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Blog > Britain's UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Many of the sites in the UK that have been granted World Heritage status are well known to the majority of us. But how many of the total of 28 listed sites (25 cultural, 2 natural, 1 mixed) in the UK can you actually name? Most people would have no problem guessing that Stonehenge, Blenheim Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Edinburgh and the city of Bath are all on the list, but who would have guessed that the Forth Rail Bridge, Liverpool and the Jodrell Bank Observatory are also included among their number.

You might wonder how a site ends up on the World Heritage List. Well first it must be nominated by the host country which also must be a signatory of the 1972 World Heritage Convention but then it must pass before the World Heritage Committee who have the final say on inclusion

The Committee is made up of representatives of 21 of the current 189 countries that have signed and ratified the convention. In order to be considered for inclusion the site must have "outstanding universal value that is to say a cultural or natural significance so exceptional it transcends national boundaries and is of importance to present and future generations of all humanity".

Surprisingly being granted Unesco World Heritage status does not confer any special legal status on these sites and does not place any restrictions or regulations on private property or property owners. However, governments that sign up to the convention must commit to protect and conserve their World Heritage Sites for future generations. It is the UK Government policy that each nomination of a new site to UNESCO must be accompanied by a World Heritage Site Management plan to ensure these sites are managed in a sustainable way.

The whole idea of designating sites in this way emerged after the World War II, triggered in part by the decision to build the Aswan Dam in Egypt which threatened the existence of a number of culturally significant sites including the Abu Simbel temple. After an international appeal money was donated by some 50 countries leading to the dismantling of the endangered sites and reassembling them on dry ground. An international movement was set in motion to protect sites of outstanding international cultural significance that led in time to the preparation on a draft convention on protection of cultural heritage.

Eventually this led to the formal ratification of the convention in 1972 whose remit had by this time expanded to also include sites of outstanding natural significance too.

We have selected below a list of some of the less famous and perhaps more surprising inclusions on the UK list.

A full list of UK sites can be found on the UNESCO website

1. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd

Located in North Wales and completed during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) the four castles of Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and the surrounding fortified towns at Conwy and Caernarfon are some of the finest examples of late medieval military architecture in Europe.

2. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal

This impressive feat of engineering completed in the early years of the 19th century is one of the most remarkable achievements of Britain's industrial revolution.

Located in Wales and designed by the pioneering civil engineer Thomas Telford, the 18 km long aqueduct and canal had to overcome a number of challenging technical issues in order to create the highest and longest aqueduct yet to be constructed in cast iron.

3. Derwant Valley Mills

Another relic of Britain's Industrial Revolution, the Derwant Valley Mills are a series of 18th & 19th century cotton mills, considered to be the birthplace of the factory system where water power was successfully harnessed for industrial scale textile productions

4. New Lanark

Located in Scotland, New Lanark was the brainchild of philanthropist and idealist Robert Owen who in the early 19th century conceived of a model industrial village. Cotton mill buildings were built alongside well-designed workers houses, schools and shops to create a community where the welfare of the workers was uppermost. It became a template for how to create humane environments for industrial communities worldwide.

5. Jodrell Bank Observatory

Located in England's northwest region, Joddrell Bank Observatory is one of the world's leading radio astronomy observatories and has been at the forefront of astronomical research for many decades. First in use in 1945, the observatory played an important role in the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics and the tracking of spacecraft and is still in operation today

6. St Kilda

Situated off the west coast of Scotland, St Kilda is an isolated archipelago of volcanic islands with some of the highest cliffs in Europe. Within this spectacular landscape can be found large colonies of endangered sea birds including puffins, fulmars, guillemots and gannets.

Now owned by the National Trust, St Kilda was inhabited until 1930 when the local population were forced to leave due to poverty and starvation. There is an abandoned village on the island you can visit where the houses are still relatively intact and lots of stories and folklore about life on St Kilda has been preserved.

Date: 21/10/2020 | Author:

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