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External view of the Grade I listed British Library © Historic England See the British Library's list entry
External view of the Grade I listed British Library © Historic England See the British Library's list entry

Understanding the List Entry

Users of the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) will notice that List entries vary greatly. Some might be a few lines, whereas many are long and detailed. These variations occur for historical reasons and according to which variety of designation (listing, scheduling etc.)

Limitations of the List entry

How much weight can be attached to the actual list description?

The answer will depend on the description in question, but in general the entry should not be relied upon for a detailed assigning of special interest. The description may be a useful starting point for understanding the claims to special interest, but it will not be the last word. Originally, list entries were brief and intended to help with identification. In recent decades, particularly since the start of post-war listing, greater efforts have been made to explain the history of a building and to outline its claims to special interest. Modern List entries (since around 2005) are thus fuller than earlier ones, and it is fair to say that the more recent the description, the more helpful it is likely to be. More recently still, with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (2013), it has been possible to be very precise about which elements of a building are included within the listing. 

The following is a guide to what you'll find under each List entry heading.

List Entry Summary

This refers to the relevant Act that protects this building or site on the List, such as the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Location and Grade

The location primarily provides information to assist with identification of the building or site and usually contains address details.

The grade of a listed structure is intended to be an indication of its special interest in a national context. Scheduled monuments are not graded, but listed buildings and registered landscapes are graded I (exceptional interest), II* (particularly important, of more than special interest) or II (of special interest).

It is a myth that Grade II listing only applies to the exterior; consent may be required for any works inside or out.

Legacy System Information

In early 2011 we carried out the mammoth task of transferring all the existing designation records (known as legacy data) from the old separate databases (containing listing, scheduling, parks and gardens, battlefields and protected wreck records) into one new single list known as the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) or the List.

We deliberately transferred existing records onto the new system, rather than starting afresh. It would have been a colossal enterprise to revise over 400,000 records from scratch. Because of this, many of the older records will contain information showing which database the entry has been drawn from.

The List contains the date that entries were added or amended. Fuller List entries only became the norm in the early 2000s.

Asset Groupings

These were once intended to be used for sites where there are several inter-related buildings or sites which belong together. However, this approach had never been used and it is our intention to remove this heading from the List entries in the near future. Where group value helps to strengthen the case for protection, we will say so.

Summary of Building/Monument/Site/Garden/Battlefield

In newer entries, this generally includes the type of building or site, date/period and architect (if relevant). This will be contained in a single sentence, for example:
‘Summary of Building: board school built c1900 to a design by T J Bailey, dated 1892; north wing completed post-WWI.’

If the List entry predates 2010 it will say ‘Legacy Record – This information may be included in the List Entry Details’. This means that the record has been created from one of our older databases so all the information we have can be found under the Details section.

Reasons for Designation

Since 2005, ‘Reasons for Designation’ have been added.

These summarise the primary reasons why a building or site was added to the List and in what way a site meets the criteria. The principal claims to interest are generally set out in bullet-points. For slightly older listings, this overarching summary might be a sentence or two at the very end, but for the large majority of entries there is no summary at all.

As with the Summary section above, it will say ‘Legacy Record – This information may be included in the List Entry Details’ if the entry predates 2010.


Where it exists, this will usually set out a brief history of the building or site. It introduces the reader to its history by outlining its origins and development.

It might include information on the architect or figures associated with a house, for example. It might also summarise the asset type generally, for example summarising the development of round barrows, to which the entry belongs.

Details of later alterations or excavation history of the site might be included here.

It is not intended to be a full history of a building, monument or landscape and you should refer to Selected Sources (below) for further information, as well as the relevant Selection Guide. Listing is more thorough for modern entries, but for the vast majority, the reader is encouraged to look elsewhere.

As with the sections above, if the List entry has been generated from one of our Legacy Systems then all the information we have is likely to be contained within the Details section below.


The Details section within the List entry Description describes the asset's form, materials, development, style, design and layout, as relevant to that type of building, monument or landscape. It is not an exhaustive description, but a summary of the main features of the building or site.

For listed buildings, this section will generally include the building type, date, architect, materials, plan, exterior and interior details and subsidiary features.

Scheduling entries tend to be broken down into the principal elements, description, indication of survival and sources.

With the Parks and Gardens the details section of the entry will focus on the principal elements. These will be laid out in a logical sequence: for formal landscapes, emanating outwards from the principal building; for cemeteries and parks, working inwards from the main entrance.

It is important to note that descriptions are not a comprehensive or exclusive record of the special interest of the building or site. The amount of information varies considerably from a few sentences to several paragraphs, and some of the older entries from the 1970s are extremely cursory indeed.

Whether a List entry is short or long the effect is the same and the whole principal building is listed. While some entries will make no reference to the interior, unless it is expressly excluded, it is covered by the listing and may be significant. This also applies to those entries which include the words 'listed for group value only'.

Modern List entries will often give a steer about certain features being of lesser or no interest. This is intended to help inform owners and local planning authorities when managing changes. Only if the s.1 (5A) of the Planning Act 1990 is invoked (which will apply in new or revised listings since 26 June 2013) is this definitive. For more information, please see The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act.

Owners and managers should be aware that it is the local planning authority that is responsible for whether listed building consent is required for any works to a listed building or site. Please also be aware that other planning constraints might apply. Local planning authorities are responsible for defining what structures relating to a listed building fall within its curtilage, and are covered by the listing even if not mentioned in the List entry.

If you need further information regarding a listed building, scheduled monument or registered landscape in your care, including any related planning matters, please contact the planning and conservation office in the relevant local authority.

Selected Sources and Map

This section is intended to be a helpful reference. It is not an exhaustive list of evidence for the special qualities of the structure. Please also consider reading the relevant Selection Guide as these documents will contain a helpful summary of the asset type, as well as a number of sources for further reading.

The map within the List entry is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full-scale map, you should follow the link provided on the record.

Your Contributions

Alongside the official List entry is a place for snapshots, stories and insights. Why not share yours?

Contribute to the Missing Pieces Project

Enhanced Advisory Services

It is readily accepted that older list entries need more information and explanation to conform with modern standards. However, we lack the resources to undertake a comprehensive revision of these. Owners and their agents may wish to consider applying for a bespoke revision of entries through our Enhanced Advisory Services.