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Standards and guidance for historic building recording

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Development in the Historic Environment
Standards for Historic Building Recording


1. Introduction

2. Written scheme of investigation

3. Document research

4. Historic building recording

5. Reporting

6. Monitoring by the Building Conservation Team

7. Personnel

8. Archive

9. Publication

10. Planning condition discharge

11. Conflict with other conditions and statutorily protected species

12. Contacts

1. Introduction

a. This standard, prepared by the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA) Building Conservation Team (BCT) sets out the scope of the historic building recording works required as a condition of planning consent granted by the Planning Authority.

b. The principal objective of the programme shall be to make a record of the historic building prior to the commencement of the development in order to preserve by record any significance of the building that is negatively but justifiably impacted by development as required by national policy (NPPF, 2021).

2. Written scheme of investigation

a. This standard sets out the scope of the works required to record the historic fabric affected by the proposed development and will form the basis of the Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) to be prepared by the archaeological consultant.

b. The WSI must be submitted by the applicant or, on their behalf, by their agent or archaeological consultant and approved by the BCT and the Authority prior to any development as part of the condition discharge process. Alternatively the Authority will prepare WSI’s as part of our pre-application service on request.

c. As a minimum the WSI should include items listed in section 3.2.16 Standards and Guidance for the archaeological investigation and recording of standing buildings by the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists (CIfA, 2020a) that regulates project design.

d. The WSI must reference where the site archive will be deposited. A separate OASIS (Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) entry must also be completed if the archive is not to be deposited with the Archaeology Data Service.

e. The WSI should accord with all relevant Historic England, CIfA and other recognised guidance (see bibliography for references).

3. Document research

a. If no detailed heritage statement has been submitted for the building/structure, then prior to the commencement of work on site, the building recorder should undertake a scheme of research to supplement and interpret the historic building recording. This should include but is not limited to a rapid map-regression exercise based on the readily-available map and photographic evidence held by the relevant archive (North Yorkshire County Record Office, Borthwick Institute for Archives and/or Teesside Archives) and a rapid examination of the available 19th- and 20th-century Trades and Postal directories, the appropriate census returns and all other available primary and relevant secondary sources. This work is intended to inform the building recording by providing background information with regard to function and phasing. Please note that this exercise is not intended to be a formal desk-based assessment, and should not represent a disproportionate percentage of the time allowed for the project overall.

b. An examination will also be made of records held by the North York Moors Historic Environment Record. Please note that the Historic Environment Record (HER) information that the NYMNPA make available online is not complete and so for commercial purposes is not a substitute for requesting HER information from the Archaeology Team at the NYMNPA. As consultation of the HER is a minimum requirement for the production of heritage statements (NPPF, 2021) it is anticipated that in most cases this will already have been carried out as part of the regular planning process.

4. Historic building recording

a. A record shall be made of the historic fabric of the building affected by the development. This work shall conform to the level of recording as set out in the BCT’s response to the Proposal or as agreed with the BCT. The required levels of archaeological work will be in accordance with guidance as set out in the recording levels described in Understanding Historic Buildings: A guide to good recording practice and outlined below;

b. Building recording levels

  1. Level 1 is essentially a basic visual record, typically a photographic record accompanied by sketch plans and basic information.
  2. Level 2 is a descriptive record. Both the exterior and the interior will be viewed, described and photographed. The record will present conclusions regarding the building’s development and use. A scaled plan and sometimes other drawings will be produced.
  3. Level 3 is an analytical record, and will comprise an introductory description followed by a systematic account of the building’s origins, development and use. The record will include an account of the evidence on which the analysis has been based, allowing the validity of the record to be re-examined. It will also include all drawn and photographic records in order to illustrate the building’s appearance and structure and to support an historical analysis. The information contained in the record will for the most part have been obtained through an examination of the building itself but supplemented by further research. This is the most common form of building recording when preserving significance by record.
  4. Level 4 provides a comprehensive analytical record and is appropriate for buildings of special importance. Whereas Level 3 analysis and interpretation will clarify the building’s history in so far as it may be deduced from the structure itself, the record at Level 4 will draw on the full range of available resources and discuss the building’s significance in terms of architectural, social, regional or economic history. The range of drawings may also be greater than at other levels.

