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Scheduled ancient monument

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Scheduled ancient monument

In the United Kingdom, a scheduled monument is a 'nationally important' archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change. The various pieces of legislation used for legally protecting heritage assets from damage and destruction are grouped under the term ‘designation’. The protection given to scheduled monuments is given under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979,[1] which is a different law from that used for listed buildings (which fall within the town and country planning system).[1] A heritage asset is a part of the historic environment that is valued because of its historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic interest.[2] Only some of these are judged to be important enough to have extra legal protection through designation.

There are about 20,000 scheduled monuments in England representing about 37,000 heritage assets.[3] Of the tens of thousands of scheduled monuments in the UK, most are inconspicuous archaeological sites, but some are large ruins. According to the 1979 Act, a monument cannot be a structure which is occupied as a dwelling, used as a place of worship or protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. As a rough rule of thumb, a protected historic asset that is occupied would be designated as a listed building.

The legislation relevant to scheduled monuments

Scheduled Monuments are defined in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.[1] In England, Wales and Scotland they are often referred to as a scheduled ancient monument, although the Act defines only ancient monument and scheduled monument. A monument can be:

  • A building or structure, cave or excavation which is above or below the surface of the land; or on / under the sea bed within UK territorial waters (or a site that contains the remains of one)
  • A site comprising any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other moveable structure (or contains the remains of one).[1]

In Northern Ireland they are designated under separate legislation and are referred to as a scheduled historic monument (for those in private ownership) or a monument in state care (for those in public ownership).

The process for designating a scheduled monument

Scheduling offers protection because it makes it illegal to undertake a great range of 'works' within a designated area, without first obtaining 'scheduled monument consent'.[4] However, it does not affect the owner’s freehold title or other legal interests in the land, nor does it give the general public any new rights of public access. The process of scheduling does not automatically imply that the monument is being poorly managed or that it is under threat, nor does it impose a legal obligation to undertake any additional management of the monument.[5]

In England and Wales the authority for designating, re-designating and de-designating a scheduled monument lies with the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Secretary of State keeps the list, or schedule, of these sites.[2]

The designation process was first devolved to Scotland and Wales in the 1970s and is now operated there by the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly respectively. The government bodies with responsibility for archaeology and the historic environment in Britain are: English Heritage in England, Cadw in Wales, and Historic Scotland in Scotland. The processes for application and monitoring scheduled monuments is administered in England by English Heritage; in Wales by Cadw on behalf of the National Assembly for Wales;[6] and in Scotland by Historic Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Ministers. The Northern Irish system is governed by separate legislation, and is operated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Heritage protection legislation for scheduled monuments

The UK is a signatory to the EU Valletta Treaty which obliges it to have a legal system to protect archaeological heritage on land and under water.[3] The body of designation legislation used for legally protecting heritage assets from damage and destruction is complex, and dates back to 1882.[7] There have been many revisions since, and the UK government states that it remains committed to heritage protection legislation reform,[8] even though the draft Heritage Protection Bill 2008,[9] which proposed a single 'register' that included scheduled monuments and listed buildings, was abandoned to make room in the parliamentary legislative programme for measures to deal with the credit crunch.[10]

The scheduling system has been criticised by some as being cumbersome.[10] In England and Wales it also has a limited definition of what constitutes a monument. Features such as ritual landscapes, battlefields and flint scatters are difficult to schedule; recent amendment in Scotland (see below) has widened the definition to include "any site... comprising any thing, or group of things, that evidences previous human activity".

The wide range of legislation means that the terminology describing how historic sites are protected varies according to the type of heritage asset. Monuments are "scheduled", buildings are "listed", whilst battlefields, parks and gardens are "registered", and historic wrecks are "protected". Historic urban spaces receive protection through designation as "conservation areas",[11] and historic landscapes are designated through National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) legislation.[12] In addition, there are areas in the UK are also protected as World Heritage Sites.

To add to the confusion, some heritage assets can be both listed buildings and scheduled monuments (e.g. Dunblane Cathedral). World Heritage Sites, conservation areas and protected landscapes can also contain both scheduled monuments and listed buildings.[3] Where a heritage asset is both scheduled and listed, many provisions of the listing legislation are disapplied (for example those relating to Building Preservation Notices).

In England, Scotland and Wales, protection of monuments can also be given by another process, additional to or separate from scheduling, taking the monument into state ownership or placing it under guardianship, classifying it as a Guardianship Monument under the terms of Section 12 of the 1979 Act (as amended by the National Heritage Act 1983 in England, and by the Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2011 (reference below)) (e.g. St Rule's Church in St Andrews). The latter meaning that the owner retains possession, while the appropriate national heritage body maintains it and (usually) opens it to the public. All monuments in Guardianship on the passing of the 1979 Act were automatically included in the 'schedule'.

