A symmetrical urban pub front with the words "The Red Lion" over the door.
Red Lion, 2 Duke Of York Street, Mayfair, Westminster, Greater London © Historic England Archive DP370919 Visit the list entry for The Red Lion Public House.
Red Lion, 2 Duke Of York Street, Mayfair, Westminster, Greater London © Historic England Archive DP370919 Visit the list entry for The Red Lion Public House.

What Are Listed Buildings?

Buildings that are of special architectural or historic interest can be listed, which gives them legal protection.

The record of each listed building is hosted on the National Heritage List for England (known as the NHLE, or the List). The NHLE is a publicly available, searchable database that contains information on England’s protected heritage. There are other forms of protection and recognition for heritage included on the NHLE, including scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens.

What is Listing?

Listing covers more than just castles and stately homes, and can include banks, garden walls, shops, mills, bridges, synagogues, factories and more. Not all listed buildings are centuries old and many are still in use, but buildings that are less than 30 years old are not usually considered for listing. Listing celebrates and provides protection to the nation’s special buildings, and anyone can recommend a building for listing through our application process. Once a building is listed, changes which might affect its special interest have to be managed through the planning system.

Listing buildings of special architectural or historical interest began in the 1940s, with the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1944 and 1947. The list is currently compiled under the terms of section 1 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

We often use the word ‘listing’ as shorthand for other forms of designation, but on this page it refers to the list of buildings of special architectural or historical interest.


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

What are the criteria for listing buildings?

The Secretary of State is required to include in the list buildings which are of special architectural or historic interest. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Principles of Selection for Listed Buildings’ document (2018) sets out the non-statutory criteria for assessing and considering whether a building is of special architectural or historic interest.

Special historic interest is about the connection between the building and the people who use or have used it, the things that happen or have happened there, the ideas that were developed there or the role that the building played in the nation’s history. These aspects may not be obvious at first glance, and so it is helpful if they are explained in an application for listing. Our guidance on Understanding Special Historic Interest in Listing provides advice on how we might assess a building’s special historic interest, as well as examples to illustrate the historic interest of different buildings.

Special architectural interest is about the design and construction of a building, the aspects that we can see and understand when we look at a building. A building might have been designed by a well-known architect, it might be architecturally distinct, or it might be a good example of a style from a particular period or part of the country. Sometimes a building might be a rare example, or it might be of modest design and construction, ensuring we have a sample of all different types of buildings on the NHLE, including building types that were once everyday and commonplace. There is guidance available on a wide range of building types in our series of Listing Selection Guides. The guides provide advice on what we might look at when considering an application to list a particular type of building, as well as a brief history of that building type.

How many listed buildings are there? 

There are over 370,000 entries for listed buildings on the National Heritage List for England. Entries on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) can sometimes cover multiple individual buildings, such as a row of terraced houses.

Looking after listed buildings

Listed buildings can be enjoyed and used, like any other building. Listing doesn’t prevent any change or freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its character as a building of special interest. Listing status covers the entire building, so works which require consent might include the replacement of windows and internal alterations, for example.

In making a decision on all listed building consent applications, the Local Planning Authority must have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses. The Local Planning Authority is also able to consider other issues, such as the building’s function or condition.

You can find out more about living in and caring for an older property here:

Carrying out works to a listed building without listed building consent is a criminal offence. It may also be necessary to apply for planning permission in addition to listed building consent in order to carry out works to a listed building.

A list entry contains a description of each building to aid identification. However, the amount of information in the description varies considerably depending on when it was listed. You can find out more about list entries here.

How are listed buildings graded?

Buildings can be listed at Grade II, II* or I.

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

Did you know?

  • One of the tallest listed buildings (measuring in at a huge 330 metres tall) is the Arqiva Tower, previously known as the ITA Transmitting Tower. It was built between 1969-71 to designs by Ove Arup and Partners and towers over Emley Moor in West Yorkshire.
  • Some unusual examples of listed buildings include:
  • One of the oldest listed buildings is also the oldest church in England: The Church of St Martin in Canterbury, Kent has fabric dating back to the 7th century.
  • One of the more unusually shaped buildings on the NHLE, the complex geometric design of the 1960s Plastic Classroom at Kennington Primary School, Lancashire was designed to embrace new teaching methods. Nicknamed 'the bubble', this quirky design was a prototype and made early use of computer aided design (CAD). 
  • Brick is a common construction material in England, and the NHLE includes several of the world’s top ten largest brick-built buildings. The third largest is London’s St Pancras Station, followed by Battersea Power Station in fourth place and the tobacco warehouse at Stanley Docks in Liverpool in fifth place. Built in 1900, it is also the largest brick-built warehouse in the world, constructed using 27 million bricks! 

Listing Helpdesk