Survey results

The key findings from this survey, which are outlined more fully below, are that:

  • The majority of those who responded to the survey are aware of research frameworks, but only just under a third have used them in their work
  • Research Frameworks are most commonly used for: assessing significance, focussing research, defining project briefs or specifications, and when contributing to management or conservation plans.
  • The building types that are most commonly the focus of respondents’ work are also those which they felt would benefit from additional research
  • Other themes and topics identified as those which would benefit from additional research included: building survey/recording/research, historic building conservation, and materials science/analysis
  • There is overall agreement that a framework for the built historic environment would be of benefit to the sector, enhancing in particular areas of work such as assessing significance and preparing heritage statements
  • Almost all respondents (97%) agreed that the framework should be an online resource



Respondents from all target organisation types took part in the survey. The two most common groups of respondents were from local planning or national park authorities, and commercial contractors/consultants, including architects (Table 1). However, 74% of those who responded stated that they were doing so as an individual, with all responses being their own. 

Organisation TypeNumber of respondents
Academic institution40
Architectural Practice5
Commercial Contractor: historic buildings investigation / specialist services36
Local Authority / National Park: Archaeology29
Local Authority / National Park: Archaeology & the built environment33
Local Authority / National Park: Built environment / conservation66
National Amenity Society14
National or local society or community group28
National or other body that commissions historic environment investigations56
None / Independent Researcher44
Planning / Heritage Consultant66
Grand Total441
Table 1  Organisation type of Respondents

Respondents who recorded their organisation type as ‘Other’ provided the following descriptions:

  • Commercial contractor: not historic buildings specialised
  • Engineering consultancy
  • Governing body (sport)
  • Law
  • Local Authority / National Park: planning policy
  • Museum / Heritage Site
  • Private institution – built environment / conservation
  • Property owner
  • Retired / unemployed
  • Self-employed
  • Several of the above
  • Volunteer

For this report, the organisation types have been grouped into seven main categories, for example by combining all respondents from local authorities. This provides clearer and more practical statistics for analysis. It also ensures comparability with the survey undertaken by Pye Tait in 2014. Indeed, it is useful to note here that the types of respondents were largely the same for both surveys, except in relation to Local Authority officers and commercial contractors / consultants (Fig. 1).

Figure 1  Grouped organisation types of respondents to the 2017 HistBEKE survey and the 2014 Pye Tait survey (% of total respondents)


It was hoped that those who responded to the survey would cover all English regions, and this was the case (fig. 2). The highest number of respondents worked nationally, with the South East and the North West being the highest for those who work only in one region. 

Figure 2  The Regions in which respondents carry out the majority of their work (% of total respondents)

Respondents who recorded an answer of ‘other’ worked either in other countries or across two or more English regions, including:

  • North of England
  • East, South East, West Midlands and East Midlands
  • Scotland and Northern England
  • Scotland and East of England
  • North East and East Midlands
  • East Midlands, West Midlands, North West and Yorkshire

Current Work of Respondents

Building Types

Respondents were asked to select the building types that are most commonly the subject of their work from a list of options that form the high-level building types within the HistBEKE categorisation table (HistBEKE, 2017a), and which align with the Historic England (HE) Listing Selection Guides (available here:

The building types most commonly chosen by respondents were those which are most often the subject of redevelopment or alteration plans, with domestic buildings being the highest at 61% (fig.3). Places of worship were the second at 40%, followed by Agricultural at 39% and Industrial buildings at 38%.

Figure 3  Building types most commonly the focus of respondent’s work (% of respondents who chose that option)

Those respondents who chose ‘other, provided the following descriptions:

  • Upstanding archaeological sites and buildings that are listed and or scheduled monuments
  • Subterranean
  • Follies
  • Funders
  • Historic
  • Royal and monumental
  • The site contains historic buildings which delivered all these uses;
  • All except Maritime and Naval
  • C20 Buildings
  • Palaces
  • Hearse house
  • We are surveying other medieval buildings eg gatehouses
  • buildings that combine dwelling and workplace – ‘workhomes’ urban areas
  • Planning and heritage

When this is combined with respondents’ organisation type, it is worth noting that whilst the five most common remain the same, 73.39% of those from a Local Authority / National Park who answered this question chose domestic, with agricultural buildings being the second highest for this group at 50.45%, both of which are nearly 10% higher than the average across all organisation types. For the second highest organisation type, contractors and consultants, the results are largely similar to the average. For those from academic institutions, however, domestic buildings and places of worship are both the most common at 60.87%, whereas domestic buildings accounted for only 44.12% of the work of groups and societies, although this was still the highest for this organisation type.

