Greenwich © David Lovell
Greenwich © David Lovell

Enriching the List

By David Lovell, listed building enthusiast and top contributor to Enriching the List. Shortlisted for a Historic England Angel Award 2016.

Editor's note: Information correct at time of original publication. The 'Enriching the List' project has since become the Missing Pieces Project. Find out more.

The Town & Country Planning Act 1947 set up the National Heritage List for England. The list is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England.

It would be difficult to imagine an England without this protection. Listed buildings need to be protected for future generations. Every listed building is unique and offers us today evidence of how that particular building has evolved over time. Perhaps we can see the use of local materials or it may be an example of a particular architectural style.

Listed buildings and sites are at risk from factors such as redevelopment or fire or just general neglect. The threat may be greater in town and city centres where there may be the greatest pressure for redevelopment.

Heritage is a very important area of the economy which attracts many visitors. The National Trust and English Heritage are some of the large number of organisations involved in the heritage sector. Nowhere in England is very far from a property which is run by these organisations. The Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Stonehenge and Hampton Court are some of the listed properties with big visitor numbers both from home and overseas. Parish churches are some of the oldest and largest buildings using the best materials which were available and the craftsmanship from a bygone age may still be seen today.  We can all learn about the use of traditional building materials and see them actually being used in a building. Transport used to be a big cost so local materials in one area could be flint and in another area Bath stone. Roofing could be thatch or stone tiles. This compares with today's use of standardised bricks and tiles picked up from the builders' merchant.

The National Heritage List for England is up-to-date and easily accessible online at no cost and is available at all times. It provides a description of the building or site and a location plan and it includes the reasons for listing. Since July 2016 members of the public have been encouraged to add photographs to the official list and I have added some 10,000 photos to the list site. Some of my photos were in my photographic collection but increasingly I am taking photographs specifically for use on the site.

One of my methods of collecting photographs is to regard visiting a settlement as an orienteering event. I print out a map of an area from the Historic England website with the blue triangles for the listed buildings marked. I then work out a route to include as many of the triangles as I can in the time available. There is much of interest in most towns and villages. The Parish Church or the Market Place is often a good place to include as part of the walk.

The National Heritage List for England needs to evolve to stay relevant because we live in changing times. Old technologies disappear and new ones come in. Many red telephone kiosks have become listed as they were under threat following the introduction of mobile phones. Surviving wartime radar masts and associated buildings are listed. Many mechanical railway signal boxes are listed.

War Memorials were mostly built in the years immediately following WWI following massive loss of life. These memorials are reaching 100 years old and not all are listed. The centenary of the Somme and Passchendaele has been commemorated nationwide recently.

In major city centres there is increasing pressure on valuable sites which would be cleared if it were not for the listing of properties. Even recently built properties such as Number One Poultry completed in 1997 have been listed to give them protection.

It would be helpful if everyone who is reading this article could take a photo of a listed building each day on their mobile phone and upload it to the list. Very quickly we would have an even more up to date and relevant list.

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