English Heritage has always made the point that Ironbridge in Shropshire is the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Now, as the organisation points out, it could also be said to be the cradle of climate change. The construction of the wonderful Iron Bridge across the Severn in 1779 marked the beginning of the large-scale burning of fossil fuels for industrial processes.
The organisation’s 400-plus sites are being variously buffeted by the climate crisis, from the 38-metre stretch of the walls of Hurst Castle in Hampshire that collapsed in a storm in February, to inadequate gutters and drains on old properties that threaten their fabric. Repairs and updates are vital.
One major cost is heating – keeping valuable artefacts warm and dry. But here new technology comes to their aid. Thermostats that merely control the temperature are out. Hygrostats, which are set to the optimum humidity and warmth for the household treasures, are saving up to 40% of energy costs across English Heritage sites.
The effort to save sites from the climate emergency is coupled with schemes to prevent it getting worse, for example solar panels on cafes and elimination of plastic bags, single-use plastics and the use of recycling and composting. But just remember to take a sweater if visiting their properties.