight. Lyttleton was executed for attempted treason.

Some walls at Holbeche House have holes from muskets used in the storming of the property.

Historic England said it was working with Dudley Council about the best way the building – a short distance from the site of the Crooked House pub – can be secured and safeguarded for the future.

At risk - Priory House at Wenlock Abbey

Also added to this year's list is Priory House, which forms part of Wenlock Abbey in Much Wenlock.

The building is described as being in "poor condition".

The site dates back to circa 680, when an Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded by King Merewalh of Mercia.

The house has survived as a private residence to this day with few alterations.

Saved - Chetwynd Bridge, near Lichfield

On a more positive note, Chetwynd Bridge, near Lichfield, has been removed from the list after being 'saved'.

Buildings on the 'at risk' register, which is updated each year, are eligible for extra financial help for restoration work.

In the year to April, Historic England was awarded £515,000 in grants for repairs to 18 historic places and sites in the West Midlands on the register.

The cast-iron Chetwynd Bridge, which spans the River Tame, has benefited from a major repair and restoration scheme last year in time for its 200th birthday next year.

Serving the National Memorial Arboretum and Catton Park, the bridge crosses the river south-east of Alrewas village. Designed by the county surveyor Joseph Potter, it was manufactured in 1824 by the Coalbrookdale Company.

It was added to the 'at risk' register in 2020, following the discovery of significant structural defects within the original cast iron elements.

The works have ensured that the bridge can continue to carry road traffic while a new road bridge is built, after which it will be used by pedestrians and cyclists only.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Heritage at Risk register, over which time 6,800 buildings, structures or site have been 'saved'.

Over the past 25 years, since it began in 1998, around 6,800 entries have been removed. This equates to around three-quarters of the entries that were on the original register. Many of the remaining entries from the 1998 register have seen good progress despite often being the hardest cases to solve.

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings - an aerial view of the Jubilee Tower from the south

Midland regional director for Historic England, Louise Brennan, said the register had helped preserve important historic sites including the Flaxmill Maltings in Shrewsbury – said to be the world's first tower block – and Evesham Abbey.

"We hope the register continues to help save more irreplaceable heritage sites and encourages local people to care for and enjoy their heritage,” she said.

Nationally, a hotel that inspired Charles Dickens' first novel and counts the Beatles and King George II among its former guests has been on the list.

Over the past year, Historic England has added 159 buildings to its Heritage at Risk Register under threat from decay, neglect or inappropriate development, while 203 sites have been rescued.

Holmfirth Conservation Area in West Yorkshire, which featured in the popular TV comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine, was named among the saved sites after vacancy rates fell and buildings were repaired and repurposed, while the Great White Horse Hotel in Ipswich, Suffolk, which inspired regular guest Dickens' first novel The Pickwick Papers and has hosted British stars and notable historical figures over the years including Admiral Lord Nelson, made the at risk list.

Historic England said there is active dry rot in the second floor space named the Dickens Room, alongside deteriorating windows, and gutters and drainpipes which are in poor condition.

St Mary's Church, in Stoke-By-Nayland, in Suffolk, which was frequently painted by landscape artist John Constable, has also been named among the sites on the at risk register.

The village church is set to undergo repairs in December after a fundraising campaign by the Church Council and a £135,000 repair grant from Historic England.

Today marks 25 years since publication of the first Heritage at Risk Register, providing an annual snapshot of the health of England's valued historic buildings and places.

Historic England said there are 48 fewer total entries on the list compared with 2022, and around 6,800 entries have been removed since the list began in 1998.

The saved sites include 19th-century designed Capernwray Hall Park and Garden in Lancashire; the Napoleonic era arms depot in Weedon, Northamptonshire; and Church of the Ascension in Greater Manchester which was repaired following a fire in 2017.

Arts and heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: "For a quarter of a century, the Heritage at Risk Register has helped to focus efforts to preserve cherished sites across the country.

"It is heartening to see that so many sites have had their futures secured and have been taken off the register over the past year thanks to the hard work of Historic England and local people.

"I look forward to the new additions to the register receiving similar care and attention so that future generations can continue to enjoy and learn from our rich heritage for years to come."

Historic England said it awarded £7.63 million in grants for repairs to 155 sites on the Heritage at Risk Register during 2022 and 2023.