Planning and building

Guidance for archaeological work

Archaeological building recording

An archaeological building recording may be requested in order to advise on the conservation, alteration, repair or management of a building/structure or to provide a permanent archive/record ahead of change or destruction.

Building recording can be requested to comply with 4 levels as set out by Historic England:

  • Level 1 – a basic visual record supplemented by the minimum of information needed to identify the building’s location, age and type - this is the simplest record, not normally an end in itself but contributing to a wider aim
  • Level 2 – a descriptive record. Both exterior and interior will be viewed, described and photographed - the record will present conclusions regarding the building’s development and use; a plan and other drawings may be made but the drawn record will normally not be comprehensive
  • Level 3 – an analytical record. Includes an introductory description, account of origins, development and use - an account of evidence, drawn and photographic records, draws on readily accessible documentary sources but will not include a detailed documentary search
  • Level 4 – comprehensive analytical record for buildings of special importance - will draw on all available resources and will discuss the building’s significance in architectural, social, regional and economic history terms

We no longer ask for photographic prints to be routinely produced. A request will be specifically made for 35 millimeter black and white prints, only if deemed necessary.

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The building recording report must include the following:

  • location plan, grid ref and plan of site showing position of survey elements
  • a full description of and an interpretation of the buildings, setting them where appropriate into their archaeological, architectural, historical and research context using information from archival sources and the Historic Environment Record (HER)
  • drawn (where requested) and photographic records (min 24 megapixels using Digital SLR, file format .jpg for presentation, .tiff for archive) to illustrate the building’s appearance and structure and to support an historical analysis; the scale of the drawings derived from a survey must be appropriate to the building, typically 1:100 or 1:50 for plans, 1:50 or 1:20 for sections
  • plan showing location of all archived photographs
  • plans and sections of building if available from architect or if requested to be produced specially
  • selected images from the photographic record*

*The photographic record should include:

  • general views of the building in its wider setting or landscape
  • the building’s external appearance – typically a series of oblique views - where an individual elevation embodies complex historical information, views at right angles to the plane of the elevation may also be appropriate
  • detailed close-up coverage of the building’s external appearance – for example windows, doors, decorative detail
  • overall appearance of each room and circulation areas
  • internal close-up detail, structural and decorative – for example windows, doors, fireplaces
  • any dates or other inscriptions which contribute to an understanding of the building or its fixtures or machinery.
  • any building contents which have a significant bearing on the building’s history

Where a drawn record is required:

  • cross-sections through principal structural unit
  • scale drawings recording form and location of significant structural detail
  • drawings to show the form/profile of any architectural decoration
  • an index to the archive as thumbnail images in the final report and information on how the archive can be accessed
  • where possible, the building record should include recordings (sound and/or video) of individuals who worked/occupied the building - it's recognised that this may not be achievable, but this objective must be considered at the planning stage of a building recording exercise

Our Historic Environment Record (HER) supports the 'Online Access to Index of Archaeological Investigations' (OASIS) project; the archaeological contractor must complete the online OASIS form - further information may be required by the City Archaeologist in certain cases.

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The long term care of the archive must be provided for. Digital archive must be prepared for deposition with and curation by City of York Historic Environment Record (HER) and Archaeology Data Services (ADS). ADS will charge a fee and have strict metadata requirements. The fee for this should be costed appropriately into the project.

An estimate of the cost of archiving digital images and reports using the ADS Easy service can be obtained from ADS.

Larger, long running projects may need bespoke costing from the ADS Collections Development Manager (email:

The buildings archaeologist should follow the ADS’ polices and requirements for metadata accompanying digital files.

When depositing with ADS the contractor should enable the automatic notification of the completion of the process, and have an email sent to the City Archaeologist. Receipt of ADS deposition is required for approval of planning conditions.

A portable document format (PDF) copy of the report and JPEG images should also be sent to City Of York HER. Once a report has become a public document by forming part of a planning application, we will place the information on our website and make the information available through the Heritage Gateway website.

All work must be carried out in compliance with the codes of practice of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) and must follow the CIfA Standards and Guidance for the Archaeological Investigation and Recording of Standing Buildings or Structures, revised 2016.

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Also see


City of York Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA