Weird and wonderful:Britain's most eccentric listed buildings include a monumental pig sty, Victorian model dinosaurs, and a futuristic petrol station

As a nation of eccentrics, it is right that some very weird and wonderful architectural delights should be protected by law.

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An Egyptianate Victorian pig sty, a Sixties petrol station, and a collection of model dinosaurs are among the most unusual buildings and structures that have been listed as worth saving for the nation.

Also among the 400,000 on the National Heritage List are a Seventies skatepark and the oldest water chute in the country alongside two car parks, several extraordinary homes and military and scientific devices.

The list has been compiled to mark the 70th anniversary of the Town and Country Planning Act, which sought to protect the country’s best structures after the devastation of the Second World War. 

"Some of the more unusual buildings and structures on The List have been protected as much for their rarity, as for their unusual design," says Rosie Ryder, media manager at Historic England.

"Often there may only be a handful of similar structures still standing in the country, or even the world, so recognising the most special remaining examples is a question of remembering a part of our collective story which otherwise would have been completely lost.

"Listing is selective though and only the most special examples are protected."

Unusual listed buildings, including a concrete diving platform, Britain’s first mosque, a bus station, a car park and a wooden hut can be found in the gallery above, or read on to find out more about our pick of the most bizarre buildings.

Many have been designated because of a question of rarity — they are often the 'first of' or 'the only' examples of their kind. 

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The Crystal Palace dinosaurs have been scaring children for 150 years (Historic England)

When Jurassic Park came to Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s famous dinosaur sculptures have wowed visitors to this corner of south-east London for over 150 years.

They were introduced to Crystal Palace Park in 1854 after Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace building was moved there from Hyde Park following the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Although the vast building was destroyed by fire in 1936, the dinosaurs have survived and are about to undergo a painstaking restoration.

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This space-age petrol station near Leicester was once one of 19,000 around the world

Filled with pride

Most petrol stations are barely spared a thought by visiting motorists, but the Esso station on the A6 outside Leicester is a space-age survivor of more than 19,000 similar filling stations around the world.

Oil company Mobil commissioned the memorable design for their vast chain of stations and from 1966 the UFO-inspired designs spread around the world.

The canopy units were listed for three main reasons: architectural interest — they are an iconic piece of corporate design; authorship — their designer, American modernist architect Eliot Noyes, was a leading figure in post-war commercial design; and intactness. 

Although now managed by Esso, the canopies survive intact, providing an architectural treat to putting £50 of petrol in your car.

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The ancient Egyptian-inspired Victorian pig sty in Robin Hood's Bay

The grandest of pig sties

Local squire and magistrate John Warren Barry wanted to house his pigs in the finest of styles, adopting ancient Egyptian architecture as the inspiration for their home.

A true reflection of one man’s sense of humour, the 1891 sty is not only a listed building, but ironically has become a sought-after holiday home, let by the Landmark Trust.

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BMXers and skaters alike still enjoy the Rom Skatepark in Hornchurch

Skating crazy

Skateboarding took off in a big way in Britain in the Seventies and among the many purpose-built parks was the Rom Skatepark in Hornchurch, Essex.

Modelled on the finest of Californian skateparks, this is one of the few survivors, although its clientele has since expanded to include BMXers and even brave kick-scooter riders.

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The Water Chute at Wicksteed Park, near Kettering (Historic England Archive)

Water way to enjoy yourself

Theme parks are some of the most popular visitor attractions in the country, visited by millions of Britons and foreign travellers alike.

This is one of the reasons that the Water Chute at Wicksteed Park in Northamptonshire won its listing. Funded by philanthropist Charles Wicksteed in 1926, the wooden water chute was the forerunner of many rides at modern theme parks and is still giving thrills to visitors to this day.

Want to know more? You can find out the exact reason each structure has been listed by searching the Historic England database.


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