A brief introduction to Listed places

5 Things You Need to Know About Listing

Listing is the term given to the practice of listing buildings, scheduling monuments, registering parks, gardens and battlefields, and protecting wreck sites.

Listing is the term given to the practice of listing buildings, scheduling monuments, registering parks, gardens and battlefields, and protecting wreck sites.

Let Emily Gee, our former Head of Listing Advice, fill you in everything you need to know about listing.

1. How did listing start?

Listing emerged as a legal system of protecting England’s most precious buildings during the Second World War.

The first lists were compiled as an emergency measure to identify what should be protected in post-war rebuilding. The next generation of more systematic lists on a geographical (parish) basis was heroic in their scale, but inevitably quite brief in their descriptions and often done from the road, sometimes from bicycles, without internal inspection.

The Former Cauliflower Hotel in Ilford, London, Grade II listed, is a good example of a c.1900 gin palace. Its interior still retains many opulent original features such as cut and etched glass and lincrusta wall covering

The system today is dramatically different. We notify and consult owners as a matter of course. On a site visit, we find out as much as we can about a building’s historical development, architectural quality, internal features, degree of survival, relationship with other buildings and historic interest.

Each listed building has its own description – the statutory List entry – on the National Heritage List for England (the List).

The List is a free searchable online database and is a remarkable collection of all England’s designated assets (listed buildings, scheduled monuments, registered landscapes and battlefields, and protected wrecks).

We estimate that 99.3% of people in England live within a mile of a listed place, so go online to discover your local treasures.

2. Making the grade: Grade II, Grade II* or Grade I?

There are almost 400,000 entries on the List covering listed buildings, scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields and protected wrecks.

While all listed buildings are of special interest, there is a system to grade relative significance. The great majority of buildings (92%) are Grade II, which means they are special.

View from the south east.
Grade I listed De La Warr Pavillion, Marina, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex © Historic England Archive.

There are two higher levels of listing: Grade II*, which means ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’ (5.8%), and Grade I, which covers buildings of ‘exceptional interest’, normally what we consider ‘textbook’ examples (2.5%).

3. How are buildings chosen?

The key criteria for listing are special architectural and special historic interest, but these will differ according to the building in question. Our Selection Guides explain what makes different places listable.

Not surprisingly, the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840. 

Former Western Morning News building, Plymouth. Grade II* © Graham Richardson via Flickr

From around 1840, the start of the Victorian period, when materials become more standardised and mass produced, and from when greater numbers survive, the more selective we are.

Buildings that date from after 1945 require particularly careful selection and only the best examples will be listed. There are about 770 post-war listed buildings and sculptures, which is just 0.2% of all buildings on the List. This is still more than in any other country in the world.

The youngest building on the List is the very recently Grade II* listed Western Morning News building in Plymouth of 1991-93 by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners.  Listing is rare for more recent buildings, and very selective indeed: 50 buildings from the 1970s are listed, ten from the 1980s, and just one from the 1990s.

4. It’s not just buildings that are listed

The List is a unique record of the country’s evolving history and character and includes barrows and bunkers, palaces and pigsties, plague crosses and piers, tower blocks and tombstones, cathedrals, windmills and rollercoasters.

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Margate, Kent. Grade II

The latest listings include a diverse selection of unusual structures such as the ‘Giant’s Stride’ (pictured above) a rare surviving piece of Victorian playground equipment in Hunstantonworth, Co Durham, the Rom skatepark of 1978 in Hornchurch, London, and Margate’s 1930s tidal seawater pool in Kent.

5. Add your knowledge and photos to the List

This year, for the first time, you can get involved in keeping the List rich, relevant and up-to-date.

We are opening it up and asking people and community groups across England to share their knowledge and pictures, so we can record important facts about places, and even unlock the secrets of some.

Whittington Lodge, Grade II, is probably the first purpose-built cattery in Britain, at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. This idiosyncratic Italianate building was designed by Clough William-Ellis in 1907, and was added to the List in 2014

Many places and buildings on the list are well-known and even world-famous. But in some cases there is much that remains unknown. That’s why we need your help – so we can share images, insights and secrets of England’s special places, and capture them for future generations.

Find out how to Enrich the List here.

Further information

For more information on listing, to search the List and to see the various selection guides for listed buildings and other historic places, go to:  www.historicengland.org.uk/listing

3 comments on “5 Things You Need to Know About Listing

  1. Your approach to listing is very uneven. There are towns where you have very little knowledge of what is significant. Your approach today is so skewed that you do not even look properly at important buildings that should be listed. Your focus only on themes and buildings actually at risk is missing out on and making it impossible to list key buildings.

    Ge your act together and ensure the government properly funds the work that you should be doing…rather than handing it over to volunteers. There are many trained people in the community who should be paid to properly protect the heritage that belongs to us all. Once a building is lost through substantial alterations and demolition, it is gone for ever.

  2. Philip Heath

    Hello, Just noticed there is an error on this page. you have the same pic of the gin palace twice, and have missed out the photo of the rare playground equipment.

    It would be useful to give a better explanation of what “listed for group value only” actually means. Saying that such a such a building has group value with other buildings is fine, but “listed for group value only” is a very unhelpful phrase in my opinion. It implies that such buildings are of inferior class.

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