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Historic Environment Records (HERs)

This is a brief guide to help you access the wealth of information on archaeology and the historic built environment held within a national network of local Historic Environment Records (HERs).

HERs are an important starting point for anyone interested in the archaeology, built heritage, and history of an area. They can provide information on a wide variety of buildings and sites, from finds of prehistoric flint tools to medieval castles and Second World War pillboxes.

HERs are a primary source of information for planning, development-control work, and land management.

View onto cemetery with two chapels at Porthmeor Hill, St Ives, Cornwall.
Cemetery at Porthmeor Hill, St Ives, Cornwall. © English Heritage (DP140979)

What is a HER?

HERs are information services that provide access to comprehensive and dynamic resources relating to the archaeology and historic built environment of a defined geographic area.

HERs contain details on local archaeological sites and finds, historic buildings and historic landscapes and are regularly updated. This information is usually held in a database with a digital mapping system (Geographic Information System).

There are over 85 HERs in England which are maintained and managed by local authorities as the essential core of historic environment services. These are mainly county council or unitary authority based, but may also be held by joint services (i.e. more than one authority working together), district councils, and national parks. Similar records are maintained by major landowners, such as, the National Trust.

We maintain and make available contact details for all local authority and most national park authority HERs in England on the Heritage Gateway website.


Street view onto Frenchgate, Richmond, North Yorkshire, with Richmond Castle in the background.
View of Frenchgate, Richmond, North Yorkshire, with Richmond Castle in the background. © English Heritage (DP028142)

What HER records can I see online?

HERs are public records and welcome enquiries.

Many HERs, but not all, provide online access to basic information in their records. 

Nearly two-thirds of HERs are available online through the Heritage Gateway where you can cross search several national as well as local datasets on the historic environment.

A number of HERs are available online through their host authority

Historic environment information for planning related, and research project, enquiries

If you require historic environment information for planning-related enquiries, please contact the relevant HER directly and they will also be able to provide related specialist advice on development management, land management and other historic environment matters.

You may also wish to contact the HER direct if you have a data request for a research project.

You can telephone, write, or send an email giving details of the nature and purpose of your enquiry.  HER staff will advise if there is a search charge and how they can provide data in a form to suit you.

Most HERs also welcome visits to the office where you can view the database and collection of supporting materials. Please contact the HER to arrange an appointment.

Further information about HERs

From their early origins as records based on Ordnance Survey Archaeology Branch index cards, HERs were previously known as Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) before developing into systems representing the wider historic environment.

Most HERs maintain three types of record dealing with:

  • Monuments (these can define any type of heritage feature, including buildings)
  • Events (fieldwork such as excavation or building survey)
  • Sources and archives

These are combined into a single database with monuments and events linked to layers in a Geographical Information System (GIS).

In addition to all known non-designated archaeological sites, HER records may cover:

  • Non-designated buildings and standing structures of historic interest, and where a Local List is held, those identified as locally significant
  • Designated Heritage Assets (e.g. listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks, registered parks and gardens and registered battlefields)
  • Conservation areas
  • Sites with known palaeo-environmental interest
  • Historic landscape character studies including urban surveys
  • Regional and local thematic studies of archaeological sites or historic buildings
  • Finds recorded under the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Selected major historic towns and cities are covered by Urban Archaeological Databases (UADs). In many cases, UADs are held as part of, and are accessible via, the local HER.

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