How buildings are listed

The principles of selection for these lists were originally drawn up by an expert committee of architects, antiquarians and historians, and are still followed by Historic England who advises the Government on listing.

From time to time surveys are carried out, such as the one for Post-War buildings.

Buildings that qualify

Buildings that qualify for listing are:

(a) All buildings before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition

(b) Most buildings between 1700-1840, though some selection is necessary

(c) Between 1840 and 1914 only buildings of definite quality and character, the selection being designed to include the best examples of particular building types

(d) Selected buildings from the period after 1914 are selected on the same basis

(e) Buildings under 30 years old (but more than ten) are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat

In choosing buildings, particular attention is paid to:

  • Special value within certain types, either for architectural or planning reasons or as illustrating social and economic history (for instance, industrial buildings, railway stations, schools, hospitals, prisons, theatres)
  • Technological innovation or virtuosity (for instance cast iron, prefabrication, or the early use of concrete)
  • Group value, especially as examples of town planning (for instance, squares, terraces or model estates)
  • Association with well-known characters or events

A survey is carried out by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's inspectors for each Local Authority area, and buildings are classified in grades to show their relative importance.

Spot listing

Anyone can suggest a building for listing by writing to English Heritage and from time to time the Government adds buildings to the legal lists. This is known as spot listing.  

Interiors of listed buildings 

The inclusion of a building in the legal list confers control over the entire building including the interior. In fact some buildings are listed more because of the quality of the interior than the exterior. This is the case with some cinemas. 

Curtilage buildings and fixtures

A listed building is one included in a list compiled or approved by the Secretary of State. The listing of a building confers protection not only on the building but also on any object or ancillary structure fixed to the building, plus "any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to a building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1 July 1948".