c. The contractor should make themselves familiar with the specification required for each of the recording levels. It is recommended that the contractor contact the BCT in order to confirm specific requirements where items are listed as optional in Historic England’s guidance as these will vary from site to site.

d. The detail of the proposed archaeological works should be set out in the WSI, including reference to the appropriate Historic England, CIfA and other industry guidance.

e. Methodology

The following will apply when relevant to the level of recording;

i. Drawn record

1. Previously prepared architect’s plans if appropriate, may be used as the basis for the drawn record (edited as necessary) and for any annotation relative both to the historic and photographic record. The plans should be supplemented with additional information relevant to the building recording should be clearly indicated on the plans, which shall be re-drawn as necessary. It is the responsibility of the archaeological contractor to check the accuracy of these drawings and to make any necessary adjustments or corrections, removing all irrelevant information. Otherwise the required scale elevations, plans and other drawings should be prepared by the archaeological contractor themselves.

2. All features of historic and architectural interest (such as phasing, alterations, architectural details, machinery etc) identified during the process of appraisal should be incorporated into, and clearly identified in, the final drawn record.

3. Drawings should be made at an appropriate scale (ideally no smaller than 1:100 for plans; no smaller than 1:50 for sections and elevations).

4. The structures should be recorded as existing, but a clear distinction should be made on the final drawings between surviving as-built features and all material introduced in the structure during the late 20th-century.

5. The drawn record must be on an appropriately archivable medium.

6. All drawings shall be in accordance with conventions set out by Historic England (Historic England, 2016).

ii. Photographic record

1. An adequate photographic record of the historic building recording work will be prepared. All images should be of high quality in clear focus, level and include and a discretely positioned appropriate sized photographic scale. Images must be captured at a suitable range and be framed in such a way as to ensure that the element being photographed clearly constitutes the principal feature of the photograph.

2. Digital images should accord with best practice in Historic England’s relevant guidance (Historic England, 2015a) as summarised below images should be;

  1. Taken on a digital camera with a minimum of 10 megapixels
  2. Taken in RAW format converted to TIFF files for archiving

3. Analogue images should accord with best practice as summarised below;

c. Taken on 35mm format

i. Complicated or large elevations may require the use of medium format cameras

d. Taken on silver based black and while film

4. Photographic images should typically include:

  1. All elevations of the building/structure, from vantage points as nearly parallel to the elevation being photographed as is possible within the constraints of the site
  2. General oblique views of the buildings elevations and of the building in its wider setting;
  3. General internal views of each room or discrete space from sufficient vantage points as to adequately record the form, general appearance and manner of construction of each area;
  4. Detailed photographs of all features of historic and architectural interest identified during the recording process e.g., doors, shutters, staircases, decorative plasterwork etc (typical examples acceptable);
  5. Detailed photographs of evidence for phasing and alteration, and for historical additions and alterations to the building.
  6. Location and direction of each image should be recorded onto corresponding site plans and photographic registers.

5. Digital images from JPEGS, while acceptable for inclusion in the report, are not an acceptable medium for the project archive.

6. Some post-processing is acceptable for report images for example to remove barrel distortion or to produce High-Dynamic Range images but the original images should always be included in the project archive.

7. The full photographic record, together with copies of the marked up plans and photographic registers should be included in the project archive.

