English Heritage And The BBC Say Threats To Castles Are from Human – Induced Climate Change

Posted on Wed 11/23/2022 by


By Dr. John Happs ~

English Heritage may have found a novel way of generating more funding, aided and abetted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The claim is made that a number of castles in the UK are now under threat from – you guessed it – human-induced climate change.  They state that:

“Castles that have stood for hundreds of years are at risk of being damaged by climate change.”


English Heritage implies that human activity is leading to increasing storms, rising sea levels, more coastal erosion and threats to historic buildings, as if those processes haven’t always been happening.

Tintagel Castle

One of the structures we are told is at risk is Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, built by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th Century. It is one of English Heritage’s top five attractions, attracting more than 200,000 visitors each year.

English Heritage claim that rising sea levels, more frequent storms, and increasing coastal erosion, all exacerbated by climate change, have led to parts of the castle, coastal footpath and viewing area, falling into the sea.

https://www.visitcornwall.com/things-to-do/attractions/north- coast/tintagel/tintagel-castle

Hurst Castle

Another structure said to be at risk is Hurst Castle in Hampshire, built by Henry the 8th between 1541 and 1544 on the Hurst sand and shingle spit. This structure was part of Henry’s fort network that offered protection against possible invasion from the French. Hurst Castle guarded the Needles Passage, that narrow western entrance between the Isle of Wight and the mainland and it also became an important fort during the 17th Century English Civil War.

English Heritage claim that Hurst Castle is more frequently exposed to immense forces of wind and tide, resulting in the undercutting and collapse of a section of the east wing with the east and west wings now at risk.  Again, English Heritage argue, without any empirical evidence, that climate change has led to an increase in storm frequency and sea level rise that now threaten this historic structure.


Piel Castle

A third structure English Heritage claim is at risk from climate change is Piel Castle, built by John Cockerham in the early 14th Century. It is located on the south-east tip of Piel Island, off the coast of the Furness Peninsula in north-west England. Piel Castle was built to monitor trade through the local harbour and also offered protection against possible Scottish raids.

One might think that English Heritage would know that coastal erosion has been a threat to Piel Castle for hundreds of years. Early in the 18th Century, extensive restoration had to be undertaken well before the Industrial Revolution and when nobody was talking about climate change.  By 2022, much of the low-lying part of the island had been eroded by wave action and the castle keep is now threatened.  English Heritage claims that Piel Castle is exposed to increasing coastal erosion exacerbated by human-induced climate change.


Bayard’s Cove Fort

Another structure English Heritage says is at risk is Bayard’s Cove Fort, built in the early part of the 16th century to control the narrowest point of the channel at the entrance to Dartmouth harbour. More recently, it was adapted as a machine gun post during the Second World War.

A fifth structure English Heritage claims is at risk from climate change is the Garrison Walls on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly.

Garrison Walls

Built about 350 years ago, they were strengthened by Sir Francis Godolphin in anticipation of a second Spanish Armada which didn’t eventuate, although invasion by France or Spain was considered a possibility during the 17th and early 18th centuries.

The Garrison was re-armed and accommodated around 1,000 soldiers during the First World War and was an important base for the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. The main part of the structure is Star Castle, built in 1593 and now serves as a hotel.


Calshot Castle

Calshot Castle is located on Calshot Spit where it meets the Solent, in Hampshire.  It is an artillery fort built by Henry the 8th between 1539 and 1540 to provide protection for the Solent were there to be an invasion from France. It was later used as a base for sea planes during the First World War and was re-armed during the Second World War.

English Heritage considers Calshot Castle another structure at risk from rising sea level and increased erosion due to climate change.


Conservation Charity English Heritage is appealing for finance to make major repairs and improve defences against what they say is extreme weather and more powerful storms generated by climate change. Rob Woodside, English Heritage’s Estates Director, told BBC News:

“It seems to be that the whole natural dynamics of the coastline in some places have been accelerated by climate change.”

Adding to the drama was Jonah Fisher the BBC’s Environment Correspondent who said:

“There is broad consensus among scientists that even if the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the Earth are dramatically cut, global sea levels will continue to rise for several hundred years. Higher sea levels mean more powerful waves coming closer to the shore, and faster coastal erosion.”


The “broad consensus among scientists” actually says there is no climate emergency with more than 4,000 scientists, including 70 Nobel Laureates having signed the Heidelberg Appeal:


Additionally, more than 31,000 scientists, including geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers and environmental scientists have signed the Oregon Petition:


Tens of thousands of scientists say there is no climate emergency and it would appear that English Heritage and the BBC’s Environment Correspondent need to face a few facts related to climate change, carbon dioxide emissions, extreme weather, sea level rise, coastal erosion and history.

The climate has always changed over the last 500 million years with the planet having experienced both ice ages and long periods when global temperatures were up to 10oC higher than current levels.

What about the supposed increasing dangerous climate change during the last few hundred years when the English castles were built?

The Central England Temperature (CET) dataset uses three weather stations that record temperatures within a triangle roughly in the centre of England and bounded by London, Bristol and Lancashire.  The CET is the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world with the mean, minimum and maximum datasets being updated monthly.

