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Historic England asks architects to help 'crowd-source' listing knowledge

Perrot’s Folly, Birmingham, thought to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
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Architects across the country are being urged by Historic England to come forward with information on protected buildings in a major shake-up of the way in which listed properties and places are recorded

For the first time, the government’s National Heritage List for England is being opened up to public contributions in what Historic England says is a bid to ’crowd-source knowledge’ and ‘unlock the secrets’ of the past.

The heritage body admits that its records of England’s 400,000 most significant historic buildings and places are incomplete and it needs help to provide a better picture.

Roger Bowdler, director of listing at Historic England, said: ’We are keen for architects to share their knowledge and photographs of listed buildings. They may have researched a building’s history or uncovered layers of its past and we need their help in capturing this information for future generations.’

The list of England’s national heritage began in 1882 and is managed by Historic England for the Department for Culture Media and Sport. It has around 400,000 entries but in some cases there is very little information.

’In some cases there is much that remains unknown’

’Many buildings on the list are well-known and even world-famous. But in some cases there is much that remains unknown. That’s why we need your help – so we can share images, insights and understanding of England’s special places, and capture these for future generations,’ said Bowdler.

Responding to the news yesterday, Ian Morrison, chief executive, the Architectural Heritage Fund, told the AJ: ’This is a very welcome and exciting development by Historic England. The list of historic buildings is the primary source of information about this country’s architectural heritage and contains a wealth of architectural and historical detail.’

He added: ’Yet, such is the extraordinary depth and variety of buildings on the list, spanning over 1,000 years of English social, industrial and political history, that Historic England by itself cannot possibly record everything of interest.’

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, also welcomed he move: ’We hope including information from people and community groups will spark a wider interest in these very special places – and that new candidates for listing will come forward as a result.’

Historic England has highlighted 21 examples where it is seeking information, personal accounts and photographs to help fill in the gaps.

These range from the Rufus Stone in Hampshire, near the spot where William II was shot dead by an arrow in 1100, to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and a Boots shop built in Nottingham between 1905 and 1907.

Others include:

  • England’s first mosque, set up in Liverpool in 1887
  • the Gloucestershire site of the first smallpox vaccination by Edward Jenner
  • the Blackpool Tower
  • 15th century fireplaces in Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
  • the world’s oldest surviving lifeboat, the Zetland, which launched in Redcar, Teesside, in 1802
  • Perrot’s Folly, Birmingham, thought to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
  • The headstone of Hannah Twynnoy, eaten by a tiger in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 1703
  • A tombstone erected by Marianna Lawton to Bullie the Bullfinch in Cheshire in 1853 after allegedly teaching the bird to sing God Save the Queen
  • A monks’ lavatory at the 13th century ruins of Bayham Abbey, East Sussex
  • A gibbet post in Shackerstone, Leicestershire
  • A scaled-down replica of a German dam in St Albans, Hertfordshire
  • A ducking stool in Canterbury
  • The first purpose-built hostel for single working women, which opened in Manchester in 1910
  • The world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, at Brooklands, Surrey
  • A memorial WW1 fighter pilot Albert Ball in Nottingham
  • The Cavendish Laboratory of Experimental Physics in Cambridge
  • An Anti Air War memorial in Woodford Green, Essex
  • A prehistoric site on Ingleborough Hill, North Yorkshire

England’s first mosque, set up in Liverpool in 1887

England’s first mosque, set up in Liverpool in 1887

Number 8 Brougham Terrace in Liverpool was converted in 1887 into what is thought to be England’s first Mosque.


Catherine Croft, director, Twentieth Century Society
’This is a great way of making us all more aware of the heritage that surrounds us in our daily lives. While dry, old style list descriptions included little more than an address, the new style ones are packed with fascinating information and are a fabulous resource, especially for post war buildings, which are still often misunderstood.

’Asking the public to compliment this rigorous analysis with images and stories will guide more people to the list as well as showing just how profoundly buildings impact on all our lives. This is a fantastic way to support the case for protection and imaginative reuse, but we must not underrate less accessible buildings, or those with less immediate popular appeal, as a result.’

Anthony Geraghty, chairman, The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
’We welcome the widest possible public engagement with the built heritage of the past. However, we also believe that there must remain a careful photographic record, and that this must remain the responsibility of our national bodies for heritage and conservation. A careful record is necessary to preserve the detail and structural matters that will inform the future care and conservation of the historic environment.’

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