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Types of heritage assets

The significance of all heritage assets is assessed in the same way, according to the same set of heritage values. What separates one type of heritage asset from another – and ultimately identifies what asset type they are – is the type of values they have. Dorset’s local heritage list is open to all types of heritage asset. These asset types have been identified as falling into four main groups:

  • Buildings
  • Structures
  • Gardens and designed landscapes
  • Sites and places


Buildings are manmade constructions that are designed to be inhabited by either humans or animals. They will still be in use for this purpose or capable of being brought back into use. As such, their main components are walls and a roof, but otherwise they may take any form. The principal heritage value of buildings is architectural value, but they may also be strong on historical illustrative value.

Examples include houses, churches, town halls, village halls, barns, market halls, banks, shops, offices, theatres, leisure centres, stables, schools, hospitals, warehouses, factories, law courts, lifeboat stations, lighthouses, pumping stations, police stations.

An image of a lake with some old houses with thatched roofs in the background


Structures are manmade constructions other than buildings that are not usually used for habitation. They may be practical in form and function, solely decorative, or a combination of both. They cover such a broad spectrum of possibilities that their principal heritage value may be any of the six, but most will have some form of architectural, aesthetic or historic illustrative value. 

Examples include war memorials, phone boxes, finger posts and wayfinders, bridges, piers, statues, railings, headstones, shipwrecks, chimneys, boundary walls, lamp posts, pillboxes, war memorials, public art, follies, fountains, viaducts, water towers, bus shelters, band stands.

A tall monument on a hill

Gardens and designed landscapes

Gardens and designed landscapes are historic sites that have been consciously manipulated to artistic effect. They may include structural or ornamental planting schemes, physical structures, water bodies, formal routes or paths, and engineered landforms. The principal value of gardens and designed landscapes is aesthetic or artistic value. 

Examples include public parks, private estate gardens or parkland, cemeteries and burial grounds, hospital or institutional grounds, seaside promenades or town walks, botanical gardens, memorial gardens, golf courses.

Fields with a manor house in the far distance

Sites and places

Sites and places are areas that have connections to a specific person, activity or event, or that incorporate multiple elements that collectively tell a particular story or illustrate the passage of time. This can include archaeological assets that incorporate the remains of previous human interventions into the landscape. These archaeological assets will often be incomplete and probably at least partially buried, but were once permanent structures, rather than the site of isolated archaeological finds. They may be visible on the surface in the form of constructed remains or earthworks. 

Assets in this category can include links to traditions, folklore, myths or fictional works, but the site or place must have a geographical extent that can be drawn on a map. It must also have some form of physical trait or presence that helps to identify it and that illustrates its connection to that intangible value. Sites and places can come in many forms, but their principal values will generally be communal, archaeological, historic illustrative or historic associative.

Examples include cairns or burial mounds, cropmarks, ruined buildings or buried evidence of them, field boundaries, enclosures, standing stones, trackways, wagonways, embankments or cuttings, shrines, ponds, weirs, hillforts, town, harbour or sea walls, deserted medieval settlements, marketplaces, water meadows, gathering places for a regular event or a momentous one off (such as a speech or rally), river crossings, harbours, quarries, larger areas of field systems or strip lynchets. 

A valley with rolling hills


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