Dorset's rich heritage of historic buildings and scenic villages contributes to the county's unique character and identity. They are important for tourism and education, and a significant factor in regeneration of places and communities.

Dorset has a great wealth of historic buildings, which ranges from country houses to modest domestic dwellings, from factories to dovecotes, and which includes structures such as bridges and milestones. These buildings, in a variety of materials often drawn from local sources, enrich our surroundings and give Dorset its special sense of place.

The Dorset Historic Environment Record (HER) holds information about historic buildings in the county and welcomes volunteer assistance with recording them. A project to recording listed buildings is still going strong, and we're keen to do more detailed recording of individual buildings and of building materials.

Buildings of special importance are included on a list prepared by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. They are protected by legislation and are known as listed buildings.  Areas of special character worthy of protection and enhancement may be designated as conservation areas by the local planning authority. There are 12,850 listed buildings and 190 conservation areas in Dorset excluding Bournemouth and Poole. Find out more from the Historic Environment Record or the National Heritage List for England maintained by Historic England.

As a general rule, particularly if you have a specific building in mind, the local authority Conservation Officer should be your first point of contact for advice on the need for listed building consent and/or planning permission, and the procedures involved, materials and techniques in keeping with the historic character of the building, and information on specialist craftsmen.

Dorset is famous for its thatched cottages and has around 12% of England's listed thatched buildings. Dorset Council, working in conjunction with a wide range of interested groups and individuals, has produced a strategy for thatching in the county supported by an agreed Code of Practice. Other initiatives include the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service advisory notes for owners of thatched buildings and the Dorset Model which presents a sensible way of dealing with the building control problems which previously beset new thatched properties.