5. Reporting

a. Upon completion of the survey and required post-survey analysis an illustrated report will be prepared. The report will collate the written, graphic, visible and recorded information outlined in section 3 and 4 above.

b. In line with national guidance (CIfA, 2020a) as a minimum the report will include:

i. a non-technical summary and introduction;

ii. a site location plan at an appropriate scale;

iii. aims and objectives of the project

iv. a methodology of all works undertaken;

v. details of documentary and other research undertaken;

vi. a well ordered architectural description of the building(s) and it’s setting

vii. analysis and conclusion of the results in the appropriate context;

viii. supporting information, such as drawings, photographs, any specialist reports (e.g. dendrochronology) etc to illustrate the above;

ix. a summary of the contents of the project archive and its location;

x. references and full bibliography.

c. If any pre-application historic building evaluation or recording has been undertaken then this should be included in the final report and included in the over-arching site archive.

d. The timetable for the production of the report must be set out in the WSI. The BCT would normally expect to receive the report within three months of completion of fieldwork – dependent upon the provision of specialist reports, radiocarbon dating results etc. the production of which may exceed this period. If a substantial delay is anticipated then the BCT must be informed of this and a revised date for the production of the full report agreed between the BCT and the archaeological contractor. If a substantial delay is anticipated then an interim report will be produced within three months of the completion of the fieldwork.

e. In addition to the copy supplied to the Planning Authority a copy of the report will also be submitted to the NYMNPA HER either in hard copy or PDF/A format.

f. Should this programme of historic building recording be undertaken along with other archaeological works within the same development, a combined over-arching report on all elements of the investigations and recording will be produced in accordance with the details of this standard and any other relevant standard for the development.

g. The OASIS identifier should be included within the report.

6. Monitoring by the Building Conservation team

a. The archaeological consultant shall agree monitoring arrangements with the BCT and give two weeks’ notice, unless a shorter period is agreed with the BCT, of commencement of the fieldwork. Details will be agreed of any monitoring points where decisions on options within the programme are to be made.

b. Monitoring will continue until the deposition of the site archive and the satisfactory completion of an OASIS report.

c. The archaeological contractor undertaking the fieldwork will notify the BCT upon completion of the fieldwork stage of these works.

7. Personnel

a. The recording work shall be carried out by a professional historic building specialist to be agreed with the BCT. Staff must be suitably qualified and experienced for their project roles. All work should be carried out under the control of a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists or by a person of equivalent standing and expertise in historical architectural form, development, terms and delivery of recording projects. The WSI will contain details of key project staff and specialists who may contribute during the course of the works.

b. Health and Safety matters, including site security, are matters for the consultant. However, adherence to all relevant regulations will be required.

8. Archive

a. The archive must be deposited with a registered museum or Trusted Digital Repository and thus made publicly accessible, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (2021). It is the responsibility of the owner

b. Completion of the project is dependent on the compilation of an ordered and integrated project archive by the archaeological contractor in accordance with the approved WSI, the CIfA Standard and guidance for the creation, compilation, transfer and deposition of archaeological archives and with Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment (MoRPHE, (Historic England, 2015b)) and other industry guidance (Brown, 2007). The archive must also be transferred for long-term curation to a recognised, accredited or trusted repository. An archive is defined as “all records and materials recovered during an archaeological project and identified for long term preservation, including artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental remains, waste products, scientific samples and also written and visual documentation in paper, film and digital form” (ARCHES, (Archaeology data Service, n.d.)).

c. It is anticipated that the archive will consist of two elements:

  1. a copy of the report and
  2. copies of all photographs and associated metadata collected during the course of the historic building recording.
  3. sometimes, laser scan data or other survey data

d. Historic building recording typically creates digital only archive material. Most museums do not accept digital archive material. Any digital archive should be deposited into the care of a Trusted Digital Repository that has Core Trust Seal accreditation (Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, 2020b; Digventures, 2019). A list of accredited repositories can be found at Further guidance can be found at Work Digital/Think Archive: A guide to managing digital data generated from archaeological investigations (Digventures, 2019).

e. The main Core Trust Seal repository for England currently that readily accepts digital archaeological archive is the Archaeology Data Service (ADS). In addition to the requirements of this document any digital archive must be compiled in accordance with the standards and requirements of the ADS, which may be accessed through the ADS website.

