Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Heritage Counts?

Today's blog title is nicked from the English Heritage annual surveys of the same name. The 2008 one can be found here:

As it says on the tin:

Heritage Counts is an annual survey of the state of England’s historic environment. It looks at principle changes in the historic environment. This year there is also a focus on Climate Change and the part the historic sector is playing in tackling this very important issue. More information on the Heritage Counts series

However, at times I have heard some shorten the title a little when describing English Heritage. Lost vowels can have quite an effect. I do wonder just how much heritage actually counts at government level. Although the current economic climate has meant several building schemes which would be destructive of the 'historic environment' have been shelved, at least for the short term, many more will still be pushing ahead, such as the ghastly Pathfinder related demolitions of so many homes (see

The demise of the Civic Trust, reported in the blog on Monday, and also featuring in today's Building Design:

Two former RIBA presidents are among those expressing sadness over the demise of the Civic Trust, which went into administration today after more than 50 years of campaigning to improve the quality of the built environment.

George Ferguson and Paul Hyett both spoke of their regret after the trust folded due to lack of funds, with Hyett calling it a “great tragedy”...

is a sad symptom of the current collapse of financial security. It's difficult to know what the ramifications of that will be for the regional civic trusts. I wrote and posted a web album too of Gayle Mill on Monday, one of the buildings featured in this evening's Restoration Revisited, presented by Griff Rhys Jones.

Set The Video: Restoration Revisited, BBC Two, Wednesday, 22 April, 9pm

One thing Britain is really good at is Old Stuff. That's why all Americans think we live in Gothic caves filled with antiques and maps made from human skin. Of course, they're completely correct. The Swedish however, think we're all sexually backward. Of course, they're correct too. Mercifully, it's the former we're focusing on here as we're treated to Restoration Revisited (BBC Two, Wednesday, 22 April, 9pm) which will see Griff Rhys Jones going back to Old Stuff and seeing if it looks like New Old Stuff.

Over three series, the Restoration team became the architectural equivalent of The Campaign For Real Ale, celebrating the old way of doing things... shouting from the rooftops about how great some British buildings are and how we should give them a cuddle and a spit-wash.
Through the television and phone votes (pre-scandal), Griff Rhys Jones helped us all decide which buildings got restored to former glories, which knackered old gems should be revived and breathed back to life. Everyone cheered as the fireworks went off at the close of each series... however... what happened next?

Well, this show will tell us that loads has happened, with a staggering £100 million being raised for 72 buildings. As swell as that is, it's the transformations that we'll be shown which will be the real pay-off. Should be very nice and pleasant viewing.

Gayle Mill was one of those, which benefited from the cash and the publicity, and I urge all to visit - an unsanitised and tea shoppe free zone, aspiring to be a working sawmill using some rather wonderful old machinery, and with a room for community use thrown in (although it's only a very short walk from Hawes and indeed only a short stroll from the Wensleydale cheese factory and visitor centre,

with a decent caff for those in need of a cuppa after all that culcha oop at t'mill).

Gayle Mill's 'restoration' (or repair if you are a SPABie) was masterminded by Graham Bell and team at the North of England Civic Trust, which owns the building. From the NECT website it sounds as though that organisation at least is safe for now:$FILE/eng-woodfuel-yandh-gayle-mill-cs.pdf

Indeed, here it is again - Heritage Counts 2006, with a picture giving a flavour of the fine interior to be enjoyed, and no gifte shoppe flogging Yorkshire pot pourri in sight either (although some suspiciously clean overalls):

So the failure to thrive of the Civic Trust (President: Griff Rhys Jones) may not immediately bring national shock waves, but the withdrawal of its valuable work (such as the annual Civic Trust Awards and National Heritage Open Days) and expertise will be a sad loss to all who value the built environment.

About Us

The Civic Trust is the independent nationwide charity dedicated to helping communities make better places in which to live, work and play. The Civic Trust has campaigned for better places for people since 1957, and continues to be a powerful, definitive and distinctive voice which helps communities to imagine, shape and deliver inspiring places and an enduring future. The Civic Trust is the umbrella organisation for 700 Civic Societies across the country, representing a quarter of a million people, who care passionately about their environment. Each year it organises Heritage Open Days where over a million people celebrate and explore their cultural and architectural heritage during a long weekend in September.
Through its activities, the Civic Trust raises the standard of our parks, towns and cities. The
Civic Trust’s Award schemes reward the best in our environment, and develop and define best practice. Education, consultancy and coaching programmes help others to understand and achieve excellence in designing, creating and campaigning for better places.

The 2009 Civic Trust Award winners can be found here:

Heritage Open Days 2009:

The picture at the top of today's blog is of another bit of Britain's heritage, indeed it's part of Edinburgh's Royal Mile in the Old and New Town World Heritage Site.

The Director of Edinburgh World Heritage seems to have managed to leave behind the current woes of Caltongate and the Haymarket Tower and hotfooted it to Penang and the World Heritage Site of Georgetown earlier this month.

When Secretary of SAVE Britain's Heritage, Adam was hardly shy of publicity for the cause. Indeed he made a guest appearance in SALON again this week (along with a certain Conservation Officer and blog, which I thankfully note has resumed in fine style):

and mention of Paddington Span Four brings me to a previous blog in which he features:

Here he is again then, meeja tarting for Britain halfway around the world, in a newspaper interview published for World Heritage Day (last Friday, in case it had passed you by) with useful things to say about his aspirations for Edinburgh (inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995 and giving sound advice to those experiencing teething troubles with managing Georgetown WHS (inscribed 2008

Penang Heritage Trust:

For those not lucky enough to be invited to see the World Heritage Sites of Melaka and Georgetown for themselves, these two videos give a flavour of what you are missing:

Meanwhile back home, sad news from the Save Dreamland Campaign that what remained of the historic River Caves at Pleasureland, Southport went up in flames last night:

As one of those heavily involved in the attempt to save Pleasureland from the bulldozer it's particularly poignant; a listing attempt was thwarted by what can only be described as cock ups by those supposedly in charge of our heritage. Heritage counts indeed.

River Caves, with their fantastical voyages through tableaux of scenes round the world, were a form of education and entertainment for the masses, in the days when flying halfway round the world to visit in person would only ever be a dream. Thankfully, some of the parts from Pleasureland were rescued by Nick Laister and the Save Dreamland team, and hopefully and, yes, we are back to that ever diminishing pot of lottery funding again, a new/old River Caves will arise again at Dreamland, Margate. For more of those plans, and news updated yesterday evening, and the proposed Heritage Amusement Park:

There's even a Youtube video, featuring amongs other joys the River Caves and the Waterchute rescued from Rhyl, another mad last minute escapade, funded by those for whom heritage really does count - ie members of the Save Dreamland Campaign (donations always welcome!).

For more heritage news, including posts on the worrying threat to the Leas Lift at Folkestone, as first reported on the Victorian Society website, do join and join in on the Heritage Forum:


PS Fame or notoriety?

(Water Mill:

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