EXCLUSIVE: Ecclesiastical Insurance claims the key to saving vulnerable castles is ‘adaptation and resilient repairs’

Last week, English Heritage identified six vulnerable castles at risk of tumbling into the sea as climate change continues to intensify coastal erosion.

Related topics:  Historical Britain
Tabitha Lambie | Editorial assistant, Barcadia Media
28th September 2022
"Climate change is a serious threat to the long-term future of Britain’s heritage. The increased frequency of storms, flooding and periods of hot, dry weather is having an effect on all properties but the risk for heritage buildings is more acute."
- Faith Kitchen, Ecclesiastical customer segment director

According to a warning issued by the conservation charity, which manages over 400 historical sites across England, climate change has accelerated the progress of coastal erosion to an “alarming” rate.

Although a multimillion pound fundraiser to repair the walls of the six vulnerable castles and improve the dedicated storm defences has now been launched, English Heritage has warned that “rising sea levels and more regular storms pose a real risk,” and if nothing is done, some of England’s most beloved spots may be lost.

Rob Woodside, English Heritage director of estates, has said:

“Hundreds of heritage sites in the UK and around the world are increasingly at risk. If these coastal properties are to survive the coming decades, we will need to strengthen their walls and build sea defences to protect them.”

In the past, Tintagel has seen partial collapses into the sea but now parts of the cliff directly in front of the visitors centre have been lost to erosion. This has resulted in damage to both the viewing area and coastal path.

Off the Cornish coast, the garrison walls in St Mary’s are also at risk with the tide causing pinch points, or ‘armpits’, which are damaging the shape of the walls.

English Heritage has also warned that Piel Castle in Cumbria, half a mile from the coast of Morecambe Bay, is at risk as well as Bayard’s Cove Fort, which was built in the Tudor Times to protect Dartmouth in Devon.

Two castles in Hampshire are also under threat with Calshot, built by Henry VIII, urgently needing work on a spit and foreshore whilst the sea wall surrounding Hurst Castle, also built by Henry VIII, urgently needs repairing.

Voted the UK’s leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings for over a decade, Ecclesiastical is “passionate about protecting Britain’s heritage,” with over 130 years of experience looking after these “irreplaceable buildings.”

Currently Ecclesiastical offers Historic Britain insurance which includes the Ecclesiastical Heritage Index. This unique index offers to support the repair and restoration of traditional properties and reduce the risk of underinsurance to ensure that building sums insured are maintained at an adequate level. 

Additionally, Ecclesiastical’s parent company Benefact Group offers a range of grants for charities and projects that are working to reduce the effects of climate change. 

Speaking to Faith Kitchen, Ecclesiastical customer segment director, it was noted that the key to protecting England’s built environment from climate change is “adaptation and resilient repairs.”

“However, the challenge for heritage buildings, compared to modern properties, is that adaptation can be more complicated to do appropriately and sensitively.”

Kitchen claimed that Ecclesiastical is working to be at the “forefront of this issue” and is currently collaborating with partners such as English Heritage to research and understand the importance of the issue better.

“We are also investing in heritage skills, through programmes such as the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship and the Prince’s Foundation Building Crafts Programme, to ensure that we preserve traditional skills so we can continue to repair and restore historic buildings for decades to come,” she added.

However, despite these commitments, Ecclesiastical recognises climate change is a serious threat to the long-term future of Britain’s heritage, and that the increased frequency of storms, flooding and hot weather is beginning to have an “acute” effect on heritage buildings.

If climate change continues to worsen, Ecclesiastical believes that "once lost" these historical sites will be “gone forever.”

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