The RSA Heritage Index (2020) provides an important source for considering how heritage is placed at risk across the six counties. Norfolk has the highest percentage of Grade I listed buildings at risk with 7.7 per cent, followed by Bedfordshire at 5.3 per cent. Norfolk also has the highest percentage of Grade II* listed buildings at risk with 3.5 per cent. Grade II listed buildings are largely considered not to be at risk across the region. However, scheduled sites are far more at risk: Cambridgeshire stands at 16.6 per cent, followed by Essex at 8.7 per cent.
How can such fragile and vulnerable heritage be protected across the region?
Norwich has the highest rating in the RSA Heritage Index (2020) at number 3 for England. The rankings in all seven categories are almost identical to those for 2016. The lowest score, as might be expected for an urban location, is for Landscape and Natural Heritage.
Cambridge is placed at number 9, and like Norwich does not do so well for Landscape and Natural Heritage. Like Norwich, its rankings for the different themes are very similar to those for 2016.
Southend-on-Sea, a unitary authority, is placed at number 19. Its particular strength lies in Landscape and Natural Heritage, as well as Industrial Heritage, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts. Again, note the similarity to the rankings for 2016.
Ipswich, the highest ranking authority for Suffolk, is placed at number 87 (a fall from 2016). There is an improvement in the theme of Culture and Memories, though slight falls for Parks and Open Spaces, and the General category.
Colchester in Essex is placed at number 140. It shares a museum service with Ipswich, though does not perform as well as in the theme of Museums, Archives and Artefacts. There are improvements from 2016 in the themes of Historic Built Environment, Culture and Memories, but a slight slippage for Parks and Open Spaces.
Altogether there are 11 locations in the eastern region that are placed in the top 100 for England: four in Norfolk, three for Essex (plus Southend-on-Sea), two for Suffolk, and one for Cambridgeshire.
The RSA Heritage Index, issued in the autumn of 2020, provides information on heritage at risk for each local authority. It is possible to quantify each local and unitary authority. For example, in Suffolk there are 8 Grade I, 22 Grade II*, and 3 Grade II buildings at risk; in addition, there are 25 scheduled monuments at risk.
In Cambridgeshire there are 10 Grade I, 12 Grade II*, and 2 Grade II buildings at risk; in addition, there are 56 scheduled monuments at risk.
In Norfolk there are 41 Grade I and 29 Grade II* buildings at risk; in addition, there are 18 scheduled monuments at risk.
In Essex there are 3 Grade I, 19 Grade II*, and 1 Grade II buildings at risk; there are 28 scheduled monuments at risk.
Turning the numbers into a percentage, it is possible to see that Norfolk has a particularly high percentage of Grade I buildings at risk. Cambridgeshire has a high percentage of scheduled monuments at risk.
The contribution of William Francis Grimes to the Sutton Hoo excavations can sometimes be overlooked. Grimes was born in Pembroke and was an undergraduate at Cardiff where he read Latin; he then joined the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff where he initially worked on Roman pottery from Holt. However, his main interest was in prehistory, and in 1938 he joined the archaeological section of the Ordnance Survey. His expertise in working on organic materials was thought suitable for the excavation at Sutton Hoo where his ‘work in dissecting and removing the majority of the buried deposits was invaluable’ (AntJ 1940).
The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available. West Suffolk has been placed at 122nd in England: Ipswich is at 87th, and East Suffolk at 98th. West Suffolk’s strengths have been identified as Culture and Memories (69th) and Landscape and Natural Heritage (72nd). Surprisingly, given the importance of Bury St Edmunds, the Historic Built Environment is placed at 165th and Museums, Archives and Artefacts at 173rd.
The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).
Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).
Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).
Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).
Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.
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.
The tower at Shingle Street is a more standard round design.
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.
A single tower guarded the entrance to the Deben at Felixstowe Ferry opposite Bawdsey.
The top seven paid heritage visitor attractions in East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) account for 1.1 million visitors a year (2018). Four are properties managed by the National Trust: Ickworth, Blickling Hall, Felbrigg Hall, and Oxburgh Hall. Framlingham Castle is managed by English Heritage.
There is a single museum, the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
The Poppy Line (North Norfolk Railway) is also in the top seven.