A large medieval castle keep dramatically floodlit at twilight.

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The Great Tower at Dover Castle, Kent. © Historic England

Military Heritage

This page provides information on Historic England's current military heritage projects.  Aimed at students of contemporary and conflict archaeology, and people interested in military heritage, its protection and conservation, it provides details on recording and assessing the significance of military heritage.

Military sites

Many military sites are protected as listed buildings or scheduled monuments.  Read more about artillery defences and medieval and later fieldworks in our Introduction to Heritage Assets series. You can also find out about the criteria we use to select sites for protection in our military listing and scheduling guides.

We must understand military heritage if we are to manage it effectively so that it can be enjoyed by this and future generations. Historic England has undertaken and commissioned military heritage research since the early 1990s. A report provides a summary of the first decade of activity.

A project is being carried out on two towns closely associated with the military at Gosport and Sheerness to more fully understand how the military has acted to promote and constrain growth.  Greater knowledge of their character will contribute to better future development.

Twentieth century Civil Defence structures still require further research. We have summarised our current knowledge on civil defence into a short guide. A report has been completed on emergency railway control centres.

Hurst Castle, Hampshire, located on the Solent it was originally built by Henry VIII
between 1541 and 1544, it was extensively modernised during the 19th century and remained
in military use until 1956
Hurst Castle, Hampshire, the first fortification was built by Henry VIII between 1541 and 1544, it was extensively modernised during the 19th century and remained in military use until 1956 © EH N071873

The First World War

To mark the commemorative centennial period of the First World War we will be running a number of projects to reveal the effect of the war on England ’s buildings, countryside, and even off shore.

Working with our partners at the Council for British Archaeology we are encouraging local researchers to share their knowledge of the war in their areas.

Oblique aerial colour photo of an isolated marine fort, built on a platform in the middle of the River Humber in Yorkshire
Bull Sand Fort, River Humber, one of two sea forts constructed during the First World War to protect the approaches to Hull © Historic England/20620/042

The Second World War

We have carried out historical research into Second World War sites such as anti-aircraft gunnery, radar, coast artillery, the bombing decoys and civil defence structures at the National Archives, Kew. 

This research has revealed the number and distribution of such sites in England. Books on these themes are being published in partnership with Methuen in their Monuments of War series
During the 1990s, as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Defence of Britain Project volunteers identified and recorded many anti-invasion defences. Download the report from the Britarch Website.

Following completion of this project we undertook a study of 'defence areas': areas of England where the defence structures remain within a landscape unchanged since construction. You can order the book on the CBA website.

During our recent survey of the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, we made a study of the anti-invasion stop line from Hoo St Werburgh to Higham Marshes.

A colour view of Audley End, a white 17th-century house, which can be seen in the background. Ornamental gardens with willow trees can be seen in the foreground.
Audley End House, Essex, Second World War anti-tank blocks guard a bridge over the river Granta.  © Historic England/DP111055

The Cold War

We have undertaken a national survey of Cold War sites in England and the most significant have been protected.  You can read about our research in a fully illustrated book Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989

RAF Neatishead, Norfolk, a large, green, late 1950s Type 84 radar, scheduled
RAF Neatishead, Norfolk, a late 1950s Type 84 radar, scheduled. © Historic England AA98/05737

Future priorities

Over the coming years our priorities include;

  • Achieving a greater understanding of the effects of the First World War on England’s buildings and countryside.
  • Working with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that significant sites are recognised and protected.
  • Investigation to increase understanding of other types of 20th century Military sites.

Research questions and impact

Research will have impact if it helps us understand the extent to which the armed forces have adapted historic places. In turn, it will help reveal how much of their work remains, its condition, and the management regimes or statutory protection measures that will best ensure the survival of the most significant places either in military or civilian use.

Research questions that will help our mission include:

  • What is the character and significance of poorly understood classes of military building types and sites?
  • How have past and current military land use, military towns and settlements shaped local character and how can this inspire reuse and regeneration?
  • What has worked well and less well where historic military buildings and places have been adapted to meet the needs of the 21st century armed forces or to act as the foundations for new distinct civilian places?

If you would like to collaborate with us in answering these questions please contact [email protected]. For other enquiries on our military heritage research plase contact Wayne Cocroft using the address below.


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