Scheduling is not usually applied to underwater sites although historic wrecks can be protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973,[13] although three maritime sites have been designated as scheduled ancient monuments. In Scotland new powers for protection of the marine heritage, better integrated with other maritime conservation powers, have been given by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.[14] It is intended that the marine scheduled monuments will be protected by this new Act. The Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act, which amended the 1979 Act, was passed into law in 2011.[15]

Wider areas can be protected by designating their locations as Areas of Archaeological Importance (AAI) under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.[1] As of 2011, only five city centres in England have been designated as AAIs (Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Hereford and York).[16] This part of the 1979 Act was never brought into effect in Scotland.

The schedules

It is a legal requirement to maintain the 'schedule' of monuments. In England the Department for Culture, Media and Sport keeps a register, or schedule, of nationally important sites which receive state protection. The National Heritage List for England now includes about 400,000 heritage sites, including scheduled monuments.[17] This online searchable list can be found on the English Heritage web site. The list of Scottish monuments can be searched on the Historic Scotland website, or through Pastmap.[18] For Wales, the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW), has an online database called "Coflein" which contains the national collection of information about the historic environment of Wales.

Criteria for scheduling

To be eligible for scheduling, a monument must be demonstrably of (in the terms of the 1979 Act) "national importance". Non-statutory criteria are provided to guide the assessment. In England these are:[3][19]

  • Period – meaning the length of time it remained in use; significant sites are often multi-period
  • Rarity – monuments with few known comparators are more likely to be scheduled
  • Documentation – information from earlier investigations at a site can inform on its significance
  • Group value – where a monument forms part of a wider geographical landscape of important sites
  • Survival/Condition – the degree to which the surviving remains convey the size, shape and function of the site
  • Fragility/Vulnerability – threats to the site from natural agencies, tourism or development can lead to a monument being scheduled for its protection
  • Representivity – how well the monument represents diverse similar types and/or whether it contains unique features
  • Potential – its ability to contribute to our knowledge through further study.

The Scottish criteria were revised after public consultation between 2006 and 2008.[20]

There is no appeal against the scheduling process and adding a monument to the schedule may be a process requiring a great deal of research and consideration. The process can be accelerated for sites under threat, however. In England, English Heritage gathers information on a site, defines a boundary around it and advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of its eligibility for inclusion on the schedule. In Scotland and Wales Historic Scotland and Cadw are part of central government and act on behalf of the relevant ministers.

Legal protection for Scheduled Monuments

The 1979 Act makes it a criminal offence to:

  • Destroy or damage a scheduled monument
  • Do any "works" which would demolish, damage, remove, repair, add or alter it (including agriculture, forestry, flooding and tipping) without previous permission from the Secretary of State or devolved equivalent, given through formal written "Scheduled Monument Consent"
  • Use a metal detector without prior consent
  • Remove any historic or archaeological object from the site without prior consent.[1]

Despite perceptions to the contrary, only a very small proportion of applications for Scheduled Monument Consent is refused. In Scotland in the 10 years 1995–2005, out of 2156 applications, only 16 were refused.[20] Development close to a scheduled monument which might damage its setting is also a material consideration in the planning system.

Management of scheduled monuments

English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw monitor the condition of scheduled monuments. They encourage owners to maintain scheduled monuments in good condition by using sympathetic land uses, for example restricting stock levels or controlling undergrowth which can damage archaeology below ground.[21]

Historic Scotland, Cadw, English Heritage and Natural England also offer owners advice on how to manage their monuments. There are some grant incentive schemes for owners, including schemes run by English Heritage and by Natural England for farmers and land managers.[22]

Historic Scotland,[23] English Heritage,[24] and Cadw,[25] occasionally award grants to support management agreements for monuments, and in some cases can help with major repairs.

In England, the condition of scheduled monuments is also reported through the Heritage at Risk survey.[3] In 2008 this survey extended to include all listed buildings, scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, protected wreck sites and conservation areas.[26] The register is complied by survey by a range of heritage groups including Natural England, the Forestry Commission, local authorities, National Park Authorities, the National Trust, regional and local archaeological societies, Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officers, voluntary groups, property owners, land managers and farmers.



  • Wymondham Abbey in Norfolk is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a Grade I Listed Building, and lies in Wymondham Conservation Area.
  • High Bridge, Lincoln, built in the 12th century in Lincoln, England, is the oldest bridge in the United Kingdom which still has buildings on it.
  • The cruise missile shelter complex at the former RAF Greenham Common was scheduled in 2003 as a key emblematic monument of the Cold War, with wider cultural significance as the focus of protest against the nuclear arms race.[27]

Northern Ireland

Examples of Scheduled Historic Monuments in Northern Ireland, as designated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency:


Examples of Scheduled Ancient Monuments in Scotland, as designated by Historic Scotland:


Main article: Scheduled Monuments in Wales

Examples of Scheduled Monuments in Wales, as designated by Cadw:

See also


External links

  • Database of Scheduled Ancient Monuments in Scotland, maintained by Historic Scotland.
  • PASTMAP map-based query system for scheduled monuments, listed buildings, gardens and designed landscapes and National Monuments record of Scotland sites. Maintained by Historic Scotland and Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland
  • Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Areas Act 1979
  • Scottish Historic Environment Policy
  • English Heritage
  • Official site: National Heritage List for England searchable database of all scheduled monuments in England

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