The history of the ‘List’

What one particular thing do Stonehenge, 17th century town houses, the Forth Bridge and the Beatles’ pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road have all in common?…

…they are all on The List.

The first ‘List’, dating back to 1882, tentatively recorded structures of national architectural or historic interest that protected them from excessive redevelopment. However it was not until the bombings of the Second World War that the idea of protecting individual buildings and private properties really came to the fore. ‘Salvage Lists’ were drawn up, compiling buildings of particular architectural and historical interest, which were to be protected and saved from demolition in case of bomb damage.

Listed status does not necessarily prevent change or alteration — it simply means that consent must be given to any work undertaken, in order to protect what makes it special or unique. We take a brief look what the List and its history:

  • All buildings built before 1700 (which are in anything like their original condition) are listed.
  • The oldest surviving terraced house in London was built in 1658. It survived the Restoration and the Great Fire and can be found on Newington Green. It was actually only listed in 1954 as Grade I.
  • In 1944-1947 the Salvage Lists were drawn up to designate important buildings that required protection in the face of bombing
  • Due to intensive post-war re-development, a new survey was begun in 1968 focusing on 39 historic cities and towns whose centres were particularly threatened.
  • In 1980, the demolition of the beautiful 1930s Art Deco ‘Firestone’ Factory became a national scandal. The story goes that Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for the Environment, had planned to list the building on a specific date, but the developers went ahead and demolished the façade just two days before…a ‘calculated act of philistinism’. This outrage prompted a new survey to be completed, to protect similar buildings from a similar fate.
  • It is only since 2011 that the List has been available to the public online. In 2016 Historic England opened their doors wider and invited the public to collaborate with them, creating a platform to share photos and information, called ‘Enriching the List’

Nowadays, the List has been extended to include structure such as lidos, airports, cinemas and even the former bus station at Milton Keynes. There are 11,000 listed buildings in the Borough of Westminster. RBKC has 3,800, and the City only 600.

Goodbody & Co. have worked on a number of listed buildings over the years. If your require any advice and support on planning applications, materials, energy efficiency or building work, please do email our building & project management team on