6 Inspiring Stories of Heritage Angels

Since its inception in 2011, the Historic England Angel Awards have celebrated some amazing individuals and groups that have worked tirelessly to preserve local heritage and culture.

The 2017 awards are now open for nominations. Have you, or has someone you know been involved in a heritage project? Find out more about the awards and tell us about a heritage angel here.

To get a flavour of the wide range of local heroes celebrated by the awards, here are some of the past winners: 

Julie and Howard Duckworth for the rescue of Aire Street, Goole (within Goole conservation area) – Winner 2016

Lowther Hotel completed, Goole - Julie and Howard Duckworth
The Lowther Hotel. Just one of the buildings in Goole that Julie and Howard have saved over a long career of restoring historic buildings.

Julie and Howard Duckworth completed their first major project in Goole, East Yorkshire in 2004. The restoration of the Station Hotel created 38 jobs and 12 affordable and very green apartments. This and a number of other projects have provided places to work and affordable, sustainable homes. The Goole Conservation Area, which is on the Hertitage at Risk register, has begun to have it’s fortunes turned around.

winner-best-heritage-rescue-2016
L-R Howard and Julie Duckworth from Aire Street, Goole are presented with the award for Best Heritage Rescue award by Julian Fellows, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Duncan Wilson CEO Historic England atthe Palace Theatre in London

Julie and Howard Duckworth have shown a tremendous dedication to Goole and its historic buildings, and developed a real passion for what they do. They are often to be found scouring the country and the internet for period features to complete their projects.

The Friends of Pleasley Pit, Pleasley Colliery, Mansfield – Winner 2011

Pleasley Pit
Pleasley Colliery, Mansfield

During the 1980s many collieries closed down and were either demolished, or as in the case of Pleasley Pit, allowed to fall into disrepair. From 1996, the Pleasley Pit Friends Group worked tirelessly to renovate the site, restoring the original steam winding engines and correcting ten years of abandonment. With the help of volunteers, the Friends Group was finally able to reopen the site as a visitor attraction and safeguard the memory of this Victorian colliery for future generations.

Oldland Mill Trust Volunteers for the rescue of Oldland Windmill, Hassocks – Winner 2014

Oldland Mill
Oldland Windmill, Hassocks

Built in the 1700s, Oldland is a wooden post mill that provided flour for local villages until 1912 when it stopped production. By 1980, it had deteriorated so much it was deemed a ‘dangerous structure’ and faced the prospect of demolition.

The Hassocks Amenity Association obtained the lease of the mill in 1980 and took responsibility for the restoration, fitting a new crown tree, rebuilding the roundhouse wall and replacing original timber. The Association raised money for renovations through donations, sponsorship and from running paid tours.  In 2008, the mill produced flour for the first time in nearly a century.

Brian Cooke for the rescue of All Saints, Leamington, Hastings – Winner 2014

Brian Cooke from Leamington Hastings in Warwickshire, is presented with the award for Best Repair of a Place of Worship, for the rescue of All Saints' Church, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Simon Thurley during the English Heritage Angel Awards 2014 at the Palace Theatre, London.
Brian Cooke from Leamington Hastings is presented with the award for Best Repair of a Place of Worship by Andrew Lloyd Webber during the 2014 Angel Awards ceremony at the Palace Theatre, London.

In 2009, All Saints Church suffered a devastating arson attack, causing extensive damage to its south aisle, roof, and contents, including the much-loved organ. The church was severely affected by smoke and water damage which made the whole building unusable.

Churchwarden Brian Cooke headed the effort to restore the church, valiantly leading fundraising efforts, local appeals and grant applications to pay for the work. Work was completed in 2010 and in 2014, the organ was finally replaced in time to be played during the Easter service.

Arnos Vale, Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust  for the rescue of Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol – Winner 2011

Arnos Vale
Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol

Arnos Vale cemetery was opened in 1839 and since then over 300,000 people have been laid to rest there – encompassing a cross-section of Victorian society including local politicians, industrialists, railway workers and paupers. In the 90s, the private owners wanted to close the cemetery and build houses on the land. Locals keen to preserve this Victorian necropolis successfully petitioned the council, preventing the exhumation of the graves and the removal of the monumental masonry. Thanks to the efforts of locals, this link to Bristol’s Victorian past has been preserved for years to come.

Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust for the rescue of Blackfell Hauler House – Winner 2015

Blackfell Hauler House
Blackfell Hauler House, Tyne and Wear

Built in 1913, Blackfell Hauler House on the Bowes Railway was a rope-hauled railway system built to transport coal from the North Durham coalfields to the river Tyne. At its peak, it transported over a million tonnes of coal a year on a stretch of railway of around 15 miles at its longest point. It was closed in the 70s and the site began to deteriorate.

By the time, the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust got involved, the Hauler House was close to collapse, the machinery had been damaged by vandalism and metal theft; the roof was full of holes and water was pouring into the building. A specialist team working with a historic building contractor made the necessary repairs. Future maintenance is secured and the building  now has a tenant. Through facilitating business and generating tourism, Blackfell Hauler House is once again proving itself a vital asset to the local community.

Have any of these entries inspired you to nominate a someone working to save a historic site? Find out more and nominate a heritage angel here.

Further Reading 

  • Watch videos of winning entries from the last five years of the Angel Awards.
  • Find out about the judging process and the public vote.
  • Nominate a Heritage Angel – it can be you, or someone you know!

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