Commemorative plaques, which can be found on buildings of all styles and dates, are one of the most effective – and visible – means of celebrating history and the historic environment. Today there are at least 300 plaque schemes across the country, as well as countless individual plaques. While many schemes are long-established, such as those in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester, new plaque initiatives are being launched all the time.
English Heritage – which has run the London-wide plaque scheme since 1986 – is active in providing advice to all those who are interested in putting up commemorative plaques and has now published practical and detailed guidance on every aspect of plaque work, including design, historical research and the gaining of consents.
The popularity of commemorative plaques as a means of connecting us with our past is undoubted, but their simplicity can be deceptive. How should one go about undertaking the historical research needed for a plaque? Whose consent is required before a plaque can be installed? What design is appropriate, and what colour and material should be used to ensure that plaques are adornments to the historic environment? These are just some of the questions that ‘Celebrating People & Place' will answer for those interested in embarking on a plaque project of their own.
The document has drawn on English Heritage's experience of managing the London-wide scheme and on the advice and information provided by administrators of other plaque schemes, many of whom attended the Commemorative Plaques conference held in London in February 2010. Local authorities, civic societies, history groups and other bodies and individuals involved in commemorative plaques have been consulted on the document, which is available to download on the side of this page.
Emily Cole, Head of English Heritage's Blue Plaques Team, said:
"A successful commemorative plaque initiative can be a real asset to buildings, towns and cities. We hope that this guidance document, which has been so well informed by many experienced individuals and organisations involved in schemes across the country, will prove useful for anyone seeking more detail on how to go about erecting a commemorative plaque."
Others have described the new guidance document as 'a mass of interesting and informative details, with excellent images' (Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society), 'eminently readable and amazingly comprehensive' (Hidden Heritage), and 'a gold mine of useful information' (Lancaster Civic Society). Melton Mowbray & District Civic Society has noted that 'Every aspect of setting up a scheme is covered in a way that is easy to follow and also very encouraging – definitely a "we can do it" book'.
In order to strengthen the links between the many groups and organisations which are involved with commemorative plaques, English Heritage is in the process of carrying out an audit of existing schemes. It is hoped that, in due course, the information about such initiatives will be placed on the English Heritage website.