The weather stations have been placed as far away from urban areas as possible with the UK Met. office acknowledging that the CET record is likely to show some unnatural warming due to the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI).


Despite the impact of the UHI effect, the CET record shows some shifts in highs and lows but no appreciable overall warming:

English Heritage points to recent (imaginary) dangerous global warming even though the data refuting this from the CET are supported by uncontaminated satellite records and radiosonde data showing that this is not happening. Additionally, there are more than 250 peer-reviewed, published papers that say the gentle warming up to the end of the 20th century, as we continue to emerge from the Little Ice Age, is neither dangerous nor unprecedented:


Presumably, English Heritage blames anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions for (imaginary) dangerous global warming when readily available data reject this claim and show that atmospheric carbon dioxide has never driven global temperature at any time over the last 500 million years:

In fact, global temperature has fallen whilst carbon dioxide levels have increased over the last 8,000 years:

If English Heritage claims that coastal structures are suffering from more extreme weather, the facts say otherwise with Alimonti et al. (2022) finding no evidence to show any increase in extreme precipitation, droughts, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes:


Presumably, English Heritage does not attribute historic dramatic sea level rise to anthropogenic carbon dioxide levels, such as the disappearance of the once-inhabited “Doggerland” in the North Sea. Dr. Brian Fagan described this event in his book “The Little Ice Age” reporting that:

“Ten thousand years ago the southern North sea was a marshy plain where elk and deer wandered…England was part of the continent until as recently as 6,000 BC when rising sea levels caused by post ice age warming filled the North sea.”

This “post ice age warming” took place without any human industrial activity. The global melting of ice, without the assistance of atmospheric carbon dioxide, raised sea levels such that Britain was separated from Europe and became the island nation it is today.


The fact that our ancestors hunted and fished on “Doggerland” demonstrates that sea level rise is not an unusual phenomenon and occurred before any industrial activity.

The remains of a drowned Mesolithic village have been found on the sea bed near the Isle of Wight off Britain’s South coast. This also points to natural post-glacial sea level rise.


Presumably, English Heritage dismisses natural sea level rise whilst blaming anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions for current (imaginary) sea level rise. Compare this view with that of the late Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner who was head of the Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics Department at Stockholm University from 1991 to 2005.

Mörner studied sea level over his entire career and was recognised as the world’s leading expert on sea level. He said that for the last 40-50 years strong observational facts indicate virtually stable sea level conditions and warned that the IPCC was set up in 1988 with the foregone conclusion that human activity was warming the globe and changing the climate. He called the belief in man-made climate change a religious movement driven by environmental activists and many other vested interests:


Supporting Mörner’s findings, Cox and Cho have used data from 10 satellites to confirm there is no increase in sea level rise above the current estimates of 1-2 mm per year, expected as we continue to emerge from the Little Ice Age (1750-1775).

Tide gauges give us local Relative Sea Level (RSL) at the point where the sea meets the land and herein lies the problem since the RSL is a result of the sea surface height confounded by vertical movement of the tide gauge as the land moves up or down.

Climate alarmists are usually not aware that land masses are part of the Earth’s thin 40 km thick crust (lithosphere), situated on top of the 3,000 km thick mantle. The massive build-up of ice sheets during a glacial maximum can deform and depress large areas of the Earth’s crust.

The maximum extent of the ice sheet over the British Isles appears to have been reached between 25,000 and 20,000 years ago and geomorphological evidence, such as rock striae (marks left by glaciers) and erratics (rocks deposited by glaciers), point to a maximum ice thickness of 1,000-1,200 metres over Central Scotland.

Rock with glacial striations

Glacial erratic on the Island of Coll, Scotland

The ice sheets disappeared throughout Britain and Ireland about 12,500 years ago. This glaciation ended as the planet warmed, again without the assistance of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As the ice sheets melted, the massive weight of ice was removed and the previously depressed landmass lifted upwards although this isostatic adjustment didn’t act uniformly.

Wave-cut platforms

Post-glacial rebound in northern England is continuing at about 10 cm per century with a corresponding downward movement in the south of England of around 5 cm per century. Relative sea-levels around Scotland were higher around 4,000 years ago but appear to be steadily falling as the land rebounds, following ice sheet melt. There is good evidence of this from past shorelines and the location of fossil marine molluscs, eroded rock platforms and shingle beaches all found in western Scotland. These features were left behind with the fall in “relative sea-level”.

Whereas in Scotland and the north of England, uplift of the land was pronounced, this was not the case in the south.

For instance, the tidal island of St. Michael’s Mount near Penzance in Cornwall is now about 350 metres from the sea whereas it was once 9 km inland and surrounded by woodland that became submerged around 1700 BC by relative sea level rise.

St Michael’s Mount

In the 4th Century AD, the Roman historian Marcelinus described the disappearance of “a large island” in the Atlantic Sea which was most likely the single island of the Scillies, now an archipelago made up of many smaller islands.

