Heritage at risk in Northumberland revealed

The archaeological site at Ingram Farm in Northumberland.
The archaeological site at Ingram Farm in Northumberland.

Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, an annual snapshot of the health of the historic environment, is published today.

Across the North East, fascinating places full of our local history have been added to the Register, as they’re in need of rescue.

The archaeological site at Ingram Farm in Northumberland.

The archaeological site at Ingram Farm in Northumberland.

In Northumberland, these include the Roman Catholic Church of St Robert, in Morpeth, which was recently awarded funding of up to £22,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the refurbishment, and archaeological sites at Pigdon's Leap, Alnham; west of Threestoneburn House, Ilderton; and 850m south of Troughend, Otterburn.

An equally compelling collection of sites in the North East has been rescued in the past year.

In Northumberland, these include Alnwick's Conservation Area; an overgrass tower house, 150m south-east of Newmoor Hall, Newton on the Moor; and archaeological sites 900 metres south-west of Holystone Grange and 1km north-east of The Dod, Ilderton.

For the first time, Historic England (formerly known as English Heritage) has compared all types of heritage on its Register to find out which types of heritage appear the most; from domestic buildings to protected wrecks, archaeological ruins, industrial sites and places of worship. The categories most at risk in the North East are cemeteries and the archaeological remains of settlements such as the extensive prehistoric villages that survive in our upland landscapes.

Historic England is prioritising 25 important archaeological settlement sites in Northumberland to help owners remove them from the Heritage at Risk Register.

These settlements are prehistoric, Romano-British and medieval in date. They have become vulnerable to damage from extensive bracken growth that is destroying buried archaeology and obscuring sites, reducing access and visibility. Bracken roots can penetrate up to a metre below the ground surface, destroying fragile archaeological deposits. The dense fern also prevents farm animals from grazing and reduces biodiversity.

The Ingram Valley in Northumberland has been inhabited continuously since prehistoric times. The archaeological remains are exceptionally well-preserved and include historic settlements, field systems and burial cairns. Ingram Farm has recently been the pilot for an experiment using non-chemical treatments to control bracken growth. This project has been developed by Historic England, Natural England and the farmer, who will monitor the impact of the various bracken treatments on the archaeological features and biodiversity.

Kate Wilson, Heritage at Risk principal for Historic England in the North East; said: “This year’s Register gives us the most complete assessment of the state of our nation’s heritage yet. It shows that we are making progress, but we still have significant challenges ahead.

"We are committed to working with local authorities, civic societies and everyone who is passionate about protecting the value heritage brings to our lives.

"The very things that make the North East special are under attack. If they’re lost, then we are in danger of losing part of that shared legacy. Together we can find ways to safeguard our most precious places for future generations.”

A third of all sites on the 2010 register have been rescued, which means Historic England has beaten its target of getting 25 per cent off the register over five years. Across the next three years, the target is to get a further 15 per cent of historic sites off the Register.