Thirty years after Pevsner’s death, we look back to his remarkable effort to document England’s notable buildings

Nikolaus Pevsner

Nikolaus Pevsner

Date 1983
Subject Nikolaus Pevsner
Location London

Three decades before Buildings of England became an app, the life’s work of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner was celebrated in an obituary after his death in 1983.

In the 1940s Pevsner recognised that the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments would take at least 375 years to complete its inventory of England’s notable buildings, so decided to carry out the task himself. He drove around the country in his Morris 1000 with his wife Lola for company, working 90-hour weeks for a month at a time.

Counties were tackled at the rate of roughly two a year — the warmer southern counties in March and April, and colder northern ones in September. Overall, 20,000 pages and 8.5 million words were produced, mostly by Pevsner himself.