A Listed Building is one that is considered of special architectural or historical interest, and therefore of a national importance. These are added to the National Heritage List for England, which seeks to protect Listed Buildings. There are different grades of significance, ranging from Grade I listed buildings – of the highest importance and interest – to Grade II listed buildings, which constitute up to 92% of all listed buildings according to Historic England, and Grade III listed buildings. Listed buildings are not just houses and cottages or traditional residential buildings; they can also include structures such as bridges, memorials, telephone kiosks, and even gravestones!
As listed building contractors, we know better than anyone how strict the controls are when it comes to making changes to their interior and exterior decoration, or construction. Owners of listed buildings should apply for listed building consent prior to changes that might threaten the special architectural or historical features of the property or structure. They should also seek the advice of listed building contractors who can help to restore the building within listed building guidelines and oversee and support the application.
In South Oxfordshire alone, there are over 3,500 listed buildings! These constitute a small but important part of the UK’s estimated 500,000 listed buildings. Some of our favourite famous listed buildings in Oxfordshire are: The Bodleian Library, Christ Church, and Swalcliffe Barn.
The Bodleian Library, Oxfordshire
This is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, dating back to the 15th century. It is the second most-stocked library in Britain, with over 12 million printed items. The library pictured is the more modern addition to the Bodleian library’s collection, the Radcliffe Library. Over the years the library has had to expand to shelve the huge collection of books stored by the University of Oxford.
The New Bodleian Library is a Grade II listed building and was designed in 1940. The library had 11 floors, and the three below ground floors held 50% of the library’s books. After a £78 million investment and the careful work of listed Building contractors and city planners, the New Bodleian Library – one of the largest and most important repositories of historical and legal deposit materials in the world – re-opened as the Weston Library in 2015.t
Christ Church College, Oxford
Christ Church College was founded in 1546. Various parts of the college grounds are Grade I listed buildings and structures, including the Cathedral, the library, Mercury Fountains and a couple of the quadrangles as shown in the photo. Only 2.5% of all listed buildings are Grade I, so buildings and structures of this grading need very careful conservation and teams of specialist listed building contractors. Christ Church now houses a busy academic community with 600 students living there. Many of you might recognise the college grounds from the Harry Potter films. Many of the scenes were filmed in The Great Hall at Christ Church, where the great Hogwart’s feasts happen. It’s no surprise that such an architecturally stunning listed building should inspire the magical tales of J.K Rowling and Lewis Carroll too.
Swalcliffe Barn, Oxfordshire
Swalcliffe Barn is a medieval barn in the midst of the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, overlooking Swalcliffe. It was constructed in 1401 for New College Oxford, and is now a museum for agricultural and trade vehicles from the local area, after being acquired by the Oxfordshire Buildings Trust in 1990. The barn is one of the finest existing 15th century half-cruck barns in the country. Half cruck architecture is thought to belong to Celtic tradition, and involves finding a suitable tree with a curved trunk to form a roof which is fully supported by crucks, meaning that the walls do not bear weight and can be easily changed.
These famous examples reveal how architectural and historical buildings or structures can be preserved successfully for generations to enjoy. Just remember that any work undertaken to any listed building will require specialist listed building contractors, so that important national structures are protected.