Guildford high street on a busy and sunny day. Pedestrians are walking both on the pavements and down the middle of the cobbled street.
Enhancement of Guildford's historic High Street has retained its famous cobbles but made them accessible to many more users
Enhancement of Guildford's historic High Street has retained its famous cobbles but made them accessible to many more users

Regional Case Studies

Historic England work with communities, local authorities and other partners across the country to help deliver schemes for public space enhancement. We aim to ensure these conserve local distinctiveness, character and the significance of historic places.

We've prepared an introduction document for each of our nine regions that summarises the advice in Streets for All and provides one or more case studies of successful schemes in each region. These show what can be achieved and provide an introduction to considering the public realm as part of our historic environment.

East Midlands

The East Midlands is a region of contrasts and diversity. From the mountainous Peak District to Lincolnshire fenland, from coal mining to cotton weaving, its identity is many layered. Geology and the history of industry are two of the key factors influencing the distinctiveness of the sub-areas within the region. This is readily apparent in the region's historic buildings and also, where it survives, in the streetscape of its settlements.

Case study: Grantham Market Place, Lincolnshire

East of England

The East of England region is predominantly fertile agricultural countryside punctuated with many small towns and villages. The diversity of places has produced a wide range of building types and settlement patterns. These range from the brick of Bedfordshire, the timber frames of Suffolk, and the medieval contrasts of Cambridge to the garden suburb conformity of Letchworth.

Case study : Saturday Market Place, King’s Lynn, Norfolk


Unlike Paris, Berlin or New York, London is a collection of urban villages, each with their own distinctive character and sense of place, which developed around the twin cores of the Cities of London and Westminster. Well-designed environmental improvements can help to nurture this local distinctiveness and revitalise local communities.

Case Study : The Ancient Market, Kingston upon Thames

North East

The North East region is broadly defined as the area between the Pennines and the North Sea to the north of the Cleveland Hills. 70% of the population live in the industrialised conurbations along the rivers Tyne, Tees and Wear.

This means that there is a distinctly rural hinterland and 13% of the region is designated National Park. This diversity of places has produced a wide range of building types and settlement patterns from the contrasts of medieval Durham to the classical conformity of Grainger Town in Newcastle.

Case study: Central Station, Newcastle upon Tyne

North West

The North West's landscape can be divided into three distinct areas: the uplands of Cumbria and the Pennines; the lowland plains of West Lancashire and Cheshire; and the urban areas of Greater Manchester and other industrial towns. These three areas have distinctive geologies, reflected in the materials used in historic streets.

The industrial towns have great civic monuments, reflecting their key role in England's Victorian prosperity, built of stones from a wide range of sources.

The compact, walled cities of Carlisle and Chester have comparable plans of ancient origin, but their buildings are very different: red sandstone in Carlisle and black and white timber framing in Chester. The upland towns and villages were founded on hard rocks that went on to become the local building material, creating a visual harmony between landscape and built form.

Case study : Goose Green, Altrincham, Great Manchester

South East

The South East Region, despite its location in a geological area characterised by softer rocks or by the absence of rocks altogether, has a surprisingly diverse vernacular building and paving tradition. In some instances fired clay materials, such as the famous pan-tiles of Tunbridge Wells were developed where natural materials were unavailable. The South East's Cathedral cities contain internationally famous street scenes such as Oxford's High Street, or Winchester's Cathedral Close.

Today, virtually no paving stone is quarried within the region. Where traditional paving exists, it thus requires identifying and conserving as a key indicator of local distinctiveness, and to influence the choice of alternative materials.

Case study: Frideswide Square, Oxford

South West

The South West contains the most complex geology of the English regions. The paving traditions reflect the richness and diversity of its geology. Most types of stone are represented, from the granites and virtual marbles of Cornwall and west Devon, to the carboniferous sandstones of the Bristol and Forest of Dean areas.

Regional characteristics of street design not only extend to materials, but to design, details and to the form of streets. Within the geological and topographical complexity of South West England, it is the patchwork of sub-regional characteristics that gives the region its rich paving tradition. Some of these stone sources are being rediscovered both for their natural beauty and hard wearing quality, such as the Purbeck stone used in the enhancement of Swanage's seafront (an area originally developed for the export of this resource used in paving the streets of London after the Great Fire of 1666).

Case study : Devon Cobbled Paths Project

West Midlands

Although geographically compact, the West Midlands shows great variety, from the dense urban development of the conurbation in the centre, to the thinly populated rural areas along the Welsh Border and in the Peak District. The influence of topography and geology on local development was crucially affected by the industrial revolution, not least in the appearance of the streetscape.

Industrially-produced materials were often locally sourced as part of the region's brickmaking and iron founding industries and are now as much a part of the character of towns in the region as other, more traditional materials. Their effect is far more varied than is generally supposed, and their survival is worth recording. The region's volcanic past has also provided distinctive stone used in highways. Where traditional sources of such material have been worked out, planning is needed to source suitable materials for repairs and replacement.

Case study: Church Street, Birmingham

Yorkshire and the Humber

Yorkshire and the Humber is one of the most diverse of the English regions. The southwest is heavily urbanised, while to the north and east, there are extensive rural areas. This diversity is reflected in the character of the buildings and streets of its villages, towns and cities. A key contributor to this has been the underlying geology.

Throughout history, the region's geology has supplied a wide range of stone for its buildings (including sandstones, limestone and ironstone) and its clays have influenced a diverse palette of brick types and roofing materials.
Prior to the industrial era the building materials - including paving materials - were locally sourced. River cobbles, sandstone and limestone setts were all applied and still survive, especially in the region's many market towns and villages. Yorkstone is just one of these paving materials and has been quarried since the medieval period.

In some parts, its industrial processes have contributed to the materials seen in the streetscape. Industrial towns and cities also have distinctive plans, predominantly built on loose grid patterns or created as a sequence of streets linking squares and spaces. In contrast, York's plan is medieval (with elements following the streets of the earlier Roman, Anglian and Viking cities) with its tight network of streets and alleys enclosed by the city walls.

Case study: Kingston-upon-Hull