Climate change casts a cloud over nation's stately piles

Floods and heatwaves are damaging some of our most significant buildings

A A A

They have withstood centuries of war and decay and the fluctuating fortunes of their once super-wealthy owners, but now Britain's stately homes face a potentially more destructive force: climate change.

The National Trust says at least seven historic stately homes – some up to 600 years old – have been damaged by climate-change-related incidents, such as flooding, over the past five years, with repair costs running into millions of pounds.

These include 300-year-old Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, The Vyne, a 16th-century house in Hampshire, and Coughton Court, a Tudor stately home in Warwickshire, which were all damaged by flooding in 2007.

Last year heavy rainfall caused extensive damage to Cragside, a unique Victorian manor house in Northumberland built in 1870. It was the first building in the world to use hydroelectricity, and all the house's power comes from a turbine fed by a nearby stream.

Last year's heavy rainfall flooded the newly refurbished pump house, and left the ground floor under water, damaging the iron fireplaces and an early billiard table, which took months to dry out.

Floods have also destroyed some of the Trust's historic gardens – such as Westbury Court, on the River Severn, which was wiped out by salt water – as well as causing extensive damage to the Cornish village of Boscastle, which the Trust administers, in 2004. Warmer weather also means more insects, as well as algae in artificial lakes, such as at Stourhead in Wiltshire, where a mirror-like surface designed to reflect the house became a soupy sludge in 2006. Drought also means traditional plants will no longer grow.

"Buildings have been built and gardens have been gardened according to weather patterns of the past centuries," said Sarah Staniforth, the Trust's historic properties director. "Now, the Trust finds that it needs to adapt to the climate changes that are occurring and to cope with their impact.

"We are on the threshold of having a climate that will allow termites to survive in the UK. They are as far north as Paris, and there have already been two colonies in Devon."

Last year experts from around the world met in London to discuss the perils of climate change for museums, artefacts and historic buildings. The panel was the brainchild of Jerry Podany, the director and chief conservator of antiquities at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, who said: "I think we need to take a hard look at our alternatives."

The Trust says it has to work on adapting its conservation work on its 300-plus properties.

"We've now linked up with the Met Office to get early warnings, so we can move stuff upstairs," Ms Staniforth said.

"We have to increase the resistance of the properties to extreme weather events, making sure that water is less likely to get in by increasing the capacity of drainpipes where water has got into places, such as Calke Abbey."

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...