The historic environment is full of wonderful examples of our creativity, innovation and humour.
The List (of England’s heritage assets) has been around in some form for about 136 years, and has just reached the important milestone of 400,000 entries.
That’s 400,000 listed buildings, registered parks, gardens and battlefields, protected shipwrecks and scheduled monuments to explore. When we’re referring to these places collectively we call them ‘designated assets’. From the smallest listed piece of public art to a mammoth protected shipwreck, we think each place is special and should be looked after.
Here are 7 things you may not know about the List:
1. The smallest listed thing is (probably) a bullring
This Grade II listed heavy iron ring in Brading on the Isle of Wight is thought to date as far back as the 16th century. Prominently situated outside the Town Hall, it was last used for bull baiting in 1820. Along with a nearby statue of a bull, it stands as a poignant example to this tragic sporting history. At just a foot high and a few inches in depth, we think it’s the smallest thing on the list.
2. The longest asset is a road
This 2,000 year-old road was first built by the Romans to link their forts at Brougham and Ambleside in Cumbria. 16,000 km (10,000 miles) of Roman roads were built in Britain between AD43 and AD150, some following the route of much older prehistoric tracks. This one is called High Street and spans a whopping 20.4 km.
3. The largest is a park
Spanning 4,800 acres, Windsor Great Park first inspired William the Conquerer to start building the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – Windsor Castle. It has been the home of 39 monarchs since. King Charles II installed the famous Long Walk and Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, established the Royal School on the site.
4. England’s smallest city has the most heritage
… per square km that is. Home to some of architecture’s big-hitters, the City of London is layered in history. From the Roman Temple of Mithras to UNESCO World Heritage Site the Tower of London, Brutalist Barbican and High Tech Lloyds Building, it’s a wonder that the famous skyline continues to find space to grow.
5. If something is listed, it can still develop – even if it’s Grade I.
Listing does not freeze a building in time; it encourages the preservation of the parts of a place that make it special. The Albert Dock in Liverpool holds the title for largest group of Grade I listed structures in the country. Opened by Prince Albert in 1846, the docks dominated the global trade, survived the First and Second World Wars and only lost purpose in the late 1970s with the advent of containerisation. The site has since been regenerated as a multi-use complex, home to the Tate Liverpool alongside numerous restaurants, bars and independent shops.
6. The interior of a building is protected too
A common misconception about listing is that it’s only the façade that’s protected – this is untrue. If a building is listed, this includes special features of the interior, and these are sometimes detailed in the list description. Woolwich Town Hall in Greenwich, London, is a great example of extravagant English Baroque with well-preserved interiors.
7. Protected structures make up only about 2% of our built environment
400,000 listed things may sound like a lot, but it’s only a small part of the structures that surround us. Usually a building has to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing; and in May 2018 the 1980s finally became heritage when 17 bold, playful Post-Modern buildings were granted protection. The Gough Building (pictured), originally the Craft, Design and Technology Building in Dorset, with its striking columns built to look like giant screws, was one of them.
Bonus fact: There’s a rocket on the list – the Blue Streak Rocket (header image) in it’s steel handling frame is Grade II listed.