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Listed Buildings

Tom Tower, Christ Church College against a blue sky
Tom Tower, Christ Church College, Oxford ©Shutterstock / Doctor Jools

Listed buildings are those considered to be of such special historic or architectural importance to merit special protection. Once a building has an officially designated status as a Listed Building, it is protected from demolition or unauthorized alteration because of its unique importance.

Any changes to a listed building need to have special permission and the local planning authority may stipulate that the owners must use specific materials or techniques in order to maintain the building's unique historic status.

Aerial view of York Minster
Aerial view of York Minster © Shutterstock / Neil Mitchell

All kinds of buildings may be listed, including bridges such as the Forth Bridge, monuments, mileposts and war memorials such as the Cenotaph in London.

Many Parish churches are listed buildings, but while they remain in use for ecclesiastical purposes they are generally outside the scope of many of the required controls.

In England the authority for listing lies with English Heritage. In Wales the statutory body is the Cadw, which means "to keep". In Scotland the responsibility lies with Historic Scotland and in Northern Ireland, it is the Ulster Architectural Society who looks after the heritage.

There are different degrees of importance. They are Grades I, II* and II in England and Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland use the grades A, B and C.

Wythenshawe Hall
Wythenshawe Hall, Manchester © Shutterstock / Alastair Wallace

Grade A or I are the highest ranked buildings of exceptional interest. Only 2.5% of listed buildings fall into this group. Examples include Buckingham Palace, the Royal Albert Hall and York Minster.

Grade B or II* are particularly important buildings with more than special interest. About 5.5% of listed buildings merit this status. The lavish Art Deco Battersea Power Station is a famous example along with Shibden Hall in Calderdale and the Stoke-on-Trent Railway Station.

The Scott Monument, Edinburgh
The Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Grade C or II are of special interest and warrant every reason to be preserved. These include Alexandra Palace and BT Tower in London.

The historic city of Chester has many historic black-and-white timbered buildings which are listed, for example the Cheshire Military Museum building adjoining the ancient Chester Castle.

Many of the college buildings at Oxford and Cambridge are listed, along with buildings as diverse as Newport Castle and the Forge Museum in the High Street at Much Hadham.

Listing began as a means of protest at some noteworthy buildings which were demolished and lost forever.

Honey coloured Cotsworld stone homes in Chipping Campden
Honey coloured Cotsworld stone homes in Chipping Campden © Shutterstock / Paul Matthew Photography

The pressure movement Georgian Group was formed in the 1930s but it took until the 1950s for the government to approve the idea of listing historic building to protect and preserve the nation's heritage.

Buildings may be listed for their age, especially if they were built before 1700 and are still in reasonably original condition. They may have architectural merit, they may have been the location of a historic event or have a connection to a famous person.

View of Chillingham Castle with fountain in foreground
Chillingham Castle © Shutterstock / Gail Johnson

Those wishing to submit a building for consideration should contact the Department of Culture in the relevant location, or the Department of National Heritage (Listing Branch) to find out more.

Currently there are about 373,000 listed buildings in Great Britain and the full list can be inspected at the National Monuments Record in Swindon, or the relevant district office.

There is also a photographic library of listed buildings maintained by English Heritage at the Images of England website.

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