04Apr 2016

The Importance of Protecting our Architectural Heritage

Posted in: News and period homes  –  By Patchett Joinery

Here in the UK, we’re blessed to have some of the best architecture in the world. Not just recent buildings, but also stunning examples from centuries gone by. So common are these buildings, that we slip by them daily without noticing them, but maintaining those buildings is absolutely essential.

The Convention for the protection of the architectural heritage of Europe was created on the 3rd of October 1985. It is a legally binding document which set the framework for a conservation approach within Europe. Britain is one of the founder members.

Here at Patchett Joinery, we respect and cherish our heritage as evidenced by our beautiful timber sash windows and wood casement windows made from timber from sustainable forests.

Before five hundred AD Britain has some of the best examples of recognisable buildings which incorporate features of building work from the claimed date…The part of the environment, (our surroundings), that displays the interactions between people and places throughout time is called the historic environment. It is this environment and the buildings within it that are more valuable than their money’s worth, our historical heritage, encompasses, archaeological, architectural, artistic and of course the cultural aspects of society…The importance of the protection of the above resonates with most of us. It is one of the reasons why the convention for the protection of our architectural heritage came into being.

For example Britain’s Roman legacy forms an important part of our architectural heritage, Roman influence can still be seen (and felt) to some extent today. From ancient forts, roads and walls, to villas, palaces and spas, the depth of the Romans occupation is unmatched by any other invading force

It used to be thought that once the Romans pulled out of Britain in the fifth century, their elegant villas, and engineering marvels, such as Hadrian’s Wall, plus the carefully–planned towns fell into decay, (as British culture was plunged into the Dark Ages). However, it appears that this may not be the whole truth…Architecture along with language, political organisation, religion and the arts are thought to have survived long after the Romans withdrew. The finest example of Roman domestic living arrangements can be found at Bignor Roman Villa in West Sussex. Set on Stane Street, which once linked Novoimagnus Regnorum (Chichester) to London. It was composed of more than seventy buildings spread across four acres. Here you will find the most complete floor mosaics in Britain.

Architecture in particular is about evolution, it took the Norman conquest of 1066 to bring back the light, (post the Dark Ages), and the Gothic cathedral-builders of the Middle Ages, both played their part in the revival of British culture. In this relatively small country, everywhere bears the marks of our ancestor’s efforts to sustain life and satisfy their needs.

Between the period of the Normal landing at Pevensey in 1066 and up to the day in 1485, when Richard the 111 lost his head at Bosworth, ushering in the arrival of the Tudors which saw an early Modern period, we could gaze upon the countenance of beautiful buildings, remarkable in the face of the very down to earth “fit for purpose” ethos of medieval architecture…The fabulous cathedrals and parish churches with the great towers that lifted their faces up to heaven, were not only acts of devotion built in stone; they were functional buildings. Castles were built to serve a purpose, which was to protect, and their battlements and turrets were for use rather than ornament. They were built to last, evidenced by the amount of castles that remain intact to this day.

The government in the main is responsible for protecting and conserving Britain’s historic environment, “for the benefit of present and future generations, listing a building (for example) protects it form unauthorised demolition, alteration or extension because of its special architectural features or historic interest”

Conservation is the process of maintaining change to a heritage asset in a way that sustains and where appropriate enhances its significance. It is the government’s overarching aim that the historic environment and its heritage assets should be conserved for the quality of life they bring to this and future generations

Since 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or, (UNESCO), has compiled and maintained a list of World Heritage Sites of “Outstanding Universal Value”. The United Kingdom has a total of twenty eight World Heritage Sites, which range from Liverpool to Stonehenge, from Blaenavon Industrial Landscape to the Tower of London. The act of signing up to the World Heritage convention state parties, including the UK, means we enter into an obligation to identify, protect and conserve World Heritage Sites.

You may wonder what archaeology has got to do with buildings. Archaeology is the study of the material remains and environmental effects of human behaviour: evidence can range from landscapes to microscopic organisms and covers all periods from the origins of human life to the remains of 20th-century industry and warfare. And of course standing buildings, as much as the remains of their buried counterparts bear witness to the past and can tell us much about the everyday life of their inhabitants.

Regeneration is an important aspect of protecting our architectural heritage…Regeneration of our old buildings for their continued re-use is in the interests of all of us. It ensures that present and future generations can experience and enjoy the physical expression of past generations. The built heritage consists not only of great artistic achievements, but also of the everyday works of craftsmen. In a changing world that relies on advanced technologies these buildings have a cultural significance which we may only recognise when they are under threat or lost entirely from the nation.

The written word (or historical documents), holds much sway with academia, however, structures can be read as historic evidence just like written testament.  The story board of a building can aid in the understanding of past conditions and how society changes. A great example of this is the Victorian house. They still remain popular to this day, with all their splendour and decorative trimmings. Victorian houses were built during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), during the industrial revolution successive housing booms resulted in the building of many millions of Victorian houses, which to this day are still a feature of most British towns and Cities.

Britain’s rich history and heritage continue to be strong drivers in attracting overseas tourists. Our famous buildings and monuments, castles and stately homes, churches and cathedra’s are well regarded, Britain is seen as a world class destination in terms of its built heritage, it is ranked fourth out of fifty nations in the Nation Brands Index of 2009. With regard to our cultural heritage we rank seven out of fifty nations, countries that have ancestral or historical links with Britain are interested in Britain’s cultural heritage, as to a large extent they consider it to be part of their own.

Visiting castles and stately homes is seen as one of the best activities that the UK has on offer, and, according to Visit Britain would be potential visitors’ highest propriety. One of the main reasons people visit Britain is largely to visit London, as according to the same website “in many countries, especially the ones that are less familiar with Britain and its parts, Britain IS London and there is a lack of awareness of other places outside to visit”

The tourism economy in the UK is contributing to its growth, it is estimated that in 2013 spending amounted to £113 billion pounds, (based on nominal estimates). Britain is sometimes referred to as being like a museum; it is primarily an educational experience for tourists that visit, it is therefore essential to build on Britain’s built heritage assets to provide an image of Britain and protect our architectural heritage for future generations.