To Save Endangered Buildings, This Group Gives Them Glamour Shots

These aging–but often beautiful–buildings need owners.


The British countryside is littered with old buildings—abandoned farm houses, vacant schools, worn-down factories from another time. The nonprofit conservation group Save Britain’s Heritage is on a mission to find new owners for some of the country’s old architectural gems—and it takes an unusual approach to do so.


Up My Street [Photo: courtesy Save Britain’s Heritage]
Each year the organization publishes a catalog called Buildings at Risk. Since 1989, the book of buildings aims to convince developers to restore and reuse historic architecture, both preserving it for the future while also giving it a second chance at life. 2017’s catalog, called Up My Street, features more than 100 buildings that the organization wants to bring to people’s attention, including manor homes, factories, and schools. It’s like a bible for the adaptive reuse aficionado–or perhaps a pinup calendar.

Many of the candidates have historical significance. Take the Musgrave Engine House in Wales, which was established in 1910 to power the copper mill next door. It’s one of the few surviving factories with an original steam engine intact. Another building featured, a church in Manchester called St. John’s the Evangelist, was built by a famous local architect in the second half of the 19th century, J. Medland Taylor. It was closed this year, just after celebrating its 150th anniversary. There’s the Tonedale Mills in Wellington, which date to 1821 (the original timber building was built in 1754 and was destroyed in a fire). Some 3,600 people once worked there; the building’s owners pioneered the use of khaki dye for soldiers’ uniforms in the Boer War at the end of the 19th century. The exposed brick facade make it a prime candidate for a housing development (there were plans for one before 2008, but they were abandoned).

Maltings [Photo: courtesy Save Britain’s Heritage]
Other buildings are notable for their architecture. There’s a gorgeous art deco swimming pool, located in Aberdeen, that was built in 1937 and closed in 2008. A barracks gatehouse in Devonport, which features a grand classical facade, was designed by Francis Fowke, the same architect who did the Royal Albert Hall in London. The Old Colehurst Manor in Shropshire has a beautiful traditional facade that dates from the early 17th century. It was restored relatively recently by a former professional golfer, who planned to make it a hotel–even installing jacuzzis along the outside of the house–but passed away suddenly.

The catalog is a really simple and clever approach to getting the word out about properties that are ideal for adaptive reuse. So whether you’re a developer looking for opportunities in the British countryside or just happen to love fabulous photographs of old, ruined buildings, this compendium of centuries-old architecture is worth a second glance.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable