The Twentieth Century Society

100 Buildings 100 Years

Research

Research

Getting a Building Listed

What is Listing?

To be listed, a building must be of architectural or historical importance. It need not necessarily be by a famous architect; it could also be listed as an example of stylistic, social or technical innovation, or being associated with a significant historical event. In England and Wales, there are three grades of listing: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II, denoting different levels of quality.

Who is responsible for listing?

Any member of the public as well as groups and societies may nominate a building for listing. Buildings of architectural and historical importance in England are listed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has a statutory duty to consult English Heritage. In Scotland, listings are made by the Secretary of State for Scotland, advised by Historic Scotland. In Wales, listings are made by the Secretary of State for Wales, advised by CADW.

How old must a building be to be listed?

Any building over 10 years old may be listed, however buildings less than 30 years old (from the start date of construction) are not normally listed unless they are under threat of demolition or alteration and are found “outstanding” (Grade I or II*). While the majority of surviving buildings from before 1800 are listed, the criteria for listing later buildings become stricter as the date of the building becomes more recent.

How can I check if a building is already listed?

The lists themselves are held centrally at the National Monuments Record in Swindon. The enquiry line is 01793 414600. Relevant local sections of the lists are held by planning departments of local authorities and in public libraries. It is best to check whether a building is already listed before embarking on research. English Heritage’s Images of England website also has images of many listed buildings, but is not yet a definitive list.

How do I nominate a building for listing?

For buildings in England, write a letter to:
English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
139-142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

For buildings in Wales, write a letter to:

CADW
Brunel House
2 Fitzalan Road
Cardiff CF2 1UY

Your letter must be accompanied by good photographs of the house showing general views of the building and details of importance, and also a map showing the location. (A clearly marked copy of an A-Z page or a printout from www.streetmap.co.uk is acceptable.)

Indicate in your letter why the building is architecturally or historically important. The more relevant information you send, the quicker and easier it will be for the matter to be dealt with. Useful questions to address are:

What was the building originally designed as? (house, hospital, cinema, etc)
When was it built?
Who designed it?
Who lived there?
Did the building play an important role in history?
Was the design innovative or unusual?
Is the significance local or national?
Why does the building need listing? (eg threat of alteration, demolition, neglect or a recent change in ownership)
How do I find out about the building?

Look for information in the local history library, local archives and the planning records of the local authority. Many buildings were illustrated in architectural magazines after 1914, and these may include additional information. The best resource for these is the RIBA Library, 66 Portland Place, London W1 (020 7580 5533), which is open to the public free of charge and is happy to welcome new visitors: you will need to show some form of photo ID identity on each visit and are advised to check the website for opening times before travelling. Larger public libraries and School of Architecture libraries may also be able to help.

Ongoing architectural practices can be searched online – they may well have company archives that are helpful. Local history libraries may also have maps showing construction. Details of architects and other individuals may also be found in the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Details of how to access this using your local library can be found on the DNB website.

How can The Twentieth Century Society help?

Please send a copy of your letter, map and photographs to The Twentieth Century Society, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ. We will then assess whether we are able to support your listing application.

Who else can help?

It is usually advisable to seek the support of the local authority, via the conservation section of the planning department, unless the local authority is the building owner and intends to demolish! You may wish to contact the local press, but consider the adverse consequences of possible pre-emptive demolition if the listing application becomes public knowledge. Letters of support from the owner of the building, neighbours and any experts in the field will be of assistance.

How can I follow up my letter?

It may take several months or longer for an application to be processed. Whilst a building is under consideration for listing, it is not protected by the legislation which applies to listed buildings, and the local authority can still grant permission for demolition or alteration. It is important for you to monitor the building and if the case is becoming urgent, contact the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and The Twentieth Century Society with details. In rare cases of emergency, pressure can be put on local authorities to serve a Building Preservation Notice on a building, which is a temporary power equivalent to listing.

What can I do if my building cannot be listed?

Most buildings after 1914, even if they are well preserved, including the great majority of individual houses, are not eligible for listing unless representative of an important technical/architectural innovation or associated with a particular history. Post-war buildings have to be of particularly good quality to be listed. This means that a lot of nominations are unsuccessful. Local authorities may designate Conservation Areas to protect groups of buildings and their environment. This gives control over demolitin and new building, although it does not carry the same restrictions on alteration normally enforced by local authorities and English Heritage as part of the listed building control process.

Remember that the best way to safeguard the future of building, whether listed or unlisted, is to ensure that it remains in use rather standing derelict, preferably owned by a body which respects its important features. Local campaigning can help to achieve this.