Settlements and landscapes. Whether a little hamlet, a bridge across a moorland stream, a favourite standing stone or deserted sheep fold in a secret combe, a war memorial or even distinctive old gate posts at the end of a lane. They are now asking what is important to its visitors and residents. Across Exmoor there are thousands of buildings, structures, and archaeological sites of historical significance. Some of these gain national recognition through formal designation, such as Listed Buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
However, there are many historically significant places which do not meet the criteria for national designation or haven’t yet been assessed. They are, nevertheless, important to the understanding and appreciation of the area’s heritage – across Exmoor these make a significant contribution to the historical, architectural, and social character of the national park.
In 2020 Somerset and Exmoor were one of 22 areas across England to receive government funding to launch a local heritage campaign. The campaign encourages communities to nominate locally important buildings and sites for inclusion on a Local Heritage List (LHL).
Local Heritage Lists are one way in which local heritage – buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas, historic parks and gardens or other designed landscapes – can be formally identified and their significance considered in local plans and planning applications, which might the building or site or its setting. Being on the Local Heritage List can also help to highlight historic importance to grant giving bodies.
Local listing is very different to national listing and does not impose restrictions or responsibilities on owners. The main intention is to celebrate local culture and encourage good management. If a site is added to the Local Heritage List, it will be recognised as a culturally significant heritage asset. This will not give additional protection, but it will inform decisions by owners and public bodies.
On Exmoor the development of the Local Heritage List is being coordinated by the National Park Authority working with the South West Heritage Trust.
The sites need to meet a set of criteria.
To be added to the Local List, an asset should have at least one of these qualities:
- Age– this gives an asset substantial value (but newer places will be considered too).
- Rarity in a structure’s purpose, type, or features. It might be rare within a region, or a very local area.
- Distinctive design– for instance construction using local materials, rare crafting techniques, or by a noteworthy architect.
- Group value– multiple structures connected to each other by history or design, such as terraced houses or the parts of a factory complex.
- Evidential value– material evidence of past human activity which shows how people and places have developed. This might be buried archaeology or above ground. A preserved garden layout, a gravestone, or an abandoned village would all qualify.
- Historical association– for example with a famous person, a powerful memory, or a story from Somerset’s past.
- Social and communal value– places of treasured local identity, including where community interactions, acts of worship, and cultural events have taken place; or where strong group memories were made. They can be valuable without wide recognition.
- Collective value– where an asset is part of a related collection of heritage assets that are dispersed widely such as signposts, pillboxes or milestone markers.
To nominate your important places for inclusion on the Local Heritage List go to the South West Heritage Trust website for more information swheritage.org.uk or contact