Saving grace

The UK is full of wonderful wrecks just waiting to be restored
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Facebook and bebo bring people together but if you want to romance an old wreck, you need specialist help. Finding that dream cottage or some dilapidated hovel to do up is made easier with the publication of the SAVE Britain’s Heritage annual register of crumbling and unloved wrecks.

Now in its 19th year, Buildings at Risk has more UK properties than ever, even though preserving and restoring our heritage is increasingly popular. This particular register only deals with Grade II or unlisted buildings.

This year, SAVE’s offerings, each well illustrated and described, are wide-ranging, from eminently habitable to seriously quirky. All are utterly unique. Each could be just the beginning of a lifelong love affair that may, in its early stages, involve tracking down the owner, persuading them to sell at a reasonable price, and liaising with the local conservation and planning officers to restore the building sympathetically.

'One of the oddest, in Bristol, is an ornate cast-iron urinal, reminiscent of a little Persian temple'

Almost-habitable buildings include 51 High Street in Sittingbourne, Kent, a Grade II* two-storey, double-bow-fronted Regency house that could make a wonderful complete house or a shop with a flat above.

Similarly genteel are a pair of lovely Grade II dove-coloured cottages in Salisbury, which have been empty for several years and now need structural and other repairs.

While Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey is a magnificent Tudor gatehouse that has been partly restored by the Spitalfields Trust, which is actively looking for an owner who will continue approved restoration to make a glorious home.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Cottages, barns, stations, pubs, mystical little temples, gatehouses, water towers... from the pages of the SAVE handbook spring rare and lovely buildings. One of the oddest is in Bristol, an extraordinary ornate cast-iron urinal, reminiscent of a little Persian temple.

Buying one of these properties may require some detective work. A first port of call is often the local conservation officers or the Land Registry. Having established the owner, it is a question of persuading the owner to sell. Some properties, such as Sittingbourne, are easier since they are on the market.

The handbook has a great deal of useful information from how to go about trying to buy a property to finding help in restoring it. There are also details of mortgage companies that may help, plus other lists of homes and properties in need of TLC.

For more information, call 020 7253 3500, or visit

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