News: A Sign of the Times

This year marks the 150th anniversary of London’s Blue Plaque scheme. In 1866 the Royal Society of Arts started to place commemorative plaques on buildings across the capital. The roundels are now part of the urban landscape, highlighting famous but unlikely neighbours: Jimi Hendrix lived next door to GF Handel (separated by one wall and three centuries) while George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf both lived at the same address a few years apart.

The oldest surviving plaque dates from 1867, commemorating Emperor Napoleon III on his former residence in King Street, Westminster. The oldest plaque to a woman is for writer Fanny Burney, whose 1885 plaque is at 11 Bolton Street, Mayfair. There are now more than 800 commemorations across the capital.

English Heritage took over the running of the London Blue Plaque scheme in 1986. There was a pause in 2013 due to government cuts, but now the scheme survives thanks to donations. Nominations for recognition come from members of the public. English Heritage is marking the anniversary with a series of events on May 7 and 8.


Blue plaques London history