Tag Archives: Blue plaques

Blue Plaques anniversary

This year marks the 150th anniversary for London Blue Plaques scheme by English Heritage. Blue Plaques commemorate some of Britain’s most prolific historical figures of our heritage. Celebrating those who have shaped our society in more ways than we can count has become a timeless and enduring feature of the British townscape we know.
The official anniversary is to be celebrated 7-8 May, with a weekend of walking tours, memorabilia and a new Blue Plaques App.

[D]uring the weekend of festivities, there are a number of new Blue Plaques that will be unveiled, with the likes of Samuel Beckett and Freddie Mercury being added to the star-studded list of former British residents who made a difference.

Not only have Blue Plaques added a historical significance to our cultural awareness, Blue Plaques have added prestige and value to the buildings they are adorned to. From the properties owned by Sir Winston Churchill, Karl Marx and T.S Eliot, the Blue Plaque effect seems to luring investors and buyers to snatch up properties with English Heritage status as it seems to be the case that the famous plaques are adding value to these London properties.
Below is an infographic produced by Fast Sale Today:

Blue Plaques Infographic


The Blue Plaques of London

The Blue Plaque Scheme

The Blue Plaque Scheme is a system which celebrates the diverse range of achievements and residents that have been a part of

There are almost 900 plaques proudly displayed on buildings around London, visible to the public, where famous people have lived and worked.

[O]riginally suggested by William Ewart MP in 1863, the Blue Plaque Scheme was founded in 1866 by the Royal Society of Arts, known only as the Society of Arts at that date. The scheme is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world.

The Royal Society of Arts began by designing the plaques with a decorative border reading the Society of Arts. The London County Council administered the scheme from 1901 and kept the round border used by the Society of Arts, also adding a wreath decoration underneath the content of the plaques, which can be seen on the plaque dedicated to Charles Dickens.

From 1965, the Greater London Council handled the scheme and they developed the terms of acceptance for a plaque to include significant events at a building in addition to someone having lived or worked there. Following the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, the English Heritage began to manage the Blue Plaque Scheme and continues to do so to this present day.

The earliest blue plaque was for Lord Byron, placed in 1867 at his birthplace at Cavendish Square. Unfortunately, this building was demolished in 1889 and the plaque is no longer. The earliest surviving plaque was also installed in 1867 and can be seen in Westminster, commemorating Napoleon III.

Each plaque is hand crafted and they have been tested with a variety of materials, shapes and colours. Including: bronze, stone, lead; square, round, rectangle; brown, sage, terracotta and, of course, blue.

Today, you will find plaques being designed out of cast aluminium, round in shape with a dark blue background and white lettering. You can find the almost 900 plaques around London in all but three boroughs.

The Green Plaque Scheme
The Green Plaque Scheme was launched in 1991 and recognises people who have made lasting contributions to society, focusing mainly on buildings in Westminster.

To be eligible for a green plaque, the person must have been distinguished in their career, genuinely contributed to human welfare and sufficient time must have passed since their life to recognise their contribution to society.

You may have happened upon the Twiggy and Donovan statues in Mayfair London in the past, which is a tribute to the professional photographer Terence Donovan, who famously photographed Twiggy and has a green plaque on the studio where he worked, which is currently on the market through Wetherell, having being given a designer makeover.

The Effect of Plaques on Property
Although a plaque installed on a property does not offer that building any protection, the awareness of historical significance and interest in cultural icons has saved some building from demolition and in some cases led to preservation, even for fictional characters, like Sherlock Holmes. His famous address on Baker Street has been turned into a museum, with the plaque present on the outside of the building.

As the protection, the plaques do not necessarily increase value to a property. However, the interest in buyers, especially from outside of the UK has seen a huge increase in property values with a plaque installed, which has actually led to estate agents listing the plaque status as a feature of the building.

Buyers rushed at the chance to buy Margaret Thatcher’s property when it went on the market, just because of the blue plaque status. The property sold for £35million, even though it had sold for only £4.16million the previous year.

The Blue Plaque and Green Plaque Schemes are exclusive to London, but you may notice similar schemes around the UK. These are generally maintained by individual council bodies and each will have their own set of eligibility criteria and value to their plaques.

