What is the blue plaque scheme?
Started over 150 years ago, the London blue plaque scheme celebrates the houses and workplaces of prominent historical figures. Fuelled mainly by suggestions from the public, it offers up an eclectic mix of the famous (Freddie Mercury, Amadeus Mozart, W. B. Yeats and Enid Blyton) and the novel (a clown, a bare-knuckle boxer and a chap who, rather whimsically, named clouds).
Proposing a plaque
If you're interested in proposing a plaque, you just need two things:
A notable person to nominate
A building to put their plaque on
Once you have these, you need to fulfil the detailed selection criteria.
Only one plaque is erected per person, so search for an existing plaque before proposing a new one. Then you’ll need to find a building associated with that figure – one that survives in an originally recognisable form and is visible from a public highway. It must be at least 20 years since a candidate's death, although Gandhi had only been gone for six years when he got his.
For more information about other criteria, visit the English Heritage website.
Getting your nomination approved
English Heritage’s Blue Plaques Panel of experts meets three times a year to decide the shortlist. They follow a rigorous process to sift through the candidates and secure consent, so it usually takes two to three years for a plaque to go up. Even the handmade, kiln-fired plaques themselves take several months to manufacture.
Interesting facts about plaques
The first ever plaque was unveiled in 1867 to commemorate Lord Byron’s birthplace in Holles Street, Cavendish Square. The house was demolished in 1889 and the site is now occupied by a John Lewis shop. This means that the oldest surviving plaque was dedicated to Napoleon III in 1867, even though he happened to be very much alive at the time.
Some houses even have two former residents with plaques. Baroque meets rock at Brook Street, Mayfair, where Messiah composer George Frideric Handel is an unlikely neighbour of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. "To tell you the God's honest truth, I haven't heard much of the fella's stuff," Hendrix reportedly said.
Grafton Way also housed two literary giants at different times, Bernard Shaw from 1887-1898 and Virginia Woolf 1907-1911.
Perhaps the most admired occupation described on a plaque is found on Tottenham High Road for the pioneering meteorologist Luke Howard, who proposed a nomenclature system for clouds.
The house in Southwark where Boris Karloff was born has a plaque – it’s now a fish and chip shop.
Did you know?
John Lewis Finance offers four levels of Home Insurance and can even cover listed buildings of all grades as part of our Specialist cover level.
John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Home Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Munich Re Digital Partners Limited, a company authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry on insurance distribution activities.
John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority no. 416011) of Covea Insurance plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (registration no. 202277). John Lewis Specialist Home Insurance is underwritten by Covea Insurance plc. Registered Office: A&B Mills, Dean Clough, Halifax, HX3 5AX. Registered in England and Wales (registration no. 613259).