The Future of Listed Buildings in Bristol : As a historian of Bristol I often worry about the way in which we will preserve, for future generations, the treasures that have been passed on to us by our ancestors. Bristol is such a wonderful city with so much history and culture that to sit back and allow historic relics decay is a terrible crime against the city.
According to Bristol City Council there are almost 4500 listed buildings in Bristol of which 100 are listed as Grade 1 buildings and thus are officially considered to be “buildings of exceptional interest” with another 1,500 qualifying “as particularly important buildings of more than special interest.” This means that in Bristol we have a very high density of historically significant buildings to care for, if we are going to leave anything to future generations!
So are we living up to our responsibilities in looking after our historic buildings?
Well not too well according to English Heritage, the body responsible for managing the historic built environment of England! Three of our grade 1 listed buildings are currently included on the “Buildings at Risk Register” all with conditions being rated as being ‘poor’ or ‘very bad’.
Among these buildings is St James’ Priory in Whitson Street located next to the bus station, which is one of the oldest buildings in the city! St James’ Priory was founded in 1129 by Robert, Earl of Gloucester who was the illegitimate son of Henry the 1st as a Benedictine priory and is particularly notable because it retains a surprising amount of Romanesque fabric. The building, which is described by English Heritage as being in ‘very bad’ condition, is now used as a drug and drink rehabilitation clinic.
However following a high profile campaign, enlisting the help of regional celebrities such as Time Teams Tony Robinson and Grand Designs Kevin McCloud and thanks to a £3 Million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as English Heritage, National Churches Trust and other local and national trusts and donors works are currently under way to restore St James’ Priory and are due to complete in May 2011.
So does this good news story mean that we are looking after our heritage suitably? I’m afraid not!
The English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ records 12 historic Bristolian structures on it database. In the current era of public spending cuts and economic recession it is likely that future restoration projects will find it increasingly difficult raise the funds required to carry out repairs! If repairs are not carried out then it we may well lose for ever the priceless inheritances of our joint history. Once history is lost it is lost forever!
The only way to prevent this tragedy from occurring is for ordinary people to roll their sleeves up and get involved in preserving the heritage of our city, country and the wider world. For my part I will be publicising the plight of our historic buildings to our cities visitors while showing them around and will be joining the fight to protect funds from the government cuts.