f.  The Written Scheme of Investigation must set out a timetable for the deposition of the site archive. The BCT would normally expect this to be completed within six months of completion of the fieldwork element of the project.

g. Should the programme of historic building recording yield any, physical archive eg artefactual material or involve the recovery of architectural elements that are worthy of deposition with the collecting museum, the archaeological contractors should contact the BCT and collecting museum as soon as such material finds are recovered to agree future conditions for deposition with the museum.

h. The collecting museums in the NYMNPA (Yorkshire Museum, Whitby Museum, Scarborough Museum Trust, Dorman Museum and Kirkleatham Museum) are to be used for physical archives. A current database for collecting area museums can be viewed on the ADS website.

i. If ownership of all or any finds is to remain with the landowner, provision and agreement must be made for the time-limited retention of the material and its full analysis and recording, by appropriate specialists.

j. It is expected that a licence to copyright for documentary material, in both physical and digital forms, will be given to the receiving repository. although The Contractor retains the right to be identified as the author of all project documentation and reports as specified in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (chapter IV, section 79). This must be stated within the WSI, which should also identify the recipients of each element of the documentary archive.

k. Many museums and archives charge for the deposition of archives as contribution to the long term preservation of the archive. An estimate of the cost using the ADS Easy service can be obtained online. Museums must be contacted directly to assess this. It is the contractors’ duty to ensure that this is provided for.

l. A separate OASIS (Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) entry must also be completed if the archive is not to be deposited with the ADS.

9. Publication

a. Where the exposure of architectural or historic building fabric is limited or of little significance the production of a summary report will follow on directly from the field work – see above.

b. However, should particularly significant archaeological, historical or architectural remains be encountered, then these, because of their importance, are likely to merit wider publication in line with government planning guidance (paragraph 205, NPPF, 2021). If such remains are encountered, the publication requirements – including any further analysis that may be necessary – will be confirmed with the BCT.

10. Planning condition discharge

a. Upon notification of the archival deposition the relevant planning condition can be discharged.

b. Should the approved programme of historic building recording work not be implemented the Planning Authority may take enforcement action to ensure the appropriate implementation of the programme of works.

11. Conflict with other conditions and statutorily protected species

a. It is the contractor’s responsibility – in consultation with the applicant or agent – to ensure that the undertaking of the required archaeological works does not conflict with any other conditions that have been imposed upon the consent granted and should also consider any biodiversity issues as covered by the NERC Act 2006. In particular, such conflicts may arise where archaeological investigations/excavations have the potential to have an impact upon protected species and/or natural habitats e.g. SSSIs, Habitat Regulations (The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2007), National Nature Reserves, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar sites, County Wildlife Sites etc.

12. Contacts

Building conservation team -


01439 772700


Archaeology Data Service. (n.d.). Guidelines for Depositors. Retrieved 01 21, 2022, from Archaeology Data Service

Archaeology data Service. (n.d.). The Standard and Guide to Best Practice in Archaeological Archiving in Europe. Retrieved 01 20, 2022, from ARCHES

Brown, D. H. (2007). Archaeological Archives: A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation. Archaeological Archives Forum. Retrieved from

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. (2020a). Standard and guidance for the archaeological investigation and recording of standing buildings or structures. Retrieved from

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. (2020b). Standard and guidance for the creation, compilation, transfer and deposition of archaeological archives. Retrieved from

Digventures. (2019). Work Digital/Think Archive: A guide to managing digital data generated from archaeological investigations. Retrieved from

Historic England. (2015a). Digital Image Capture and File Storage. Historic England. Retrieved from

Historic England. (2015b). Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment: The MoRPHE Project Managers' Guide. Retrieved from

Historic England. (2016). Understanding Historic Buildings: A guide to good recording and practice. Swindon: Historic England. Retrieved from

NPPF. (2021). National Planning Policy Framework. London: Department for Communities and Local Government. Retrieved from

OASIS. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS