Hagia Sophia and UNESCO World Heritage

Hagia Sophia © David Gill

The historic area of Istanbul was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. One of the finest structures in this part of the city is the 6th century church of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Under Kemal Atatürk the building was turned into a museum emphasising the secular nature of the republic.

It is now proposed to turn the structure back into a mosque (“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque“, BBC News 2 July 2020). The topic has been widely discussed in Greece (e.g. “Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sophia’s status“, ekathimerini.com 1 July 2020). France has now added its voice to the debate (e.g. “France says Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia must remain open to all“, ekathimerini.com 2 July 2020).

Thetford Priory Gatehouse

Thetford Priory Gatehouse © David Gill

The priory at Thetford, Norfolk was founded in 1103, and moved to the present location in 1107. The 14th century gatehouse lies to the north-west of the priory (in the grounds of private houses). The property is in the care of English Heritage.

Thetford Priory © David Gill

Thetford Priory © David Gill


Celebrating 100 Years of Guides to the National Heritage Collection


2017 marks the centenary of the first guidebooks to what can now be termed the National Heritage Collection. One of the first was written by Sir Charles Peers on St Botolph’s Priory in Colchester and now in the care of English Heritage. The guidebook was reissued as a ‘blue’ guide in 1964.

The 1917 guide include a fold-out plan of the priory inside the back cover. This was prepared by E. Dace Brown in July 1916. The guide was divided into three sections: The Augustinian Rule; History of St Botolph’s Priory; and The Priory Buildings.

Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

Earlier this week the ‘Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership’ was launched. Heritage Futures will be taking an active role in the interpretation of the abbey ruins at Bury St Edmunds. The partnership is led by St Edmundsbury Cathedral and St Edmundsbury Borough Council. The 12 partner organisations include Suffolk County Council, Historic England, English Heritage, the Bury Society, UEA (CEAS), and the University of Suffolk.

The Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the partnership, said: “The new Heritage Partnership aims to deepen public understanding of the life and times of St Edmund and the Medieval Abbey and to encourage people to experience the spiritual, historical and archaeological significance of the Abbey of St Edmund in the modern world.

“The launch of the Heritage Partnership today marks the culmination of a year’s careful preparation by the Cathedral, the Borough Council and a growing number of partners.

“I am delighted to announce that we have just been awarded a Heritage at Risk Project Development Grant of £40,000 by Historic England to help us carry out some essential heritage research and conservation planning for the future.”

In addition, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has awarded the partnership £10,000.

Step into Castle Acre

1952 [1970]
1952 [1970]
The original Office of Works guide to Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk was prepared in 1936.It had been placed under state guardianship in 1913. The guidebook was split into two distinct sections: the history by Frederick J.E. Raby, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and the description by Paul K. Baillie Reynolds, formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments. (The pair also collaborated on the guidebook to Framlingham Castle.) My Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) ‘Official Guidebook’ is the eleventh impression (1970) of the second edition (1952). The cost was 2 shillings [10 p].  There is a fold-out plan inside the back cover. The cover shows the crest of the priory taken from the gatehouse (see the English Heritage guidebook, p. 22 [for position]).

1952 [1979]
1952 [1979]
My 1979 Department of the Environment (DOE) ‘Official Handbook’ (note the change from ‘Official Guidebook’) is the fourteenth impression (1979) of the second edition (1952). The price is now 50 p. Essentially the text and images are the same although there are minor changes. Raby is now listed as ‘Sometime’ Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Works.

2008 [2013]
2008 [2013]
The English Heritage guidebook by Edward Impey covers Castle Acre Priory and Castle (2008; revised reprint 2013). This colour guide has a Priory Tour  (pp. 4-23), a Castle Tour (pp. 24-31), and a History (pp. 32-48). There are fold-out plans of the village and priory inside the front and back covers. There is a wonderful archive photograph of the first uniformed custodian, William Savage, who was appointed in 1929.

Greyfriars, Dunwich

Greyfriars, Dunwich (2015)

Much of the medieval town of Dunwich has fallen into the sea. However there are some remains of the refectory from Greyfriars that have been consolidated recently.

Greyfriars is now managed by a separate trust (see BBC News).

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