Historic England (HE) has published this guidance to help people better understand special historic interest, one of the two main criteria used to decide whether a building can be listed or not: special historic interest being about the connection between the building and the people who use or have used it.
… Special historic interest….is about the connection between the building and the people who use or have used it…
What do a venue known for drag performances, the huts where ‘Enigma’ was decoded and a series of busy covered markets in Brixton, South London, have in common?
They are all listed in recognition of their historic importance. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, on the site of the former Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, has been a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community since at least the 1960s and an important venue for drag performances, while the wooden huts at Bletchley Park housed the codebreakers and the machinery that enabled enemy messages to be intercepted and decoded during World War Two. The Brixton Markets are a symbol of the major social and cultural impact that the Black Caribbean community has made in post-war Britain, and the markets continue to play an important role as social and commercial hubs for the Black Caribbean community in south London and beyond.
These are just a small sample of the special buildings included on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) because they represent an important aspect of the nation’s history or have closely substantiated connections (meaning that the close connection can be evidenced) to a nationally important person, group or event. This importance is recognised by assessing a building’s ‘special historic interest’, which is explained through this guidance….
What is this guidance about?
Special historic interest, the focus of this guidance, 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 they need to be explained in an application for listing. This guidance 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.
This guidance doesn’t apply to other forms of designation that are included on the NHLE, including scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens and registered battlefields, which have different criteria.
- How does the Secretary of State decide what to list?
- Can ‘ordinary’ buildings be listed for their special historic interest?
- How does special historic interest help us to tell untold stories?
- Is change always a bad thing when considering special historic interest?
- How do we decide whether a connection to a person, group or event is strong enough?
- Can multiple places connected with the same person be listed?
- Does the building also need to have ‘special architectural interest’ to be considered for listing?
- The person or event associated with the building I’d like assessed for listing is well-known locally or within my community, but not nationally. Can the building still be assessed for listing?
- How do we address difficult or contested heritage?
- How can we recognise historic interest in other ways?
- Where can I find further advice and support?