IHBC Yearbook 2023

22 CLIMATE CHANGE CONNECTIONS RUTH KNIGHT and ALEX KENT AT FIRST glance the formidable walls of Hurst Castle look the definition of immovable and solid, standing guard over the entry to the Solent for hundreds of years. However, in late February 2021 a section of the eastern battery suddenly fell into the sea. This collapse and the ongoing discussions around the site’s future management are emblematic of the issues posed by climate change to our heritage. The castle’s position at the end of an exposed shingle spit has long made it vulnerable to the forces of the wind and waves. As well as changes in longshore drift, the fort now faces the increasing frequency and intensity of storm events and rising sea levels due to climate change. Holding the line in such a dynamic and highly volatile location requires considerable intervention and cost. Consequently, Hurst Castle is among the most challenging sites to be cared for by the English Heritage trust. Built under Henry VIII and subsequently greatly enlarged in the 19th century when it formed a key fortress protecting one of the world’s most heavily defended areas, the castle played an active role through both world wars and remained in military use until 1956. Since arriving in the care of English Heritage there have been numerous investments to protect the building. In 2019 an extensive programme of works took place to stabilise the foundations of the west wing of the castle and to reinforce its sea defences. The charity underpinned the west wing’s foundations, replaced broken groynes and barriers, and replenished the beach with 7,500 tonnes of shingle. Since the collapse of part of the eastern battery in 2021, urgent work has seen an additional 22,000 tonnes of shingle and rock armour transported along the spit to protect the east wing. Specialist contractors were employed to undertake extensive geotechnical investigations around the castle and on the spit itself to help understand the structural integrity of the foundations and movement in the shingle. But it is clear there will be no quick fix. Estimates suggest that sea levels will rise in the area by one to 1.5 metres in the next hundred years, and each time a storm hits the spit, thousands of tonnes of shingle are washed away. Developing a long-term strategy for sites such as Hurst Castle presents a complex challenge and can only be addressed by drawing upon a wide range of expertise, learning from seminal work undertaken by the National Trust and Historic Environment Scotland, and by developing new partnerships. COASTAL CONNECTIONS In 2022 Hurst Castle was included on the World Monuments Watch, a selection of 25 heritage sites of worldwide significance whose preservation is urgent and vital to the communities surrounding them. This list is collated by the World Monuments Fund, the nonprofit organisation that is devoted to safeguarding the world’s most treasured places. Now a new project Hurst Castle, Hampshire following the collapse of part of its 19th century battery. (Photo: English Heritage)