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

Developments at the Long Shop Museum

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Long Shop Museum, Leiston © David Gill

The Long Shop Museum in Leiston has been awarded £2 million by the HLF (“Long Shop Museum in Leiston awarded lottery grant“, BBC News 19 October 2016). The works were owned by the Garrett family from the 18th century.

The grant is part of a £3 million project to transform the site (“New lease of life for world’s first assembly line“, HLF Press Release 19 October 2016). This will assist with:

Alongside vital repairs, the project will help provide an enhanced visitor experience with new activities: the creation of a reminiscence café, a community hub and a Youth Shed where young people can gain basic engineering skills and find inspiration in the achievements of Richard Garrett, his descendants and those who worked at the site.

New displays will feature the Museum’s own extensive collections – from sickles to steam engines – and draw on the Garrett Archive at Suffolk Record Office to explore the history of industry and science, tell the stories of the workers and reveal more about the lives of the Garrett family – including Elizabeth Garrett who became the first woman in Britain to qualify as a doctor.

Bonawe Iron Furnace: Charging House

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

The Bonawe Iron Furnace was established in 1753 by the Newland Company of Cumbria. This event is marked in the series of Ministry style signs that help to interpret the buildings and installations. The site is in the care of Historic Scotland.

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

The water wheel was installed in the pit adjacent to the blowing house. It was around 3.7 m in diameter. Water was fed from a lade. The wheel provided the power to work the bellows in the adjacent blowing house.

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

The casting house was located adjacent to the blast furnace.

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Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace © David Gill

 

Stott Park Bobbin Mill

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Stott Park Bobbin Mill © David Gill

The Stott Park Bobbin Mill in Cumbria was in use from 1835 (when it was founded by John Harrison) until its closure in 1971. It was placed in State Guardianship in 1974 (and is now in the care of English Heritage). One of its chief functions was to make bobbins from locally harvested wood for use in the cotton mills. The mill is located at the south-west corner of Lake Windermere.

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1983

The first DOE guidebook was prepared in 1983 by Ian Ayris and Peter White. The introduction states: ‘The mill buildings and the machinery are predominantly Victorian. It is scarcely different in appearance today than it was over 100 years ago. It is, therefore, a unique and important monument’. The cover indicates the then vision for the bobbin mill: ‘An Industrial Museum’.

The fully illustrated guide has sections on the products; the bobbin masters; the bobbin mills; the bobbin makers; and bobbin making.

The acknowledgements notes that the DOE ‘will be pleased to hear from people who have further records, photographs or information on the history of the bobbin industry’.

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2015

The present fully illustrated English Heritage guidebook by Peter White is divided into two main sections, tour of the site, and history of the mill. There is a description of each feature of the mill and its outlying buildings. There are several special features including child labour; powering the mill; apprentices, journeymen and masters; the cotton famine; and the workhouse. There is a section on the 1980 interview with Jack Ivison and his memories of the working mill.

 

New Abbey Cornmill: Video Room

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New Abbey Cornmill © David Gill

One of the more unusual ‘Ministry’ signs at New Abbey Cornmill directs visitors to the upstairs video room. This suggests that this style of sign continued into the early 1980s, just prior to the creation of Historic Scotland.

A more contemporary sign would probably direct people to the audio-visual room, or not even draw attention to the type of technology.

New Abbey Cornmill: Entrance and Exit

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New Abbey Cornmill © David Gill

The cornmill in New Abbey is in the care of Historic Scotland. The present building dates from the 1790s and some adaptations were made in the 1850s. The mill was placed in State Guardianship in 1978 and opened in 1983.

The visitors’ centre is on the ground floor of the mill. From here you can be shown the mechanism of the mill or view the mill wheel itself.

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New Abbey Cornmill © David Gill

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New Abbey Cornmill © David Gill

The Long Shop Museum

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Long Shop Museum © David Gill

The Long Shop Museum in Leiston celebrates the output of the engineering company of Richard Garrett & Sons. The displays record the remarkable industrial output of this small Suffolk town including a wide range of agricultural equipment including traction engines and seed planters. During the First World War the plant produced aircraft, and in the Second World War guns for ships.

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Weathervane at Long Shop Museum © David Gill