Listed Buildings: “Living in a piece of history”

July 31st, 2021

“Listing” marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.

“The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed.”

The general principles are that all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are likely to be listed, as are most buildings built between 1700 and 1850. Particularly careful selection is required for buildings from the period after 1945. Buildings less than 30 years old are not normally considered to be of special architectural or historic interest because they have yet to stand the test of time.

What is a listed building?

Buildings that have a historical or an architectural interest may be listed – the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. To be eligible, a building has to be at least 30 years old. English Heritage has cared for buildings since 1882, but the UK government had been keen for them to transfer the entire national heritage collection to a charitable trust.

In April 2015, after the government had promised to provide £80m to English Heritage, it separated into two parts, becoming, on the one hand, a charity that oversees the collection and, on the other, Historic England – a public body that protects the nation’s wider heritage, administers the listing system, handles all planning-related matters and awards grants.

Listings help prevent any inappropriate renovations or alterations that could detract from a property’s historical interest. All buildings in the UK constructed before 1700 are listed, as are most of the buildings constructed between 1700 and 1840.

How do I find out if a property is listed?

The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) contains details of all listed buildings in England. To find out if a property is listed just search The List.

How are listed buildings graded?

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest, only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.8% of listed buildings are Grade II*
  • Grade II buildings are of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.

Surprisingly the total number of listed buildings is not known, as one single entry on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) can sometimes cover a number of individual units, such as a row of terraced houses. However, we estimate that there are around 500,000 listed buildings on the NHLE.

  • The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England

How does the listing process work?

There are two main routes to listing:

  1. Anyone can nominate a building to be listed and
  2. Historic England has their own strategic programme of listing priorities

In both cases Historic England makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) based on Principles of selection for listed buildings and they make the final decision as whether a site should be listed or not.

What are some of the pros and cons?


·       Knowing that you live in, and own, a historical building is a great feeling – you’re one of the privileged few who gets to enjoy being a part of history.
·       A listed building typically appreciates in value more than other properties – it’s almost unknown for a listed property to depreciate unless it’s been seriously damaged.


·       Listed buildings are expensive to insure. Many new owners don’t realise this but they are liable for any previous unauthorised building or restoration work. As rebuild costs are higher for listed properties, the average insurance quote is also fairly high. However, if you insure the property through specialist insurers, you should be able to make some savings.

·       You may or may not be able to make alterations or renovations to the property. You must first obtain approval of Historic England or your local conservation officer – the reason being that the property has to retain its unique historic character. Any renovations that would alter the original building to its detriment would not be approved.

“Anyone who would enjoy living in a piece of history, would highly likely appreciate the importance of preserving it too. Making the necessary arrangements would only allow them to add value to their listed property.”


·       Due to recent government cutbacks, grants for listed buildings are now much more difficult to obtain. However, you’re more likely to be awarded a grant if your property is a Grade I- or Grade II*- listed property. Speak to your conservation officer.

·       Restoration, whether inside or out, can be an expensive affair. Essential repairs or renovations that have been approved must be undertaken using the same construction methods and materials that were used when the building was originally built.

·       It’s as well to remember that should your local authority consider that you’re not properly preserving the building, it has the authority to serve you with a ‘repairs notice’ and to issue a compulsory purchase order if you do not comply.

How can I check if my property is listed?

To find out if the house or building you own or are about to buy is listed, contact your local authority-planning department, or your county council offices, or search in your local reference library. Alternatively, you can visit the website of Historic England at and print out a copy of the listing details.

What Can and Can’t I Do?

Every listed building is assessed individually, so there are no set rules when it comes to renovations. However, you will require permission for any work that is deemed to alter the internal and external appearance of the building. Work that normally requires consent includes the replacement of windows and doors, the removal of internal walls, and the removal and alteration of fireplaces. You should first check with your local authority’s conservation officer who will advise you what does and doesn’t need consent.

I hope this post is useful to you. Please do let me know if you have anything to add, and I will gladly consider it and add to the article if it helps my readers and don’t forget, if you need further advice/assistance or would like to reach out you can find my contact details below. 

Josephine – Your Trusted London Property Partner

Tel    : +44 (0) 7491 430055