Cambridgeshire's Bourn Mill 'at risk of collapse', warns Historic England

Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire is at risk of collapse, according to Historic England, and has been included on the organisation's Heritage at Risk Register 2021
Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire is at risk of collapse, according to Historic England, and has been included on the organisation's Heritage at Risk Register 2021 Credit: Historic England

England’s oldest windmill and a medieval church-turned-circus-venue are among 26 historic places at risk of being lost forever without urgent action, according to a new report.

Historic England’s latest Heritage at Risk Register, published on Thursday, is an annual health-check of England’s most valued historic places and flags up those falling victim to neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

However, in the past year, 13 buildings in the region have been moved off the register after having been saved through the work of charities, owners, local councils and Historic England. 

The organisation has given £1.5m in grants to historic places in the region, plus another £928,650 from the Culture Recovery Fund.

Tony Calladine, Historic England’s regional director, said: "Our heritage is an anchor for us all in testing times. Despite the challenges we have all faced recently, this year's Heritage at Risk register demonstrates that looking after and investing in our historic places can bring communities together, contribute to the country's economic recovery and help tackle climate change. 

“Our historic places deserve attention, investment and a secure future."

In the East of England there are more than 400 entries on the at-risk register, including: 

  • 113 Grade I and II*-listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments

  • 123 places of worship

  • 112 archaeology sites,

  • 49 conservation areas

  • 10 parks and gardens

  • 1 protected wreck sites

Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire is at risk of collapse without urgent repair work, says Historic England Credit: Historic England

AT RISK: Bourn Mill, South Cambridgeshire

One of the oldest windmills in England is at risk of collapse, according to the register.

The main post of Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire is from a tree felled around 1515, meaning it is likely to be the earliest mill main post dated in the country.

The mill was in use until 1926, when it was sold for £45, before passing into the hands of the charity Cambridgeshire Past, Present and Future (CPPF) in 1932.

A dedicated team of volunteers have kept the mill running with activities and regular maintenance - but the mill is now at risk of collapsing because of rotting in its central supporting beams.

Emergency funding has been provided to prop up the mill and develop plans to repair it, for which the charity is now raising money. 

James Littlewood, chief executive of CPPF, said: “The beams and trestles need to be replaced, which will be a significant task. 

“If we can raise the money, then we hope to be able to carry out the work in 2022 and re-open this important and amazing building to visitors."

St Michael Coslany in Norwich is now home to a circus school Credit: Fisheye Images

AT RISK: Church of St Michael Coslany, Norwich

This impressive medieval church is now used as a community circus centre - but could soon close for good without repairs to its crumbling chancel roof.

Part of it fell down in early 2021 and the building’s owner, the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, has put together a repair package which will begin soon.

The church has not been used for worship since 1971 and has more recently become home to Oak Circus Centre, which uses the space to rehearse and perform.

Without urgent renovation the building would almost certainly be faced with closure and Norwich would lose a much-loved community space, said Historic England.

Church warden David Grech polishes the brass at St Mary's Church in Whaddon, now removed from the at risk register Credit: Historic England

SAVED: Parish Church of St Mary, Whaddon, Cambridgeshire

Two years after its entire lead roof was stolen, 14th-century St Mary’s Church is now watertight under a new roof, and welcoming worshippers to its Covid-safe services.

The work on the Grade I-listed building was paid for by fundraising from the local community, along with a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund and cash from the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust and Amey Community Fund.

Dating to 1300, the church is the oldest surviving building in Whaddon, and is adorned with carvings of mythical beasts and grotesque heads. Head carvings on the aisle windows show well-to-do figures on the south aisle, and humble figures on the north. 

Church warden David Grech said: "When, in 2019, we discovered all the lead had been stolen from our church roof, we were pretty low. It looked like a Herculean task to find the money to re-roof the church, and we were worried it might be beyond the limited resources of a small rural parish. 

“But we soon found we were not alone, and with the help of our wider village community, plus technical advice and encouragement from Historic England, together with some generous grant support, we have got there. If you had told me in 2019 that we would have a new roof within two years, I would not have believed you."

Ipswich's Unitarian Meeting House has now been removed from Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register Credit: Patricia Payne/Historic England

SAVED: Unitarian Meeting House, Ipswich

Ipswich’s Grade I-listed Unitarian Meeting House, once praised by the novelist Daniel Defoe, is once more welcoming visitors after a comprehensive restoration programme. 

It was opened for services in 1700 and has been used for worship ever since, coming to be regarded as one of the finest surviving 18th-century Dissenters' meeting houses in the country.

In 1722, Defoe called it “as large and as fine a building of that kind as most on this side of England, and the inside the best finished of any I have seen, London not excepted.”

A year-long restoration project funded by a £600,000 Historic England grant and £140,000 from the community has included work on the roof, drainage and structural timbers, and replacement of the cracked render.

The building was recently awarded a Suffolk Heritage Champion Award by the Suffolk Preservation Society.

Linda King, chair of the trustees, said: "The trustees and congregation are thrilled with the final result of the restoration programme and are full of admiration for the men and women whose knowledge and skills have achieved the rescue of such an historically important building. 

“Equally important is that once again we are able to use the meeting house for our worship and for community events."