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Protecting Industrial Sites

Historic England and its predecessors have a notable and long record in protecting our industrial heritage through the designation process.

Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill in Derbyshire was listed in 1950, Temple Mill in Leeds, West Yorkshire in 1951 and the famous Flatford Mill at East Bergholt, Suffolk in 1955. Wortley Top Forge, an 18th century ironworks near Barnsley, Yorkshire was scheduled in 1952.

Taylor’s Foundry, Loughborough. One of only four bell foundries surviving in Europe and one of two in England. Bells are cast in the medieval manner, in the floor of  the foundry.  Its listing at grade ll* made clear the outstanding significance of the site when the foundry faced the possibility of closure in 2010
Taylor’s Foundry, Loughborough. One of only four bell foundries surviving in Europe and one of two in England. Bells are cast in the medieval manner, in the floor of the foundry. Its listing at grade ll* made clear the outstanding significance of the site when the foundry faced the possibility of closure in 2010

However, it was not until the Industrial Monuments Survey was established in 1963, following the demolition of the Euston Arch in London, that there was a concerted programme of work in this area. This was re-energised after the loss of the Firestone building in 1980.

The Monuments Protection Programme, established in 1989, added further momentum by combining targeted research with archaeological field assessments, and the listing and scheduling of a number of buildings and monuments.

Scheduling vs Listing

Industrial sites have traditionally been both scheduled and listed. Just where to draw the line has recently proved a testing ground in the debate surrounding heritage protection reform.

Although there is now a preference to list industrial buildings, scheduling will still be the more appropriate approach where archaeological potential is a major factor. At a local level, conservation area designation and local listing can offer a sensible and effective level of protection.

A guide which outlines the selection criteria used when designating industrial structures
A guide which outlines the selection criteria used when designating industrial structures

How we decide what to list

The Listing Department at Historic England (formerly English Heritage) has updated the selection guides for listing. These are the general principles that are applied when deciding whether a building is of special architectural or historic interest and should be added to the list of buildings compiled under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

The guides include historical overviews and special considerations for listing together with select bibliographies.

Those of particular interest include the guides for industrial, transport and communication, and utilities and communication structures. Equivalents for scheduling are currently being drafted.

The National Heritage List for England is now available online and brings together information on all nationally designated assets from listed buildings to registered battlefields. You can find out more about individual sites as well as carrying out detailed searches.

Our priorities for protection

In May 2011, English Heritage (now Historic England) launched its National Heritage Protection Plan, which defined how, with help from the sector, we would prioritise and deliver heritage protection projects over the period 2011 - 2015.

A number of these projects relate to the industrial heritage:

  • An assessment of 20th century industry
  • A national overview of railway buildings, canals and river navigations and ports
  • Consideration of underground mining remains
  • Further progress on a county-wide survey of Lancashire textile mills
  • A preliminary study of workers' housing

The Historic England Action Plan sets out priorities for 2015-2018.

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