So, what does a building at risk look like?

This has to be the most commonly asked question. The answer is not so simple as it might seem at first sight as buildings can fall into various levels of disrepair. The reasons for such decline, again, can be varied and complex. This project is interested in all building types (regardless of being listed or not) in varying states of neglect and decay. Our criteria for a building at risk is laid out below.


Poyton’s Piece, St Cleer.

This cottage has a small porch, window openings on the ground and first floors and two chimneys. This cottage retains most of its roof but the ground floor windows are boarded up and there is considerable ivy growth and the south end. The cottages are aligned with the Caradon-Looe railway line from which they are separated by a low wall.

Our definition of a Building at Risk

A building should be defined as ‘at risk’ if it is in poor repair and there is no realistic plan for repair and future use.

A building will be defined as in poor repair if it exhibits three or more of the following characteristics:

  • The roof is not weather tight.
  • Windows are boarded up or broken.
  • Gutters and rainwater goods are not functioning properly.
  • There are significant outbreaks of dry or wet rot.
  • The building is unoccupied or out of use.
  • Inappropriate alterations are proposed to the building.
  • An inappropriate use is proposed for the building.

The above criteria provide an objective basis for assessing a building’s status, but good judgement is always required. We will always recognise realistic plans of owners or others for repairing or restoring a buildings; such plans should be rigorous, prepared with appropriate expert input, have realistic timescales and properly costed and resourced.

Poyton’s Piece

One example of a building at risk is Poyton’s Piece, near Minions, St Cleer. This complex comprises of two small semi-detached miners’ cottages and small holdings, typical of those found in the World Heritage Site.

Poyton’s Piece
The roofless northern cottage At the north end is a single storey attached outbuilding with a galvanised roof.

According to the Historic Environment Record, Poynton’s Piece was first recorded in 1699. It appears on the c.1803 Ordnance Survey, where is is described as Ponton’s Piece and is shown associated with a small patch of enclosed land. At this time, it was the only settlement in the area as Minions was not yet in existence. The c.1880 Ordnance Survey shows a scatter of buildings positioned alongside the Caradon to Looe railway.

Today, these unlisted granite rubble buildings are largely roofless and ruined.

Published by buildingsatrisk

Since 1969 the aims of the Cornish Buildings Group have been to stimulate interest, appreciation and knowledge of good building in Cornwall, and to encourage the erection, protection, repair and recording of such buildings. Like any amenities group, we depend on numbers, strength and support of our membership, who provide the force and knowledge that have made us effective for over fifty years. We encourage the protection and repair of historic buildings whether these are listed buildings or simply good examples of traditional building. We aim to encourage good architecture and to raise the general standard of building throughout the county. We hope that our generation may leave behind it buildings which will be looked back on with that same pleasure and enjoyment that we experience when we look at the architecture of past ages.

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