They are crumbling monuments to a bygone age. And they are being given a chance to be saved from ruin by that most modern invention - a Big Brother-style television show.
In a project with English Heritage, the BBC is to run 10 one-hour programmes dedicated to old buildings, in which viewers will be asked to vote for the one that most deserves to be saved. Each will be championed by a celebrity, and the winning structure will benefit from the proceeds of the 30p telephone calls.
Restoration has been devised by the BBC in association with Endemol, producers of the Channel 4 shows Big Brother and Great Estates. The programmes on BBC2 and BBC4, starting on 8 August, will be supported by radio discussionsand online voting. The buildings range from the humblest of Scottish crofts to grand castles, and include unusual structures such as a wooden sanatorium and the world's oldest Methodist chapel.
The corporation hopes to repeat the success of its Great Britons series combining history and celebrity, which was won by Sir Winston Churchill.
The 30 listed buildings will be championed by, among others, the BBC stalwarts Kate Adie, Kirsty Wark and Martin Bell. The former Conservative minister Michael Portillo will speak on behalf of a linoleum factory in Kirkcaldy, Scotland; the actor Richard E Grant hopes to save a Manchester swimming baths; and the television personality Ulrika Jonsson will lend her support to a coffin factory in Birmingham. Griff Rhys Jones will be the narrator.
Tributes will be paid to the buildings by people who remember them before they fell from grace, including an octogenarian former swimming champion and a retired performer who longs to sing again in a Glasgow music hall.
The buildings were identified by English Heritage and its sister organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each was selected on the basis of dire need and that it could not be rescued by existing grants alone.
The producers of the series said they hoped the winner of the competition would not be the most expensive restoration project. Funds raised from the phone-in and donations would then benefit other buildings further down the list.
The BBC fund will trigger grant aid from the lottery and national heritage bodies. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said the series would help fill an estimated shortfall of £400m on the cost of repairing listed buildings. He said: "The cream of the nation's architectural inheritance is being squandered through neglect and lack of awareness. We welcome the BBC's commitment to raising the profile of these important historic buildings."
Yesterday English Heritage published its Buildings at Risk Register. It points the finger at local authorities which are responsible for one in five of the endangered buildings. Another 98 historic buildings were added to the endangered list of 1,500 in the past year.
Jane Root, the BBC2 controller, said: "On average every day in the UK one historic building or monument is lost or destroyed. Yet we know there is a real appetite for Britain's heritage - on a typical weekend more people visit historic buildings and monuments than go to football matches."
Prized buildings in need of repair
Kinloch Castle, Rhum: Built between 1897 and 1901 by George Bullough, it hosted summer parties for 13 years. It has the last surviving example of an orchestrion, a sound system. Backed by Arabella Weir.
Harperly PoW Camp, Co Durham: Built 1943 to house low-risk prisoners. It is the first Second World War camp to gain ancient monument status. The buildings are mostly prefabs. Backed byMichael Wood.
Wilton's Music Hall, east London: Built in 1853, then rebuilt in 1858. It belongs to the first generation of giant pub halls that began to appear in London in the 1850s, thriving until 1870. Backed by Rory Bremner.
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast: Built 1873. A ladies' collegiate school founded by Margaret Byers, pioneer of women's education in Ireland. Half of the building is deemed unsafe. Backed by Antony Gormley.
The list in full
1. Burra Croft, Shetland Islands (c.1830)
2. Kinloch Castle, Rhum (1897-1901)
3. Mavisbank, Edinburgh (1723-1736)
4. Lino Works, Kirkcaldy (1875)
5. Britannia Music Hall, Glasgow (1833)
6. TB Sanatorium, Aberdeen (1900)
7. Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol (c1840)
8. Poltimore House, Devon (late 16th century)
9. Whitfield Tabernacle, Kingswood, near Bristol (1741)
10. Ravensworth Castle, Gateshead (14th century)
11. Harperly PoW Camp, Co Durham (1943)
12. The Sham Castle at Wentworth Castle, Stainsborough, near Barnsley (1727-1730)
13. Victoria Baths, Manchester (1903-1906)
14. Bank Hall, Bretherton (1608)
15. Brackenhill Tower, Carlisle (1580)
16. Cromford Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire (1771)
17. Bethesda Chapel, Stoke-on-Trent (1819)
18. Newman Bros coffin factory, Birmingham (1892)
19. Llanelly House, Llanelli (1714)
20. Faenol Old Hall, Gwynedd (16th century)
21. Amlwch Port and Parys Mountain, Anglesey (from 1748)
22. Greyfriars Tower, King's Lynn (founded 1230s)
23. Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury (1860)
24. Moulton Windmill, Moulton (1820s)
25. Wiltons Music Hall, east London (1853)
26. Broomfield House, Enfield (16th century)
27. Darnley Mausoleum, Cobham, Kent (1783-1786)
28. Herdmans Mill, Strabane (1853)
29. Lissan House, Cookstown (1620)
30. Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast (1873)Reuse content