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Industrial heritage faces ‘bleak’ future, warns English Heritage

Disused industrial buildings are more at risk of destruction than any other kind of building according to an English Heritage (EH) report

The investigation, published today, found that listed industrial buildings were more at risk than any other kind of listed building in the UK.

Battersea Power Station and the Sleaford Maltings in Lincolnshire are among 10 key ‘at risk’buildings identified by the organisation.

As many as 11 per cent of Grade I and II*-listed industrial buildings are facing an uncertain future according to EH which estimates 40 per cent could be put to sustainable and economic new uses.

Textile mills make up a large proportion, these buildings are concentrated in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

An EH poll also found that 86 per cent of people in the UK feel industrial heritage should be valued while 80 per cent think the buildings are as important as castles and country houses.

EH chief executive Simon Thurley said: ‘Britain led the way in global industrialisation and as a result we are custodians of the world’s most important industrial heritage. It is, however, one of the elements of our heritage most at risk.

‘Forty percent of these buildings could be reused to house new advanced manufacturing, the sorts of technology, green engineering and creative and inventive businesses on which the country’s economic future now depends.

‘However, 60 per cent of our industrial heritage won’t ever attract developers and businesses. Its future could be bleak but, as our poll shows, people are passionate about our industrial past and since the 1960s there has been a strong tradition of local groups taking on the preservation of their local industrial heritage.’

Past RIBA president George Ferguson added: ‘Old industrial buildings can present a great opportunity for inspiring, and sustainable conversions to a variety of uses. The best examples balance the need for creative re-use and revitalisation with the revelation of the history and character that undoubtedly brings added value to such conversions.’

The report came as Preston Bus Station, Birmingham Central Library and the London South Bank Center were added to the World Monuments Fund 2012 Watch list.

Key industrial sites on EH’s Heritage at Risk Register

Ditherington Flax Mill, Shrewsbury
Built in 1797 this was the first textile mill in the world to have a fireproof internal iron frame

Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, Stoke-on-Trent
The first pit to produce one million tons of coal in a single year and the most complete surviving example in England of a large-scale colliery from the peak years of the British Coal Industry

Stanley Mill, Gloucestershire
Rebuilt as a fireproof mill in 1813, Stanley Mill has the finest internal cast iron framing in the country

Stanley Dock, Liverpool
Includes the Grade II* and Grade II listed warehouses by Jesse Hartley together with the massive Grade II Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse. Built in 1900, this contains 27 million bricks and is said to be the largest brick building in the world

Bowes Railway, Tyne and Wear
Designed by the pioneering railway engineer George Stephenson in the 1820s, the Bowes Railway was built to take coal from local pits to the River Tyne. It combined three methods of working – locomotives, stationary haulage engines and gravity incline

Soho Foundry, West Midlands
Opened in 1796 Soho Foundry was the worlds first steam engine manufactory capable of supplying complete steam engines

Battersea Power Station, London
This iconic London landmark was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s and was the first of a new generation of super generating stations

Sleaford Maltings, Lincolnshire
Built by Bass c.1900, this is the largest example of a floor maltings in Europe

Backbarrow Ironworks, Cumbria
Operational for over 250 years and many of its surviving features cannot be found elsewhere. The original water-powered blast furnace was erected in 1711 and the present furnace with its steam blowing engine worked until the 1970s    

Elsecar Engine, South Yorkshire
Dating to 1795, the Newcomen steam engine is the only such engine in the world to survive on its original site



Readers' comments (1)

  • Could the problem be that in relation to their former use, these buildings are, to put it bluntly, redundant, but new/potential owners find it so difficult to negotiate their way past EH to make a sensible 21st century use of them that they give up the unequal struggle?

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