Scilly Isles

Modern day land subsidence impacts many parts of the world such that sea level in those regions appears to be rising. Parts of California, for instance, has the fastest relative sea level rise on the USA’s west coast since tectonic activity causes large areas north of San Francisco, at the intersection of three tectonic plates, to sink.

Satellite-measured sinking of reclaimed land that has been developed for over 100 years in Florida reveals a continuing subsidence and a propensity for flooding whenever a low-pressure system moves over the area. This has nothing to do with (imaginary) global warming.

More than 100 cities around the world are impacted by relative sea level rise whilst climate alarmists point to (imaginary) global warming and melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica as the cause.


A more recent factor that contributes to the depression of land is the huge weight of an ever-increasing number of buildings. This “concrete effect” is being seen in major cities that have been developed on reclaimed land.


More than 30 cities are sinking due to subsidence, often exacerbated by groundwater removal, by more than 1cm per year, many times the rate of natural sea-level rise:


Harlech Castle

English Heritage need to reflect on the relative movement of land and consider the current location of the now land-locked Harlech Castle, built by Edward 1st during his invasion of Wales between 1282 and 1289. The castle was built on the coast with a water-gate, mooring rings and a long flight of steps all designed to re-supply the castle by sea during any siege.

Today, Harlech Castle is some distance from the sea, reflecting the impact of isostatic rebound over the last 800 years.

No doubt English Heritage know all about the Cinque Ports, thought to have their origins in a chain of coastal forts founded by the emperor Constantine during the 4th century AD to defend the coasts of Roman Britain from raids by Franks and Saxons. Three of those ports are no longer on the coast.


The town of New Romney was once on the coast, with a mooring ring still visible in front of the church. The town is now about 2 km inland.

Winchelsea of today replaced Old Winchelsea in the late 13th century when the old town was inundated by the sea and swept away by a great storm in 1287 to end up in the English Channel.

Winchelsea is now about 2 km inland and we know exactly what climate alarmists would say if such a storm happened today.

Tenterden, also once on the coast, was an important ship building town and centre for the wool trade in the 13th Century. This former busy trading port now lies about 15 km from the sea.

It’s doubtful that the residents of New Romney, Winchelsea and Tenterden are too worried about sea level rise.

Sand Spit

English Heritage might also reflect on the consequences of building any structure, such as Hurst Castle and Calshot Castle, on sand spits, which are long stretches of beach sediments extending from the mainland.  Littoral drift can produce a long, narrow accumulation of weakly consolidated sediments projecting into the sea or across the mouth of an estuary or lagoon. It is not uncommon to find buildings on these temporary structures.

Beaches are not static. They are “rivers of sand” and material that is deposited on a coastline can be eroded just as easily. Parts of the east coast of England have seen whole settlements lost to the North Sea over the last few hundred years as a result of coastal erosion.


The town of Dunwich is now about 1 km offshore, joining other submerged towns such as Kilnsea and Eccles. In his book Men of Dunwich, Rowland Parker reported the loss as:

“Eight hundred houses… a dozen abodes of prayer and worship, windmills, workshops, taverns, shops, storehouses, ships.”

There are many settlements around the world that are now under water as a result of historic coastal erosion and/or subsidence, including Kekova in Turkey; Port Royal in Jamaica; Alexandria in Egypt; Mahabalipuram in India and Tybrind Vig in Denmark.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ancient-cities-lost-to-the- seas-37942779/


Conversely, there are many examples of ancient Mediterranean harbours that were once important centres of commerce and are now land-locked. An estimated 50% of the known ancient Mediterranean ports are no longer on the coast because of sediment deposition or land movement. One famous example is the 10th century city of Ephesus, built on the coast of Ionia. As a result of sediment deposition, the Mediterranean coast is now about 4 km from Ephesus.

As some shorelines erode, others are stable or building up, as Luijendijk et al. (2018) report:

“Analysis of the satellite derived shoreline data indicates that 24% of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding at rates exceeding 0.5 m/yr while 28% are accreting and 48% are stable.”


Coastlines are ever-changing and many cliffs comprising weakly consolidated strata are particularly vulnerable to erosion by the sea and should not be built on.

Climate activist Barbra Streisand’s mansion built on an eroding coastline

It is worth repeating here that numerous peer-reviewed, published papers have reported that there is no evidence to show any increase in extreme precipitation, droughts, sea level rise, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes


Natural forces, such as storms and wave action, experienced when those 5 castles of concern to English Heritage were first constructed, remain in play today and, as expected, have taken their toll over time.

We would all like to see historic buildings restored, as far as possible, to their former glory but English Heritage should look to empirical evidence about weather extremes. They should not refer to the pseudo-science of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming aka climate change aka more extreme weather as promoted by the political/ideological United Nations, the media, activist groups and many politicians. Otherwise, their claims might be seen by some as a cynical attempt to lay blame whilst generating more funding for required restoration work.

P.S. I have donated to English Heritage in the past and will undoubtedly donate again to assist in the valuable work they do.

Dr. John Happs M.Sc.1st Class; D.Phil. John has an academic background in the geosciences with special interests in climate, and paleoclimate. He has been a science educator at several universities in Australia and overseas and was President of the Western Australian Skeptics for 25 years