Which sites are monuments?
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 to the many types of medieval site - castles, monasteries, abandoned farmsteads and villages - to the more recent results of human activity, such as collieries.
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 19,717 entries (about 31,400 sites). There are 1 million or so archaeological sites or find spots of all types currently recorded in England. Scheduling is reserved for carefully selected sites, which create a representative sample of sites from different epochs.
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
- Representivity, either through its range of features or because of its exemplary importance
- Importance of the period to which the monument dates
- Connection to other monuments, or group value
- Potential to contribute to our information, understanding and appreciation
- Extent of documentation enhancing the monument's significance, whether through related archival material or through the fruits of subsequent research
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 are also generally best protected by listing. Our aim is to set the most appropriate form of protection in place for the asset.