Coastal Heritage and the Climate Crisis

Hurst Castle © David Gill

English Heritage has issued its Coastal Heritage at Risk report (23 September 2022). Six castles are identified as at risk. Two are in the Solent: Hurst Castle and Calshot Castle. The dramatically situated Tintagel Castle in Cornwall sustained some £40,000 worth of damage in the winter storms of 2021/22. Piel Castle in Cumbria is facing damage due to rising sea levels. The other sites are at Bayard’s Cove Fort in Devon, and Garrison Walls in Scilly.

Piel Castle, Cumbria © David Gill

Coastal heritage locations in East Anglia and the south-east are also facing similar pressures due to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. Some of the issues are explored in the EARC Heritage Report:

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent%2F01.02.96160>.

Heritage and the Climate Crisis

Reculver © David Gill

One of the themes explored in the EARC report, From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector, is the climate crisis. The EARC region includes coastal heritage from the Wash, along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, the Essex marshes, and the Kent coast. The report considers heritage and coastal change; impacts of future climate and coastal change on heritage; and heritage responses to climate change and coastal change.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

From the Wash to the White Cliffs

Our report on the contribution of the heritage sector to society and the economy in the south east and the east of England was published today.

Summary

This report reviews the contribution of heritage to the region defined by the counties of Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. It identifies four key themes that link the heritage in the region: coastal defence; Christian heritage; historic houses; and historic landscapes and natural heritage. The region contains one UNESCO World Heritage Site at Canterbury. Heritage is supported by the development of several Heritage Action Zones and High Street Heritage Action Zones across the four counties.

Heritage features in the strategies for the two regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), as well as countywide and local authority heritage and cultural strategies. The report identifies examples of good practice.  

Several research themes have been identified that link to the interests of the three sponsoring universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Kent. Coastal heritage across the four counties is facing the threat of the climate crisis and assets are being lost due to coastal erosion. The impact of rising sea levels is also assessed. Heritage and cultural property crime affects the sustainability of heritage and cultural property across the region. Five case studies are presented: damage to churches, including lead roof theft; illegal metal-detecting and the disposal of finds; architectural theft; vandalism; and the use of technology to facilitate crime against heritage assets. The third research theme relates to the way that the DCI sector works with heritage organisation to record and interpret assets. The development of a county based Digital Heritage Strategy for Suffolk is highlighted.

The economic benefits of heritage are explored through the award of National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grants to heritage projects. Between 2013 and 2020 the EARC region was awarded over £190 million for heritage projects by NLHF. In addition, the report explores visitor trends and identifies the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism economy for the region. Historic England estimates that the heritage sector accounted for 140,000 jobs in the south east, and eastern England in 2019.

The social benefits of heritage align with the UK Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. This is explored through a number of sub-themes: health and well-being; pride in place; digital connectivity; education and skills.

The report concludes with a reflection on the challenges facing heritage across the region. This includes encouraging public participation with museums and archives.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

Press release: New report highlights the contribution of heritage to the EARC region, 10 August 2022 <https://easternarc.ac.uk/news/earc-report-identifies-the-economic-and-social-contribution-of-heritage-to-the-south-east-and-east-of-england/>

Heritage Rankings and Cornwall

Cornwall Mining Landscape © David Gill

The RSA Heritage Index (2020) allows the ranking of local authorities through the analysis of data around key themes: Historic Built Environment, Museums, Archives and Artefacts, Industrial Heritage, Parks and Open Spaces, Landscape and Natural Heritage, Culture and Memories, and a general category.

Cornwall is ranked at 46 for local authorities in England. It is particularly strong in the general category (9), Culture and Memories (31) and Landscape and Natural Heritage (81). Surprisingly it did not have a strong showing for Industrial Heritage (229) even though the UNESCO World Heritage status has a focus on the mining heritage (‘Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape‘); the image of the Crowns on the north Cornish coast is a reminder of the dramatic setting for some of this industrial heritage. There is marked fall in the rankings for Museums, Archives and Artefacts (from 185 to 280), but a modest increase for the Historic Built Environment (from 169 to 137).

© David Gill

Landguard Heritage Landscape

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

The Victorian Landguard Fort stands in the middle of rich heritage landscape that marks the defence of this strategic area around (and opposite) the port of Harwich during the Second World War.

In the foreground is the base for mounting a searchlight, and behind it a pillbox. To the rear of the image, on the perimeter of the fort, are the two control towers located at Darrell’s Battery.

These features form part of the Landguard Nature Reserve.

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

For details of WW2 archaeology in Suffolk.

Dunstanburgh Castle: guidebooks

Dunstanburgh Castle © David Gill

Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast was placed in State Guardianship in 1929. Construction had started in 1313. The first official guide was published in 1936 with the section on the history of the castle by C.H. Hunter Blair, and the description by H.L. Honeyman. The cover carries the arms of Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277–1322). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. The guide continued into the 1970s.

1936 (2nd ed. 1955, 4th impress. 1962)
10th impress. 1973

A colour illustrated guide was prepared by Henry Summerson (1993). The main section is dedicated to a tour of the castle, and there is a helpful bird’s-eye view to help to orientate the visitor. There is a short section with biographical notes on Thomas of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.

1993

Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee prepared the English Heritage red guide (2007). This contains a bird’s-eye view and a plan of the castle on the fold-out card cover. The tour contains helpful thumbnail plans to help the visitor located their position. There is a section on Dunstanburgh and coastal defence during World War 2.

2007 (repr. 2016)

Martello Towers and the Suffolk Coast

Slaughden, Aldeburgh © David Gill

The Martello Tower at Slaughden, to the south of Aldeburgh, is the most northerly of the east coast towers: there were originally 18 in Suffolk. It has an unusual quatrefoil design. The series was constructed between 1808 and 1812 to prevent an invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.

Shingle Street © David Gill

The tower at Shingle Street is a more standard round design.

Alderton © David Gill

The tower at Alderton is located to the south of Shingle Street. (Notice the WW2 pill box located to the north.) This gives a view towards the next two towers at Bawdsey and Bawdsey Cliffs.

Felixstowe Ferry from Bawdsey Quay © David Gill

A single tower guarded the entrance to the Deben at Felixstowe Ferry opposite Bawdsey.

Heritage tourism: Messenia

The fortress, Pylos © David Gill

Messenia in the south-west Peloponnese has been developing as a tourist destination. One of the main archaeological attractions is the classical city of Messene, and the Late Bronze palace near Pylos (‘Nestor’s Palace’). The fortresses at Pylos and Methoni are now tourist attractions in their own right with 46,000 and 71,000 visitors respectively.

Methoni © David Gill

The six archaeological sites in Messene now attract over 221,000 visitors a year (2019).

Data: Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill

Orford Ness lighthouse dismantled

Orford Ness Lighthouse © David Gill

Work has started to dismantle the lighthouse on Orford Ness due to coastal erosion (Martin Barber and Luarence Cawley, “Orfordness Lighthouse is dismantled as sea edges closer“, BBC News 16 July 2020). It is hoped to place elements of the lighthouse elsewhere on the ness.

See earlier account.

Heritage tourism on Crete: Spinalonga

Spinalonga © David Gill

The Venetian fortress of Spinalonga is located on an island in the northern part of Mirabéllo Bay, Crete. It was built in 1579 and was taken over by the Ottomans in 1715.

Spinalonga © David Gill

In 1903 it became a colony for those with leprosy; the colony closed in 1955.

Visitor numbers to Spinalonga. Data: Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill

The fortress attracts over 400,000 visitors a year, and since 2014 has been on the UNESCO tentative list for World Heritage status.

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