What is a Listed Building?
Listed buildings have slightly different categories depending on where you live in the UK. Nevertheless, each authority broadly agrees on the definition of a listed building: a building of special architectural or historical interest. As a rule of thumb, the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. According to Historic England, ‘all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed’, and generally a building has to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing.
England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all have different listing systems. England and Wales define buildings as Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. Scotland uses A, B and C while Northern Ireland uses A, B+ and B. It’s worth noting that the categories aren’t necessarily interchangeable – a Grade II* listed building in England might not meet the specifications for a Grade B+ building in Northern Ireland.
If a property is listed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t live there, decorate or renovate it. In the event that you make any changes that could impact the property’s ‘special interest’, you’ll just have to have to apply for consent from your local authority.
How Many Listed Buildings Are There?
According to British Listed Buildings, there are around 500,000 listed buildings across the UK.
You’ll find a vibrant mix of listed buildings across the UK – as the definition of ‘listed’ is so broad, listed buildings are in almost every town and city. What’s more, they might not be the buildings you’d expect.
The BT Tower, for example, is listed, and so is the Balfron Tower tower block in east London. Not as pretty as Westminster Abbey, perhaps, but a stunning example of Brutalist architecture. Furthermore, buildings aren’t necessarily synonymous with popular buildings; Preston Bus Station, which has been branded an ‘eyesore’, was awarded listed status in 2013.
Glenfinnan Viaduct, from visitscotland.com
Famous Listed Buildings
You’re definitely familiar with listed buildings, even if you don’t know it! As well as frequently being the site of historic events, listed buildings are often chosen as locations for film or TV because they provide stunning backdrops. The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Inverness-shire, Scotland, for example, will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the Harry Potter films. Similarly, Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland, will be instantly recognisable to Games of Thrones fans as Winterfell.
Some listed buildings are more obviously ‘iconic’ than others. Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire is often seen in television or films and is also the famous for being the setting for the Profumo Affair in the 1960s. In Wales, on the other hand, you’ll see a spectacular Grade I listed building if you happen to drive from Gloucestershire into Chepstow over… the Severn Bridge!
If you’re in England and Wales, read the listed selection guides here. If you’re in Scotland, find out about listed buildings here. For Nothern Ireland, click here. Each site has a directory for you to search for listed buildings – why not look up the listed buildings in your town?
Balfron Tower. Photograph by Joe Roberts for East End Review.