A simple wrought-iron footbridge built by a 19th-century rights of way activist has joined some of the England’s grandest buildings and monuments on the national heritage list.
The bridge in Essex was one of 423 additions to the list in 2020, along with an 18th-century smugglers’ shipwreck in Kent; an Italianate villa-style railway station in Nottinghamshire; a water tower in West Yorkshire that can be seen for miles around; and Selfridges department store in London.
Historic England on Wednesday published a list of what it called the “most captivating” sites listed this year.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the government body, said that despite the challenges faced by the heritage sector in 2020 there had been “many brilliant additions” to the list. “From a picturesque footbridge in Essex to an excellently preserved railway station cafe in the Midlands, we want to ensure England’s rich and varied cultural heritage is protected so that the public can continue to cherish the heritage that makes their local places so important.”
The footbridge is called Nunn’s bridge and spans the Blackwater River near Coggeshall. It was erected in 1892 by a blacksmith and social campaigner, Henry “Dick” Nunn, who had spent years calling for the replacement of the previous wooden footbridge, which had fallen into decay and washed away.
Historic England said the bridge was unique in its design, craftmanship and installation, funded and constructed by Nunn himself.
Nunn was well known locally: popular, eccentric and argumentative, he campaigned for the welfare of people and animals as well as being an early advocate of rights of way in the countryside. His activism predates the establishment of the National Trust in 1895 and the Ramblers Association in 1935.
The bridge, originally pink, has been given Grade II listing, one of 371 new listing entries to the register.
A total of 27 new places have been protected as scheduled monuments including the Old Brig shipwreck at Seasalter in Kent, which was exposed by tides after lying in the mud of the Thames for hundreds of years.
Archaeologists think it was probably used by smugglers who operated in the area: the Seasalter coast is known as a place where contraband such as liquor was brought ashore.
The remains of the hull, including framing timbers and decking, have been explored and there is potential, Historic England said, “for more exciting finds to be found preserved … which could reveal how the sailors lived on board and what goods the ship was carrying”.
Selfridges on Oxford Street, London, has been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*. The department store was, Historic England said, “key to transforming the British high street at the turn of the 20th century”.
The railway station highlighted by Historic England is at Retford in Nottinghamshire. Built between 1891 and 1892 by the Great Northern Railway, it replaced a smaller station unable to cope with the growing volume of passengers. A particularly striking feature is the recently discovered ornate tiling in its dining and refreshment rooms; most other such examples have not survived.
It has been listed at Grade II, as has Gawthorpe water tower in West Yorkshire, which was constructed between 1922 and 1928 and used to store drinking water for the village.
Known by locals as the “iron giant” it is, say experts, far more interesting than a typical water tower, with panelling that makes it aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.