Introduction to listed buildings

By , June 13, 2015 3:55 pm

Buildings are usually listed due to their architectural importance or because they have associations with an important historical person. There are three types of listing: Grade 1, Grade ll*and Grade ll. Most houses are Grade ll. What the listing means is that you are not allowed to alter the building without Planning Permission and/ or Listed Building Consent from Wiltshire Council. This is a safeguard to protect the historically valuable parts of the building and doesn’t mean that you can never alter it – just that you must do it in a sympathetic way that doesn’t harm the character.

Many people think that the listing only applies to the exterior and/or the ‘older’ bits of a house. THIS IS NOT TRUE. The whole building is protected. It doesn’t matter if you have parts that were built 10 years ago attached to something that was built 400 years ago – the whole thing is listed and therefore protected. Everything inside is protected too. So if you have old lime plaster left on the walls or ceilings for instance, then you must not hack it off and replace it with plasterboard or modern gypsum plasters. The undulating nature of lime plaster gives the house character and interest and allows the walls to breathe (ie. allows moisture to move out through the building fabric and not become trapped inside causing dampness and decay).

As a general guide, repairs made on a like – for like basis do not require permission. For example; replacing part of a rotten window sill by splicing in new wood of the same species would not require permission. However, wholesale replacement of the window would need permission even if it was exactly the same in every detail as the one being removed. This is because it is always preferable to repair rather than to replace. In this way you save as much of the original as possible (and as a bonus – it’s cheaper!)

If in doubt always ask a conservation officer at Wiltshire Council for advice before you begin anything – they are always willing to help. Another excellent source of information is The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings ( They have a free telephone advice line and many useful pamphlets and books that you can order.

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