Anyone can propose a plaque to the blue or green scheme and all suggestions are considered if they meet the conditions for acceptance.


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The Ultimate Blue Plaque

For someone who spends a lot of my time sitting in traffic jams staring out of the cab’s window, I often find myself discovering blue plaques and wondering who the commemorated person might be.

I know the subject of the first blue plaque, Lord Byron. It was unveiled at 24 Holles Street; Cavendish Square in 1867 demolished in 1889. I know London’s earliest surviving blue plaque Napoleon III on King Street.

[B]ut just who was Arthur Henry War Sax Rohmer, apparently the creator of Dr. Fu Manchu or Francis Pettit Smith inventor of the screw propeller?

The most important blue plaque at 16 Eaton Place, Belgravia commemorates a gentleman unknown to most: William Ewart, MP who lived here from 1830 to 1838.

Eaton Place

Ewart apparently was a social reformer who was responsible for the Act that introduced public libraries. It was he who in 1863 proposed to the House of Commons that a scheme to commemorate worthy citizens. Probably because Members of the House had visions of themselves remembered for posterity the scheme was swiftly adopted.

English Heritage now decides the worthy recipients. While the City of London has, as with many things, not adopted the scheme and has just one blue plaque in Gough Square depicting Dr. Johnson.

Today London has more than 880 with some incongruous couplings: Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel share the same wall. Next year scheme finds itself in rude health and on the cusp of its 150th anniversary. A Blue Plaques programme celebrating this major milestone in the history of the scheme launches next year.

Photos: Former home of William Ewart in Eaton Place by Basher Eyre (CC BY-SA 2.0); Blue Plaque William Ewart 1798-1869 reformer lived here by Spudgun67 (CC BY-SA-4.0)

Blue plaque blues

PlaqueSome people like to think that spending one’s day driving a black cab around London is an interesting and fulfilling way to earn a living – it isn’t.

Apart from an interesting passenger or occasional celebrity much of your day can be tedious. One way to brighten your day is to spot blue plaques and try to identify the person to whom they were dedicated.

Take Beaumont Street and Westmoreland Street, the only time you are likely to encounter this little thoroughfare is when a member of the Royal Family is in King Edward Hospital. But as you reach the junction with New Cavendish Street there facing you is a blue plaque dedicated to ‘Vicky’, who it turns out was Victor Weisz a cartoonist. Or who would have thought the Royal dress designer Norman Hartnall lived three stories up in a small block of flats in Sussex Gardens.

[E]ach plaque costs £965 to manufacture and erect and I read (although I can’t see how it could be) English Heritage claims they can save £240,000 over 2 years by disbanding the quango consisting of 13 members who decide who gets their name up in blue.

The blue plaques were designed by an unnamed student from the Central School of Arts and Crafts and due to the design its surface is self-cleaning.

I like the fact that areas of London whose politics are not middle-of-the-road erect their own plaques in defiance of the blue plaque quango, commemorating some left wing politicians.

The doyen of leftwing politics – Carl Marx had a blue plaque erected in Kentish Town; twice it was defaced before the resident of the property begged for it to be taken down. The Labour run GLC eventually erected another one in 1967 at 28 Dean Street.

Many commemorate less serious persons – another favourite of mine is on the corner of Englefield Street and Essex Road the home of Champagne Charlie, musical hall entertainer George Leybourne.

The plaques only commemorate the building, if that is demolished then the plaque goes too. This has saved some property from re-development. J. M. Barrie’s home at the north side of Kensington Gardens was saved. Whenever I see it you can imagine Peter Pan and Tinkerbell flying out of its bedroom window.

Many houses deserve blue plaques; they apparently don’t add value to your property, just kudos. But one street off the Strand has seen a remarkable number of persons living there deserving of blue plaques. Buckingham Street has had living there David Hume, father of the Enlightenment; Henri Rousseau, postimpressionist painter; Robert Harley, Queen Anne’s Lord Treasurer; Jonathan Swift; William Penn; painters William Etty and Clarkson Stanfield; Humphrey Davey, of miner’s lamp fame; Peg Woffington, actress (see the book I am reading); Russian Peter the Great; writer Henry Fielding; Charles Dickens; Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, believe it or not, Napoleon Bonaparte.