Historic Landscape Character

England's rural landscape is one of the jewels of our national heritage. It is too easily overlooked when we concentrate on individual buildings or archaeological monuments, and its historic dimension can be too easily missed if landscape is admired as beautiful scenery.

Through its programme of Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC), run in partnership with County Council Sites and Monuments Records www.algao.org.uk, English Heritage is a leader in this field.

Progress with HLC - October 2008

The Historic Landscape Characterisation programme is a powerful tool that provides a framework for broadening our understanding of the whole landscape and contributes to decisions affecting tomorrow's landscape.

The HLC programme is approaching two-thirds national completion. Its projects produce interactive GIS-based descriptions of the historic dimension - the 'time-depth' - that characterises our rural landscape.

Our HLC work is in line with the European Landscape Convention, which came into force in 11 ratifying countries on 4 March 2004. It was signed by the UK in February 2006 and ratified on 21 November 2006. It came into force on 1 March 2007, and Defra has recently published 'A Framework for Implementation in England'. English Heritage published its ELC Action Plan in early 2009: European Landscape Convention – The English Heritage Action Plan for Implementation

National Reviews

Two national reviews of the HLC programme have been carried out. 'Taking Stock of the Method' explores the development of the HLC approach and methodology, and 'Using Historic Landscape Characterisation' looks at the many ways in which HLC is currently used to understand and manage the historic environment, and how these applications are likely to develop in the future. Both reports can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Historic Landscape Characterisation:Taking Stock of the Method

We have broken the report down into chapters to make it easier and faster to download. Please click on the  link on the right-handside of this page.

Using Historic Landscape Characterisation

Increasingly, uses and applications of HLC are being based on a further generalisation of the basic HLC Types into 'Historic Character Areas' (or Zones). This document from the ongoing Black Country Metropolitan HLC presents a new method of creating such character areas, which may be of interest more widely.

Other projects use HLC and its results to help us manage change in the countryside. We have carried out more detailed research into historic fields and settlements eg: Turning the Plough. A wider European context is set out in Europe's Cultural Landscape, and we are contributing and extending HLC experience in European projects such as the EU Culture 2000 network in the European Pathways to the Cultural Landscape network whose book 'Pathways to Europe's Landscape' promotes HLC.

Pathways to Europe's Landscape
This publication is split into several PDF documents due to its size. Please click on the  link on the right-handside of this page.

Community Landscape Assessment
Shropshire County Council have produced a Parish Scale Landscape Assessment (which integrates both LCA and HLC information) that they have developed with a local community group. This is available on their website.

A revised and updated version of 'Boundless Horizons’, a summary account of the aims and ambitions of the HLC programme,  first published by English Heritage in Conservation Bulletin 40, 2001 has recently been published in the summer issue (pg32 -35) of Heritage Outlook, the magazine of the Heritage Council of Ireland.


Buckinghamshire HLC

Cheshire HLC

Devon HLC

North Yorkshire HLC

Shropshire HLC

Kent Landscape Information System

The Landscape Character Network

Council of Europe website for the European Landscape Convention

Cranborne Chase & West Wiltshire Downs AONB