Listing began in Britain on January 1st 1950, under an austere post-war Labour government. Sadly, we were not the first in the field; the French had been classifying historic buildings for the previous hundred years!
In England English Heritage has the task of identifying and recommending to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport any buildings deemed appropriate for listing. Buildings can be listed because of age, rarity, architectural merit, and method of construction. Occasionally a building is selected because it has played a part in the life of a famous person, or as the scene for an important event. Sometimes a group of buildings may be listed. Almost all buildings more than 250 years old are listed, but hardly any built after 1940. Similar arrangements exist for other parts of the UK.
Listed buildings are graded as follows:
Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest.
Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
Grade II are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
There are currently about 500 000 listed building, over 90% being Grade II, and Lechlade has its fair share of these.
The complete list can be inspected free at the National Monuments Record Centre in Swindon. Details of many can also be found at www.imagesofengland.org.uk
Once a building is listed there are constraints placed on the owner in connection with any repairs or alterations. In addition to the normal Planning Consent a more stringent Listed Planning Consent is required. Whilst this helps to preserve the built heritage of the area it can be a major irritant for the owner!