Listed buildings are officially recognised as having 'special architectural or historic interest' and have legal protection to save them from unnecessary damaging change. This is aimed at safeguarding the best of the nation's built heritage. Anyone can apply to have a building listed if there is a case to be made.
Listing covers the entire building - outside, inside along with all its fixtures and fittings (not just specific features as is sometimes said). 'Listed buildings' are so-called because they appear in 'lists' maintained by the appropriate government agency (each part of the UK has its own). They have greater protection than others since demolition or alterations affecting their character require 'listed building consent' from the local authority concerned. Without this it is an offence to demolish or alter a listed building. Heavy fines can be imposed and orders made to reinstate structures demolished or removed. But, contrary to common belief, the purpose of listing is not to fossilise buildings for all time but to ensure that proposals affecting them receive careful and appropriate consideration. Like all other buildings, continued viable use is the best way to ensure preservation.
To find out if a specific pub is already listed see our step-by-step method.
Some pubs occupy buildings of great antiquity and may be listed for this reason alone. However, most are in Victorian or later buildings and 'listability' will depend to a great extent on the survival of the historic features inside. Pubs that remain largely intact from before 1939 will be very worthy of consideration. Things to look for are the surviving plan-form (e.g. multiple rooms) and old fittings (e.g. bar counter and back, fixed seating, screens, tiling and glazing). The more complete the better.
It's not just grand pubs that make the grade. The destruction of pub interiors has been so widespread that traditional street-corner locals and plain but complete inter-war pubs are now serious candidates for listing. Until recently, English Heritage concentrated on architectural quality for listing but this changed from 2005, when a plain unspoilt pub, the Eagle at Skerne, East Yorkshire, was listed, followed in 2008 by the Sun, Leintwardine, Herefordshire.