Top 10 Heritage Sites in England: a personal view

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Castle Howard © David Gill

Historic England has published a list of its Top 10 Heritage Sites in England. But what would be on my personal list? The oldest site on their list was the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo, but I would like to push the list back a little further. I would place two key sites:

  • the first, the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire.
  • the second, the monumental Roman frontier of Hadrian’s Wall that cuts across Northumberland and Cumbria.

Cathedrals are equally hard to list. I think top of my list would be Durham. What can beat the view of the cathedral from the train? I would also place the magnificent Norwich Cathedral in the rankings.

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Norwich Cathedral © David Gill

I would like them to be joined by one of the Yorkshire abbeys, and Fountains is probably the  one that heads the list. But should there be a castle on the list? Pevensey Castle brings together the Roman fort with the later medieval castle, and with hints of the Second World War inserted into the masonry.

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Fountains Abbey © David Gill

Country houses are difficult. Chatsworth is an outstanding residence, but I think that I would place Castle Howard, Yorkshire above it. Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, has spectacular views over the Solent and should be on the list.

On a more modest scale, Cherryburn in Northumberland linked to Thomas Bewick, is an intimate location.

I feel that there should be some industrial heritage in the list. Stott Park Bobbin Mill, tucked away on the edge of Windermere in the Lake District, is one of those captivating sites. Local resources and energy supplies provided a key component of Britain’s trade.

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Stott Park Bobbin Mill © David Gill

Top 10 Heritage Sites in England

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St Paul’s Cathedral from Tate Modern © David Gill

Historic England has issued a list of the Top 10 Heritage Sites in England (Mark Brown, “New top 10 of heritage sites maps out the history of England”, The Guardian 12 June 2018).

The sites are:

      • Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
      • Angel of the North, Gateshead
      • St Paul’s Cathedral
      • Coventry Cathedral
      • Tate Modern
      • the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture park, St Ives, Cornwall
      • the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield
      • Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire
      • Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
      • the Minack theatre, Cornwall

     

What would be in your top 10 sites for England?

Old Sarum: guidebooks

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1965

I have noted before the 1922 Office of Works guide to Old Sarum. In 1965 H. de S. Shortt prepared an illustrated guide to Old Sarum for the MPBW in the format that had been produced in the 1950s for other sites in State Guardianship. The cover is based on the 1819 map prepared by Henry Wansey. One of the first features is a double page spread (pp. 4–5) providing a plan for the castle, the outer bailey and the original cathedral. The guide starts with the situation, noting paintings by John Constable (reproduced in the centre pages), before moving into the historical outline with sub-sections on prehistory, Roman-Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and then later periods. It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell. There is then a guide to the remains, both the inner bailey, as well as the old cathedral. There are two appendices: A note on the name of Old Sarum; Saint Osmund; Excavaions at or adjoining Old Sarum.

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1994 [2003]

Derek Renn prepared the English Heritage guide (1994). The two main sections are ‘What to see’ (no longer, ‘a tour’ or ‘a description’), and ‘The story of Old Sarum’ (not ‘a history’). A pictorial ‘tour’ is provided in the centre pages. It contains sections on prehistory, Rome, as well as the Normans. One section addresses ‘From city to rotten borough’.

Renn had earlier prepared the MPBW souvenir guide to Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall (1969), and the English Heritage guidebooks for Orford and Framlingham Castles (1988), Goodrich Castle (1993).

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2006

The latest English Heritage guide is by John McNeill, with fold out plans inside the front and back covers. The two main sections are the tour, and a history, with features on the demolition of the cathedral and beneath the ramparts, showing some of the early investigations of the site.

Old Sarum: cathedral

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Old Sarum, cathedral © David Gill

The cathedral at Old Sarum was probably started under Bishop Hermann (d. 1078), when the see was moved from Sherborne (in 1075); much of the work was conducted by his successor Bishop Osmund (d. 1099). This structure was placed inside the outer walls of the castle (that follow the line of the Iron Age hillfort), and completed in 1092.

The cathedral was rebuilt by Bishop Roger (d. 1139) and expanded by Bishop Jocelin de Bohun (d. 1184). The foundations of the new Salisbury cathedral were laid in 1220 under Bishop Richard Poore (1217-28), and the remains of the first three bishops of Salisbury were moved from Old Sarum in June 1226. The old cathedral was then dismantled and the stone reused for the new building.

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Old Sarum, cathedral and castle © David Gill

Old Sarum: Ministry sign

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Old Sarum © David Gill

The iron age hillfort at Old Sarum was taken into State Guardianship in February 1892. It contained a later medieval castle as well as the remains of a cathedral started in 1078.

Excavations by the Society of Antiquaries were conducted in 1909. The site is now managed by English Heritage.

The Ministry sign was originally mounted on the side of the custodian’s hut.

St Andrews Cathedral

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St Andrews © David Gill

The cathedral at St Andrews was started in 1160. It was here, in the east end and behind the high altar, that the relics of St Andrews were placed. There were reported to have been brought to St Andrews (Kilrymont) from Patras in Greece.

The view from St Rule’s Church shows the nave and west end of the cathedral. The cathedral was adjacent to an Augustinian priory. The western edge of the cloister can be seen in the picture.