The fight to save cultural heritage in National Parks.

  • Contributor information: CNP

Anthony Jennings, Director of Save Our Parsonages, takes a look at some of the work being done in National Parks to conserve cultural heritage.

Since 1994 Save Our Parsonages (SOP) has worked to preserve traditional parsonages which are often at the centre of rural life in the UK’s National Parks. Thriving rural communities and their traditions are an essential part of life in National Parks. That is what SOP is all about, and we stand ready to support the National Parks that still host these wonderful buildings. Traditional parsonages are sites of significant historical heritage that are still at the centre of the community. Their large gardens are often hosting fetes, charitable events and therefore strengthening the community. Communal events at traditional parsonages in National Parks are a perfect way of nurturing the parish and helping its residents to respect the countryside around it. 

Many of our campaigns have involved parsonages in our National Parks. In some of these cases we lost the battle; in others we won. Let’s start with the north of England. Where better than the magnificent North York Moors? We supported the parishioners at Ingleby Greenhow with its attractively modest vicarage and at Danby with its particularly fine example of Victorian Gothic. At Lastingham we joined in the successful campaign to retain and adapt a fine vernacular farmhouse-style parsonage, not only as the vicarage but as a centre for pilgrims to this tranquil and holy place. Here in the 7th century St. Cedd presided as first abbot of the monastery while undertaking his mission to the East Saxons, and was later succeeded by his brother St. Chad.

















Danby, in the North York Moors National Park, Photo credit: Save Our Parsonages.

The Peak District has its own special beauty. The battle to retain the fine Victorian Gothic vicarage at Winster was lost, but on appeal the parish secured vital funds from the proceeds of sale. At Edale, gateway to the Peak District for ramblers and climbers, the patron donated a fine house as a youth centre on condition that there would always be a priest in the pleasant stone vicarage there.

The South Downs has a quite different but equally unique character.  Alas, we were not able to save the fine family parsonage at Amberley, Sussex, which the Archdeacon pronounced to be “unsuitable for modern living”. This sort of misguided view only reinforces the imperative to save our traditional buildings in the historic towns and villages within our National Parks. Their importance lies in their use as living assets, so far as possible for their original purpose. The proper maintenance of historic buildings in historic places not only benefits their residents but makes those towns and villages, and the National Parks in which they are located, magnets for tourists and businesses alike, and that benefits everyone.  Living countryside means living National Parks.

By Anthony Jennings, Director of Save our Parsonages. Click here to find out more!