Accessing built heritage
The Historic Environment Division (HED) records, protects, conserves and promotes Northern Ireland’s historic environment and has gathered a wealth of information for present and future generations to use and enjoy. This information is publicly accessible through The Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland (HERoNI).
Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland
The information held in the Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland (HERoNI) is stored in a number of formats, including books, databases, drawings, written records, maps, photographs, and digital records. This wide-ranging body of material has been grouped into a number of individual records, each focusing on a particular aspect of heritage. These include:
- The Historic Buildings Record
- The Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record
- The Industrial Heritage Record
- The Historic Parks Gardens and Demesnes Record
- The Defence Heritage Record
- The Maritime Record
- The Excavations Record
The record also includes extensive collections of photographs of Northern Ireland’s built heritage and architectural drawings.
If you are studying built heritage or just want to learn more, HERoNI and its extensive library collection are available to everyone. HERoNI is housed in the Klondyke Building in the Gasworks Business Park, Ormeau Road, BT7 2JA. If you would like to be kept informed via the mailing group or have any specific enquiries, send a request to:
Many of HERoNI’s resources are available online. At the Department for Communities (DfC) website you can access many of the databases and records. The historic environment map viewer allows you to search for historic buildings and monuments and view old editions of the Ordnance Survey maps along with more contemporary GIS datasets.
Historic Buildings Record
The Historic Buildings Record includes an online database with information for over 11,000 historic buildings and structures throughout Northern Ireland. This includes records from the first listed buildings survey of Northern Ireland, undertaken between 1969 and 1994, plus the results of the on-going ‘Second Survey’ of historic buildings. The Historic Buildings Record also has thousands of files and drawings from the work of the Archaeological Survey for Northern Ireland (1950 onwards).
Records of historic buildings are available on the Buildings Database
Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record
You can access the online Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record (NISMR). NISMR has details for each archaeological site or historic monument recorded in Northern Ireland. There are over 16,000 records, from prehistoric tombs to post-medieval settlements.
To find the information you need, you can search using townland or parish, site type or time period.
Industrial Heritage Record
Northern Ireland once boasted a varied and rich industrial economy that included internationally renowned companies such as Harland and Wolff. This has left a large and important legacy of sites that include factories and mills, mines, canals and railways.
The Industrial Heritage Record lists more than 16,000 industrial sites. Limited information is currently available for most sites in the Record. Some sites have more detailed recorded information such as those surveyed in the Second Survey of Historic Buildings in Northern Ireland.
Industrial Heritage records can be viewed in the HERoNI.
Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes Record
The Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes Record of Northern Ireland make up an important part of the landscape.
They may include architectural features, such as walled gardens, bridges or garden pavilions, and commonly contain woodland, veteran trees, ornamental grounds, and plant collections, including arboreta and pineta.
By their very nature, parks and gardens incorporate large volumes of living plants and are therefore a fragile and changing heritage, demanding careful ongoing management and conservation.
The Northern Ireland Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes Record has a detailed record of over 700 historic parks, gardens and demesnes.
Defence Heritage Record
Volunteers in the Defence Heritage Project have collected information about twentieth century military structures in Northern Ireland. These include trenches, gun and searchlight emplacements, pillboxes, observation posts, airfields, naval and flying boat bases and air raid shelters.
The Record is undergoing a major update between 2020 and 2022, with more comprehensive reports being added and these will be accessible through HERoNI’s map viewer. For more information and to find out how to let HED know of a defence heritage site, visit the following page:
Maritime Heritage Record
The coast and seaways have always been important for settlement, defence, economic exploitation and trade. The Maritime Heritage Record has details about archaeological sites on the coastline, foreshore and underwater.
Records include sites such as kelp kilns, ice houses, fish traps, salt pans as well as ports and harbours.
The Excavations Record
HERoNI obtains copies of final reports for every licensed archaeological excavation undertaken throughout Northern Ireland. This means that it has the most complete record of the archaeological investigations that have taken place here over many years. An exciting new development has been the creation of a digital map-based record, plotting the locations of more than 2,600 excavations around the country.
These can be accessed through The historic environment map viewer
HERoNI holds over 72,000 photographic prints and negatives together with over 414,000 colour transparencies slides and 297,500 digital images currently on fotoware system.
Many of these taken by Historic Environment Division (HED) staff during their survey and research work; others through purchases or gifts. Included in the collection are aerial views of urban and rural sites.
Architectural drawing collection
The Architectural Drawings Collection includes drawn plans, elevations and sections from several architectural firms who were responsible for the repair, modifications and extensions to many important historic buildings in Northern Ireland.
The collection also incorporates Ministry of Finance (1922-1950) and Board of Works (pre-1922) files, mostly architectural designs of government buildings, such as schools, post offices and hospitals.
Built heritage at risk in Northern Ireland
The Historic Environment Divisiontogether with the Ulster Architectural Heritage has created a register of buildings that are under threat from neglect or future development. This register is available online at:
If you think a building should be added to the register or if you have more information about a building, email HED:
- email: HeritageatriskNI@communities-ni.gov.uk or
- email: Historicenvironmentenquiries@communities-ni.gov.uk
The Natural Stone database for Northern Ireland
The database has information about the building stone used in monuments and buildings throughout Northern Ireland. There is also information on quarries (active and inactive) where the stone was extracted.
Information in the database is useful for owners and those involved in conservation or researching monuments and buildings.