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Quit your job, become a...historic building lister

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

Emily Gee, 41, head of listing advice for Historic England

What attracted you to listing?

‘I did a master’s in architectural history and thought I might like to be an architect, but that wasn’t my skillset at all. Then I realised there was this wonderful world where I could combine my love of buildings with social history. I went straight from my master’s to be a listing inspector. That was 15 years ago.’

What are your favourite buildings that you've listed?

‘A recent one is the British Library, which I think is one of the most important public buildings of the second half of the last century. It really is for everyone: not just for academics and scholars. It’s got that amazing piazza, and with its red brick it’s a wonderful foil to St Pancras station – two Grade I landmarks next to each other. Plus I met my husband there, so it’s a very special building for me.’

Are there any tricky bits to the job?

‘All of the architecture is owned by somebody – that’s one of the challenges of the job. We have to be utterly objective in the face of what can be quite a difficult conversation, and be as straightforward as possible with owners because we’re dealing with changes to how they can look after their own property.’

What's the weirdest thing that you've listed?

‘The Abbey Road zebra crossing. It was suggested by a member of the public and we were like: “Can that even be listed?” We’re allowed to protect anything that’s a structure and, technically, the zebra crossing constitutes a structure because it’s paint on the road. We also protected the Belisha beacons at each end.’

What's so great about what you do?

‘I feel a strong sense of duty to the public and the historic environment of London and England. You feel like you’re making a difference by advising to add sites to the National Heritage List, which means they’ll still be special for my son and for many generations after him.’

Hours: 40 hours per week

Starting Salary: £30,000 p/a

Qualifications: A degree in history, planning or archaeology

Or why not become a first aid trainer?

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