Norwich cafe given £172,000 heritage boost
PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:12 20 October 2015
A historic building has been brought back from the brink after a £172,000 grant from Historic England.
The Britons Arms, which escaped destruction in 1507 when a great fire wiped out 700 properties across the city, has been taken off Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register after lengthy repairs.
It is among 22 buildings, churches and conservation areas from across Norfolk which have been taken off the register this year.
The restoration – which included a new thatched roof and serious kitchen repairs – has been welcomed by sisters Sue Skipper and Gilly Mixer, who run the cafe there.
Ms Skipper, 64, said: “We feel a real sense of achievement that the building is now off the ‘at risk’ register.
“This building is a heritage asset. It was a heritage responsibility and a burden.”
She said before the building went on the list, there were question marks over the viability of the business because of the structural problems there.
Ms Skipper explained: “[The ‘at risk’ register] has changed our business completely. There was a time when the business was hardly viable. There was a great big question mark over it as the building was at the point of being structurally unsound. Now we have a building that is fully revived.”
The 15th century building has had many uses over the years including barber surgeon’s shop and a warehouse.
It was the subject of a fierce campaign in 2011 after Norwich City Council tried to sell it as funds were low.
It was eventually agreed that a long lease would be given to Norwich Preservation Trust, with repairs funded by Historic England.
John Etté, principal of heritage at risk in the East of England, said: “We are delighted this building has made it off the register.
“It seems the right solution was arrived at in terms of giving it a bit of help which means the building can remain open as a cafe.”
20 sites have been added to the list this year in Norfolk, including Church of St Edmund in Costessey and the church of St Peter and St Paul in Honing.
The region’s mills
Hundreds of thousands of pounds could be pumped into the region’s wind and water mills because of the threat to their future.
According to Historic England’s heritage at risk register 2015, mills are the most endangered items in this region’s vast heritage collection.
Around 41pc of mills at risk nationally are in this part of the country, and Historic England has pledged to address the problem with a survey to check every mill’s condition and take action.
Those in danger in this region are: Sutton Mill, near Stalham; Denver Mill, near Downham Market; Burgh Mill and Kersey Mill, both in Suffolk, Little Chishill Mill; in Cambridgeshire, and the post mill in Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds.
For the fist time, a survey of all mills is set to be carried out across the east to assess the condition of each mill and decide which ones need cash and guidance from heritage experts.
Greg Luton, planning director for Historic England in the east, said: “Historic mills help characterise our region and make it special, and are one of the types of heritage sites most at risk. If they’re lost, then a sense of an important part of the history of the East of England is lost too.
“Together, we aim to safeguard our most precious places and buildings for future generations.”
Former RAF Coltishall has been removed from Historic England’s heritage at risk register.
Norfolk County Council bought the site from the Ministry of Justice for £4m in 2013 in a bad state. The landscape was overgrown and many of the buildings had leaking roofs, broken windows and were in urgent need of repairs.
Now two scheduled monuments and several locally listed buildings on the site have been repaired as part of the site’s transformation into Scottow Enterprise Park. The park is now home to 14 businesses and 11 former airfield buildings have now been brought back into use.
Leader of the county council, George Nobbs, said: “Coming off the ‘at risk’ register not only means we’ve made significant progress and that Historic England thinks that it’s in good hands, but that it will also hopefully act as a stimulus for people to visit and operate at the site.”