Conserving Ecologically and Culturally Significant Military Landscapes
Richard Linzey’s Friday morning presentation was titled “Guns and Roses: Conserving Ecologically and Culturally Significant Military Landscapes.” Richard currently works for a branch of British Columbia Heritage and previously worked for English Heritage, with whom the following project was completed.
Richard discussed a site known as the Landguard Peninsula, located at Felixstowe, Suffolk, England. Much of the project dealt with working to understand the values of the historic place and then designing a project approach, which acknowledged the cultural and architectural significances held by the variety of stakeholders.
The site was used from 1534 to 1996 for military purposes. England was at war for 53 times during that period, which had implications for the constructions at the site. The site was important because, strategically, the military ships could sit at anchor while under the protection of heavy guns. Today, it is one of England’s top fifteen ancient monuments slated for initial consolidation. At 60 hectares, it is both a remnant and an active cultural landscape with many layers of fortifications installed over 500 years of history.
While the peninsula is protected under English law (the natural parks act, countryside act and ancient monument act), Richard asked Why does this place matter? Before they could develop a project approach, they needed to understand the various answers to this question. Especially when you consider that landscapes are in a constant state of change, one needs to understand the values in order to put a treatment and maintenance plan together.
These are some of the many values that were discovered:
- 500 years of artillery cost defenses matters to military historians.
- Archaeology of above and below ground features.
- Has local value as an amenity for community events and as a tourism attraction.
- A local museum and archives are housed there.
- Home to one of the largest container ports and is valued for a nearby aggregate industry.
- Sea anglers and dog walkers enjoy almost unrestricted access.
- Local nature reserve that is valued for its biodiversity.
- One of the gun batteries now serves as a bird observatory, as the site is the first landfall for various migration patterns, and has little impact on the battery buildings. Another battery is home to the Suffolk Moth Group, both of which are excellent adaptive reuses for the battery buildings.
- The emergency battery, blocked up and contains water has become home to the rare species of the great crested newt.
Arising from a greater understanding of the various community and regional values, they developed the Landguard Forum, as a council to share the values of the site with one another. All discovered that all the values could exist without dominating one value over another. As a result, the site has a patchwork of values, which is often the case for cultural landscapes.
From this, they were able to develop a project scope, which initially focused upon improving safety issues at the site, stabilization efforts and aid the continued opportunities to retain all the values. Completed work includes:
- Restored the fence that once surrounded the entire fort, but still allowed access for the dog walkers and minimized the possibility of accidents.
- Improved the museum’s interior environment.
- Excavated a battery to expose industrial archaeology and restored view scapes.
- Revealed and increased knowledge about one of three Jacobean forts that were built; featured new information on the Dutch raids (the only battle at the site) and found the 1667 battlefield.
- Protected the biodiversity.
- Visitor safety improved.
- Public and staff health and safety issues were addressed at the bird observatory with new utilities, fire alarms and toilets for their use.
- Restored the ventilation systems on all the batteries.
- Created a balance between scientific and historical values and kept the rabbit population at a set amount thru annual culling.
- Enhanced the tourism experience and increased interpretation of the site.
- Also strengthened the community by discussing what everyone valued at the site.
Lonnie J. Hovey, AIA, FAPT
Program Manager, Historic Preservation
V I T E T T A