An historic monument in Falmouth has been placed ‘at risk’ in the 25th anniversary year of a list set up to highlight and protect heritage sites.

Historic England has today (Thursday, November 9) revealed its Heritage at Risk Register for 2023.

Over the past year, 43 historic buildings and sites have been added to the Register in the south west because they are judged to be at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development, while 74 sites have been saved and their futures secured.

In total in the south west, there are now 1,348 entries on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2023 – which is 31 fewer than in 2022.

They include the Pendennis peninsula fortifications surrounding Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, described as a scheduled monument.

The headland surrounding - but not including - English Heritage’s Pendennis Castle is now said to be in need of conservation. It was recently taken under the new ownership of Falmouth Town Council.

Falmouth Packet: The Pendennis peninsula fortifications have been listedThe Pendennis peninsula fortifications have been listed (Image: English Heritage)

Historic England said: “Pendennis headland commands outstanding views in almost all directions and has been strategically important for the defence of the British Isles for centuries.

“Its entire area is protected as a scheduled monument, with the magnificent Pendennis Castle - managed by English Heritage - at its heart. Whilst the castle is in good condition, the remainder of the monument outside English Heritage’s ownership is being added to the Register.”

These parts of the headland contain a variety of historic structures, including a Civil War battery, garrison gardens, First World War zig-zag trenches and Second World War gun emplacements.

The charity said they are being affected by unmanaged scrub and bracken growth, secondary woodland, coastal erosion, and visitor pressure.

It goes on to add: “There is also limited interpretation about this part of the site and, currently, limited opportunities for local people to get involved in its management.”

However, Falmouth Town Council has recently acquired the site. They have started management work and have commissioned a comprehensive condition survey to understand its conservation needs and to guide future management – from vegetation cutting to signage to funding applications for larger-scale works.

Louise Bartlett, senior properties curator at English Heritage, said: “We are encouraged by Falmouth Town Council’s acquisition of the land around Pendennis Castle and offer our support to them in conserving and improving this important local landmark.”

Simon Penna, grounds manager at Falmouth Town Council, said: “The management of Pendennis headland has been devolved to Falmouth Town Council. We’re already working alongside our community and partners to conserve and improve the headland to ensure it offers an interesting educational and recreational experience for residents of and visitors to Falmouth.

“After many years of minimal management, we see this as an exciting if not a little daunting opportunity to improve the condition of this extremely important historic site.”

Also added to the list is a 19th century gig-shed north east of Porth Askin on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. Gig sheds are unique to the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall and key to the maritime heritage of the islands, where traditional wooden rowing vessels, or gigs, are still rowed and raced.

Falmouth Packet: Porth Askin gig shed on St Agnes, Isles of ScillyPorth Askin gig shed on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly (Image: English Heritage)

The gig shed at Porth Askin survives relatively undisturbed. Its floor is preserved under stabilised wind-blown sand, and several courses of its stonework walls still exist. Now within the reach of the highest waves, its seaward end has been washed away and is at risk of further erosion.

However, there is also positive news.

Cornwall’s only medieval packhorse bridge, at Newport, Launceston, has been sympathetically repaired and now removed from the At Risk Register.

The five-arched packhorse bridge is believed to have been built in the 15th century to serve the nearby priory of Launceston. Because it only carries foot traffic, it is a rare example of a monument that has survived almost unchanged.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns the bridge suffered increased vandalism. In addition, a nearby footbridge over the River Kensey was closed for rebuilding and foot traffic was re-directed over the packhorse bridge. A number of the large slates capping the edge of the bridge were dislodged and knocked into the river or stolen. Cobbles from the footway went missing and vegetation growth increased.

The bridge was added to the Register in 2021 but repaired in 2022.

Falmouth Packet: Launceston Pack Horse Bridge has been removed from the listLaunceston Pack Horse Bridge has been removed from the list (Image: English Heritage)

Also saved is St Cleer Holy Well and Cross at Liskeard – a 15th-century well and wayside cross now owned and cared for by Cornwall Heritage Trust.

It is the only example of a well house with an open porch-like design in Cornwall. Its pillars, capitals and arches are carved with simple mouldings and patterns which were unusual for this date in Cornwall.

The first reference to the building was by the Cornish historian William Hals around 1700, who described it as ‘much decayed.’ In the 19th century, the spring water was piped to the roadside nearby, for the villagers’ convenience.

Falmouth Packet: St Cleer Holy Well and Cross, LiskeardSt Cleer Holy Well and Cross, Liskeard (Image: English Heritage)

In 1864 the well was restored by Lieutenant Henry Rogers in memory of his grandfather, the Reverend John Jope, who had been vicar of the parish for 67 years. At the same time, he established a trust for its maintenance, but by the late 20th century, with no trustees surviving, the site of the well had fallen into neglect.

The Cornwall Heritage Trust then acquired the site in November 2022 and took on its management.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first national Heritage at Risk Register (previously known as the Buildings at Risk Register).

Over the past 25 years, since it began in 1998, around 6,800 entries have been removed. This equates to around three-quarters of the entries that were on the original Register.