Types of work that respondents undertake

Respondents were asked to pick a single option for the main type of work that they undertake. The highest response was building survey/recording/research at 19.87% (fig. 4). However, the fifth highest response was ‘other’, with many respondents stating that they undertake a range of work types, many stating that they do ‘all of the above’. ‘Other’ work types entered by respondents included:

  • Administration
  • Advice
  • Awareness raising and protection campaigns
  • Collecting ephemera relating to built environment in Lancashire and Cheshire  Digital content
  • General curation of historic environment, including interiors
  • Grant applications
  • Heritage grant project (THI)
  • Historic Environment Landscape Advice
  • Maintenance and repair of historic sites and landscapes Policy
  • Promotion/information exchange on all aspects of historic farm buildings, including historic contents.
  • Representing owners of historic houses
  • Research, protection, conservation and lobbying on behalf of historic parks and gardens.
  • Volunteer projects involving building recording and archaeology
Figure 4   The main type of work undertaken by respondents (% of total respondents)

Looking at the types of work undertaken by the different organisational groups, as may be expected those from local authorities tend to focus on heritage protection work (consents, approvals and designation), whereas commercial contractors are more focused on building survey / recording / research; building conservation; and desk-based assessments (Fig. 5). Independent researchers also tend to focus on building survey / recording / research, whereas those from societies and groups who responded to the survey tend to undertake archaeological or ‘other’ types of work.

Figure 5  Types of work undertaken by grouped organisation (% of total respondents per organisation group)

Access to knowledge

In answer to the question of how strongly respondents agreed that they have good access to relevant and up-to-date knowledge to be able to confidently carry out their work, only 22.29% of those who answered this question strongly agreed, although a further 47.21% agreed. Nearly 20% were neutral on this question though, which combined with the 7.33% who disagreed, the 1.47% who strongly disagree, and the 1.76% who are unsure, just under a third of those of who answered this question (30.5%) do not feel that they have good access to relevant knowledge. Looking at this per organisation type, academic institutions have the lowest ‘strongly agree’ result, and the highest results for disagree and strongly disagree, but conversely the highest result for ‘agree’ (Fig. 6). 

Figure 6  How strongly respondents agreed that they have good access to knowledge (% of total respondents per organisation group)

Use and awareness of research frameworks


A key aim of this survey was to find out how aware those in the sector are of existing research frameworks.

Respondents were therefore asked how aware they are of frameworks, with answer options ranging from ‘very aware’ to ‘have not heard of them until now’. Only 8.04% of those who responded to this question had not heard of them until undertaking the survey (fig. 7), and only 15.18% chose the option of not very aware, suggesting that most of those working in the sector have heard of research frameworks. 

When this is looked at by grouped organisation type, more of those from local authorities and commercial contractors / consultants than the other groups were very aware of frameworks, but for those who are aware to some extent the highest response was from National or other bodies who commission investigations and local groups (Fig. 8).

Figure 7  Awareness of research frameworks amongst respondents (% of total respondents)
Figure 8  Awareness of Research Frameworks by grouped organisation type (% of total respondents per organisation type)

Use of Frameworks

Despite the levels of awareness noted above, the use of frameworks is significantly lower, with just 35.01% of respondents currently using them in their work. Those who said that they use or have previously used frameworks were asked an additional set of questions about how they use them, including the types of frameworks that they use and how often they are used. The majority of those who answered these additional questions (93%) use all types of framework listed as an option, these are:

  • Period-based
  • Regional
  • Site-Specific
  • Sub-regional
  • Thematic
  • Other

Those who selected ‘other’ included the following descriptions:

  • Whatever does the job!
  • Worcestershire Farmsteads Research and Recording Guidance and the Worcestershire Synthesis of Rural Buildings in their Setting Research Framework 
  • Frameworks developed from international agendas including the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape approach and its antecedents           Research agendas
  • Institutional strategic priorities for research
  • Organisational research framework (Historic England) and funding body frameworks

Those who use frameworks tend to use them monthly or every 2-6 months (fig. 9), although 21.21% use them on a daily/weekly basis. 

Figure 9  How often research frameworks are used (% of total respondents to this question)

What Research Frameworks are used for

Those who said that they use research frameworks were also asked what they use them for, being given a range of options derived from both the analysis of framework use in the research undertaken by Pye Tait (2014), and the work types used in question three of the HistBEKE survey. Overall, those respondents who use research frameworks, use them for assessing the significance of heritage assets (69%); for focussing research themes and projects and defining the scope of briefs/specifications (52%); when contributing to management or conservation plans (46%); and as part of desk-based assessments (45%) (Fig. 10). 

Figure 10  Use of Research Frameworks (% of total respondents to this question)

However, when looking specifically at each organisation type, the use of frameworks varies to some extent. Local Authority and National Park officers, for example, whose work tends to be focused on heritage protection (consents, approvals and designation) also use them to justify the need for planning conditions (52%), and the figure for using them as part of desk-based assessments is much lower for this group at 27.7%, presumably because this type of work is not usually carried out by local authority officers. For Consultants/contractors, who do tend to be more focused in this area, 70.37% use them as part of deskbased assessments and 62.96% use them as part of heritage statements. The use of frameworks to assess the significance of historic assets, however, is still the highest use for this group at 85.19%.