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Heritage at Risk Register launched

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St Cuthbert's Chapel Gary Simpson

Historic England, the government adviser on the Historic Environment, have launched their annual ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. The register gives an annual snapshot of England’s historic places.

The Heritage at Risk register is now in its 20th year and to mark this, Historic England have published their top 20 picks of sites rescued over the last two decades. The medieval chapel on St Cuthbert's Island, an iconic and historically significant archaeological site on the Northumberland Coast, has been highlighted as one of those conservation successes.

Conservation work to St, Cuthbert’s Island was undertaken in 2017 as part of the National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership scheme. Supported by £1.4m of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the scheme enabled the conservation of eight significant built heritage assets on Holy Island and was supported by additional funds from Northumberland County Council, the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership and the War Memorial Trust.

The significance of St Cuthbert's Island, the small tombolo off to the west of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, can not be underestimated. The wealth of national designations illustrates the immense value of the delicate environment and heritage. Sited by Bede as the location for St Cuthbert’s first island refuge in 676 means the island also has huge spiritual significance and draws many visitors.

Whilst very high tides have always had the potential to impact on the west end of the Scheduled chapel, more extreme weather events in recent years have taken an evident toll on the historic fabric. This has resulted in the loss of historic fabric and an increasing risk to the integrity of the buried archaeology.

The National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership project was a remarkable and timely opportunity to address the increasing erosion in an innovative way. The project's conservation architect, Tristan Spicer of Doonan Architects and the conservation builder Heritage Consolidation, developed a suite of conservation options for the variety of sites across the Peregrini area of which St Cuthbert’s Island was the most important. The small bespoke gabions, filled with stones from the foreshore, were moulded to the site and have established a subtle, sustainable and clearly definable intervention which has proved incredibly successful in arresting the erosion of the site.

The other sites that benefited from conservation work were the Bark Pots, Popple Well, Osborne’s Fort, the Palace, the War Memorial and Market Cross.

Sara Rushton, Northumberland County Council Conservation Manager said “Thanks to players of the National Lottery, we’ve been able to secure the future of a range of remarkable heritage sites across Holy Island and ensure that generations to come are able to experience the tranquility and isolation of the chapel remains on St. Cuthbert’s Island.”

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