Context 152 - November 2017

6 C O N T E X T 1 5 2 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 7 DEBORAH MAYS Listing’s 70th anniversary From the Modern Domesday to digital enrichment, from the humble to the splendid, through Greenbacks and Bluebacks, listing brings beauty and culture to social and economic life. In 1947, theTown and Country Planning Act set out, as described by the proposing minister, Lewis Silkin MP, ‘to begin a new era in the life of this country, an era in which human happiness, beauty and culture will play a greater part in its social and economic life than they have done before.’¹ This represented the birth of ‘buildings of special architectural or historic interest’, a new subset of our built and historic environment that, unlike their scheduled predecessors, could be inhabited and subject to appropri- ate and necessary change, provided that their character be maintained.This class of – still, mostly – buildings was to be a living resource for people, underpinning everything from personal economics and local communities to national pride in a heritage of place that was still only beginning to be fully appreciated. As such, private, public and future interests could benefit from and enjoy the design, context, narrative and material form of listed fabric and settings. The process also captured a myriad of other values that we have later come to recognise, from embodied energy and sustainability to their potential to spearhead regeneration that would be ‘heritage-led’. Such listings, as they became familiarly known, might be grand structures or modest fabric, as they needed only to display a specialness to their architecture and its history.The list today continues to recognise the humble tradition of good building, be it in the 1950s terraced housing by Tayler and Green, or classical splendour, such as the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute, completed in 1835. So today the UK boasts a total of 463,550 listed buildings.With a population approaching 66.3 million, that is a valuable drop in a very large ocean. Seventy years on there is much to celebrate. Ever evolving and developing since their inception, the lists have continued to respond to changing demands and expectations.They were first progressed from salvage lists – drawn up to determine whether a particular building should be protected from demolition if bomb damaged – in a pioneering survey led from 1947 by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.The initial nationwide list, necessarily prepared on a heroic scale, took nearly 25 years and resulted in 120,000 entries. It has been referred to as ‘The Modern Domesday’. In response to the intensive urban redevelopment of the 1960s, and the introduction of listed building consent through the Town and Country Planning Act 1968, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government set in motion a fresh survey, the ‘resurvey’. This work focused initially on 39 historic cities and towns, the centres of which were particularly threatened by post-war redevelopment. Consequently, it left the rural areas with the brief list entries of their first incarnation.These lists were published in spiral-bound volumes fromDecember 1970 with green covers earning them the nickname ‘the Greenbacks’. The chosen administrative unit of the A crinkle-crankle wall to Grade II listed village housing by Tayler and Green at Scudamore Place, Ditchingham, Norfolk.‘The estate as a whole is notable for the sensitivity of its detailing, the ingenuity of its layout and the rich design quality generated from simple, inexpensive materials,’ says the listing entry. (Photo: James O Davies, Historic England Archive) References ¹ Hansard, Lewis Silkin introducing the second reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill, HC Deb, 29 January 1947