GRADE 1 listed Malmesbury Abbey has been added to the list of Heritage assets in Wiltshire that are most at risk, according to a new report from Swindon-based Historic England.

The abbey, a major parish church with stunning 12th-century sculpture, was founded in the 7th century. With fabric dating from 1180, the abbey is an architectural gem and the burial place of Athelstan (894 – 939), the first English king.

But the abbey is one of 11 sites in Wiltshire and 54 sites in the South West that have been added to Historic England’s 2022 Heritage at Risk Register because of their deteriorating condition.

Historic England said: “The roofs of the nave and both aisles of this celebrated and much-loved church are currently leaking and need re-roofing, and the timber roof structures beneath require repair. Some of the Romanesque (12th century) stonework is also vulnerable.

Diana Evans, head of places of worship strategy at Historic England, said: “The fact that Malmesbury Abbey is being added to the Heritage at Risk Register illustrates that even very hard-working congregations struggle to maintain historic places of worship, let alone cover the cost of major repairs. We hope this will highlight that urgent support is needed.”

The Reverend Oliver Ross, vicar of Malmesbury and Upper Avon, said: “Malmesbury Abbey is a jewel within the nation and has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune within its history.

“It is a 12th-century beauty as well as a living church and also a place of pilgrimage and tourism for many visitors over the year. We are looking to enable this wonderful building to be enjoyed on a daily basis by the next generations and centuries ahead.” 

The other ten sites in Wiltshire added to the Register include Roche Old Court at Winterslow, which has recently been bought by new owners who are working on plans to redevelop the site into a single family home, and nine ancient bowl barrow sites near Amesbury.

Historic England says that 80 sites in the South West have been saved, including Cleveland Pools in Bath, Britain’s first lido, and Stowey Castle, near Bridgwater.

Every year Historic England updates the Heritage at Risk Register, providing an annual snapshot of the historic buildings, sites, scheduled monuments, and places that are most in need of safeguarding.

Historic England’s chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “As the threat of climate change grows, the reuse and sensitive upgrading of historic buildings and places becomes ever more important.

“Finding new uses for buildings and sites rescued from the Register avoids the high carbon emissions associated with demolishing structures and building new.”

Over the past year, 175 historic buildings and sites in England have been added to the register because of their deteriorating condition and 233 sites have been saved and their futures secured.

Many have been rescued thanks to the hard work and dedication of local communities, who have come together to save places.

Charities, owners, local councils, and Historic England have also worked together to see historic places restored, re-used, and brought back to life.

But many heritage assets on the 2022 Register are still at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Historic England awarded close to £1m (£0.95m) in repair grants to 46 historic places and sites, including conservation areas, in the South West on the Heritage at Risk Register over the past year. In addition, £0.40 million from the Culture Recovery Fund was spent in the region.

“These grants help with emergency repairs to historic buildings and help protect the livelihoods of the skilled craft workers who keep our cherished historic places alive,” a spokesperson said.