Now 'Restoration' aims to save our rural heritage

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The Independent Online

An Edwardian swimming baths in Manchester and a timber-framed school set against the tower blocks of Birmingham have already benefited from the publicity it generated. Now, back after a year's break, Restoration, the BBC2 series that has raised millions of pounds to rescue crumbling buildings, has a new focus - the village.

From slate quarry buildings in the Welsh mountains at Pen-yr-Orsedd quarry in the Nantlle valley, to a Gothic folly doubling up as a corn mill at Howsham in North Yorkshire, 21 rural buildings will vie for the public's vote.

The winner can expect funding from a variety of sources, including the telephone voting lines, which have previously raised £500,000.

Roly Keating, the controller of BBC2, said Restoration had enabled viewers to "make a difference" by taking practical measures to rescue much-loved buildings. But he said that this year, the makers of the programme wanted to concentrate on rural buildings to highlight the massive changes taking place in Britain's villages.

"This is not just about buildings, it's about communities, about people. Heritage is not just about big, grand, urban buildings or great houses in the countryside, it's as much about those extraordinary structures in rural Britain, in small villages."

Each week Restoration Village will feature three buildings, each from a different region, and ask viewers to select their favourite.

The seven regional winners and a surprise eighth runner-up will then be summarised in an update programme, before a grand final in mid-September.

Since winning the public vote in 2003, work has begun on Victoria Baths in Manchester, with the support of £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Old Grammar School and Saracens Head in Birmingham, which won the competition in 2004, has also received £2.5m from the HLF and is due to reopen in early 2008.

The presenter, Griff Rhys Jones, said: "I am sure we all have a private view of England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and I bet it probably involves a village and a deserted road with a cottage in the foreground and green fields swelling in the rear.

"But ... the countryside everywhere is facing change and disruption over the next hundred years. It is going to be a challenge to all of us to manage that change." Among the featured buildings is Dawe's twine works in West Coker, Somerset, which retains much of its late 19th-century machinery.

The Dennis Head Old Beacon on the remote island of North Ronaldsay, is the oldest surviving purpose-built lighthouse in Scotland. Abandoned since 1809, the hope is that more tourists will be attracted to the island if it is restored.

Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey, was built in the Arts and Crafts style by the 19th-century portrait painter George Frederic Watts and his second wife Maryto provide art in rural areas. The series starts on 28 July and will be accompanied by a BBC4 series in which the architect Ptolemy Dean goes in search of the perfect village.

The contenders

* SOUTH-EAST: Masseys Folly, Upper Farringdon, Hampshire; Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey; Woodrolfe Granary, Tollesbury, Essex.

* SOUTH-WEST: Dawe's twine works, West Coker, Somerset; Welcombe Barton, Welcombe, Devon; Newlyn Trinity Methodist Chapel, Newlyn, West Cornwall.

* MIDLANDS: All Saints Church, Beckingham, Lincolnshire; Pennoyers School, Pulham St Mary, Norfolk; Chedhams Yard, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

* SCOTLAND: Dennis Old Head Beacon, North Ronaldsay, Orkney; Greenlaw Town Hall, Greenlaw, Berwickshire; Cromarty East Church, Cromarty, Black Isle.

* WALES: The Prichard-Jones Institute, Newborough, Anglesey; Pen-yr- Orsedd quarry, Nantlle; Pembrey Court Farm at Pembrey, Carmarthenshire.

* NORTHERN IRELAND: The White House, Whitehouse Park, Whitehouse, Belfast; Gracehill Old School, Gracehill, Ballymena, Co Antrim; Cushendun Old Church, Co Antrim.

* NORTHERN ENGLAND: Howsham Mill, Howsham, North Yorkshire; Heugh Gun Battery, The Headland, Hartlepool; Higherford Mill, Lancashire.

Listed buildings in North less likely to be rescued than those in South

By Ciar Byrne

Crumbling buildings in the North of England are twice as likely to suffer further deterioration than in the South, according to English Heritage, which launched its 2006 buildings at risk register yesterday.

Soaring house prices in the South mean renovation is often economically viable, but the same effect is not being seen in the North.

Of the 30,500 Grade I and II* listed buildings in England, 3.3 per cent are at risk through neglect and decay. In the north-east of England, this figure rises to 7.8 per cent and in the North-west to 5.5 per cent.

In contrast, only 1.8 per cent of listed buildings in the east of England remain at risk and only 2.3 per cent in the South-west. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: " It's about twice as difficult to solve the problem in the North, because of the high proportion of redundant industrial buildings and because the economy still has to catch up with the South."

The Pithead Baths in Lynemouth, Northumberland, is a typical example of one of the buildings at risk in the North-east. The 1930s building has been vacant for nearly 20 years, and has been vandalised.

But there have also been success stories in the North, including The Albany in Liverpool, one of the earliest large-scale speculative office buildings in the country, built in 1858. After years of decay, it has been converted to high-quality apartments and removed from the register.