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Listed Buildings in England

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Kirkstall Abbey, West Yorkshire, UK.

When reading1 about historic buildings or other structures in England2, you may see them being referred to as 'Listed'. If you wonder what that means, fear not - read this Entry to learn more about the terminology behind The List.

What is The List?

The List is, as you might expect, a list. The National Heritage List of England, to give it its full title, collects together important sites around England to assist with protecting and preserving them for future generations - if a site is on The List, then it cannot simply be changed or demolished3: legal matters have to be taken into account before any decision is made in order to ensure the significance of the site is not lost.

At the time of writing (2018) there are almost 400,000 sites on The List, including World Heritage Sites4, ancient monuments5, historic buildings, parks and gardens, shipwrecks and battlefields. Entries in The List vary depending on the type of site and the date the site was first added to The List, but key information includes: where the site is, what the site contains, and why the site is considered to deserve protection.

Listed Buildings and Listed Parks and Gardens are divided into three categories:

  1. Grade I (Exceptional Interest)
  2. Grade II* (Particularly Important - of more than Special Interest)
  3. Grade II (Special Interest)

Grade I provides the highest level of protection, but even Grade II Listed Buildings (which make up around 90% of all Listed Buildings) require Listed Building Consent for any changes that are proposed.

Listing takes into account historical and architectural interest. Thus buildings that are hundreds of years old are likely to be rare examples of their type and hence are very likely to be Listed, whereas there are many more buildings that were constructed after 1945, so only the most important and distinctive of these can be considered for The List.

Grade I Listed buildings include nationally important sites such as the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. Other examples include Kirkstall Abbey, which dates back to the 12th Century and the Westgate mediƦval gatehouse in Winchester. Birkenhead Park on the Wirral is a Grade I listed landscape thanks to its status as the first public park in the world.

Netley Castle, which dates from the 16th Century, is a Grade II* Listed Building as well as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In contrast to that, the comparatively youthful Trellick Tower block of flats that was completed in 1972 has also been Grade II* Listed, as it is an important example of the Brutalism style of architecture.

Grade II Listed Buildings are similarly varied, and examples include memorials, clocktowers, lighthouses, aircraft hangars and cinemas.

Sites may even be made up of a combination of different listings. For example, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, the home of Queen Victoria, is a Grade I Listed Building and the grounds are a Grade II* Listed Garden. Port Sunlight on the Wirral contains a number of different listed buildings, including the church (Grade II* Listed) and the houses (Grade II Listed), while the open space at the centre of the village is a Grade II Listed Park. Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire is also made up of several listed buildings, and the model of the village is itself Grade II Listed.

How Was The List Created?

The idea of preserving the heritage of important sites was established into law in the 19th Century with the passing of the First Ancient Monuments Protection Act (1882). This led to the creation of a list of 50 prehistoric monuments including Stonehenge, Durrington Walls Henge, Avebury Stone Circle and other Henges.

After the Second World War bomb-damaged buildings were scrutinised. Those judged to deserve protection from demolition were added to the 'Salvage List'. Another building survey took place in 1968 to identify historic buildings under threat from urban development. 'The Modern Domesday' survey took place between 1980 and 1984, and the Register of Parks and Gardens was created in 1984. The National Heritage List of England has been available online since 2011.

The legislation covering protected sites includes: The Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953, the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Where Can I Learn More?

The Historic England Website contains a wealth of information about Listed sites and how to add to The List. It also contains The List itself, which can be searched in a variety of ways, such as by name, type, location, and date of listing. There is even a map search feature, so you can see all the Listed Buildings in an area and find details about each one.

1For example here on h2g2.2Scotland and Wales have their own schemes, as do other countries around the world.3If a listed building is changed or demolished without permission then councils have the power to order it to be restored to its previous condition.4Such as the Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Hadrian's Wall.5Such as Birkenhead Priory and Beaulieu Abbey.

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