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Getting a Workhouse Building Listed

If you know of a former workhouse building that is under threat of destruction and which you think is worthy of preservation, you can apply for it to be "listed" and so given statutory protection. The body responsible for administering the listing system in England is English Heritage (EH). The actual listing decision is made by the Department for Culture Media and Sport based on an assessment made by EH.

What Can Be Listed?

Although listing is most commonly thought of as applying to whole buildings, virtually any structure can be listed, such as a wall or even a gatepost.

Is the Building Already Listed?

A first step is to check whether the building in question is already listed by checking the English Heritage database of listed buildings.

Is the Building a Good Candidate for Listing?

English Heritage apply various criteria before recommending that a building is listed. For information regarding workhouses and related buildings you should consult their online guide to listing "Health and Welfare" buildings.

Making an Application

To nominate a structure to be listed, use the online application form. You will need to supply a fair amount of information about the building, including maps, current photos, and evidence to support your proposal that the building is worthy of protection

What if the Application is Urgent?

If the application is urgent, i.e. you believe the structure is in imminent danger of destruction, you should follow the same procedure as above and provide as much of the required information as possible. Make it clear in your submission (e.g. in the "Threat" section) that the structure is in immediate danger. There is a procedure known as "spot listing" which English Heritage, if they consider it appropriate, can instigate to give a structure temporary protection until a full evaluation of the submission can be carried out.

What About the Rest of the UK?

Similar procedures to the above exist in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, administered by separate agencies.

Any Other Advice?

It's possible that publicity about efforts to preserve a building in danger may lead its owners to accelerate their plans to demolish it. Permission is not required to demolish unlisted buildings (unless in a designated conservation area) although in the case of dwellings 28 days notice must be given. Your first priority, therefore, should be to submit a listing nomination as quickly as possible. However, once an application has been submitted, the owners of the property will be informed of the fact.

Even if a listing application is unsuccessful, it is invariably useful to organise local support and publicity to preserve buildings of architectural or historical interest. A weight of opposition to a redevelopment can sometimes influence local planning committee decisions. Some possible activities include:

  • Contacting relevant local organisations such as the town council, civic societies and local history groups.
  • Contacting local newspapers, contact radio and TV stations.
  • Collecting as much information as you can on the building and its history. You may unearth something significant that strengthens the case for listing. The recent discovery that Charles Dickens once lived a few doors away from London's Cleveland Street workhouse was an important factor in EH's decision to recommend it for listing.
  • If appropriate, formulating alternative ideas and plans for the building. Preserved buildings cannot just be put in aspic, they need to be used.

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