The Schedule of Monuments

The Schedule of Monuments

Protecting Archaeology

Archaeological remains are a crucial link with our past. They vary from upstanding and obvious sites such as castles, stone circles and buried remains – like Roman or medieval settlements – hidden below later buildings and fields.

All of these are fragile: once lost, they can never be replaced. We need to identify, manage and value individual monuments and the landscapes which contain them if they are not to be swept away by the modern pressures of road building, urban development or agricultural techniques.

English Heritage is the main national body which identifies archaeological sites, develops policies to protect them and promotes the importance of archaeology. We give advice to others on archaeology and planning, and are the main source of funding for archaeological projects.

The Schedule of Monuments

What is the schedule? 'Scheduling' is shorthand for the process through which nationally important sites and monuments are given legal protection by being placed on a list, or 'schedule'. English Heritage takes the lead in identifying sites in England which should be placed on the schedule by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. A schedule has been kept since 1882 of monuments whose preservation is given priority over other land uses. The current legislation, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, supports a formal system of Scheduled Monument Consent for any work to a designated monument.

Scheduling is the only legal protection specifically for archaeological sites.

Which sites are monuments?

Stone CirclesMany prehistoric Stone Circles, such as this one in Derbyshire are already protected by scheduling. The word 'monument' covers the whole range of archaeological sites. Scheduled monuments are not always ancient, or visible above ground. There are over 200 'classes' of monuments on the schedule, and they range from prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds, through the many types of medieval site - castles, monasteries, abandoned farmsteads and villages - to the more recent results of human activity, such as collieries and wartime pillboxes.

Scheduling is applied only to sites of national importance, and even then only if it is the best means of protection (see Alternatives to scheduling below). Only deliberately created structures, features and remains can be scheduled.

The schedule now has about 18,300 entries (about 31,400 sites). There are 1 million or so archaeological sites or find spots of all types currently recorded in England, of which perhaps less than half might qualify for consideration for scheduling as 'monuments'.

Criteria for national importance

Decisions on national importance are guided by criteria laid down by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, covering the basic characteristics of monuments. They are:

  • Extent of survival
  • Current condition
  • Rarity
  • Representivity, either through diversity or because of one important Attribute
  • Importance of the period to which the monument dates
  • Fragility
  • Connection to other monuments, or group value
  • Potential to contribute to our information, understanding and appreciation
  • Extent of documentation enhancing the monument's significance

Alternatives to scheduling

Even nationally important sites are scheduled only if this is the best means of protecting them. Sometimes, for example in town and city centres, the best way to protect sites - from building development and road schemes - is to use the system of local authority control over planning applications. The planners can make sure that development proposals take archaeology fully into account (see Archaeology and development).

Buildings and standing structures of historic interest, especially if they are or can be made usable, are generally best protected by listing, where the emphasis is on continuing active use.