Blue Plaque FAQs

Why do blue plaques have to mark the actual residence of a person? What difference does it make if a house has been demolished and replaced by a new building?
The intrinsic aim of English Heritage blue plaques is to commemorate the link between a figure of the past and the building in which they lived or worked. If that building has been lost, the connection is deemed to have been severed and the interest diluted. This fact was increasingly noted in the years following the Second World War, and was incorporated into the selection criteria in 1954.

Do blue plaques help to increase the value of your property?
There is, as yet, no firm evidence that plaques add to the value of your property, though they certainly increase its interest. Houses bearing blue plaques stand out, especially in outer areas of London where comparatively few plaques have been erected under the scheme. To some extent, it depends on the person who resided in the building; for instance, a plaque to Jimi Hendrix might create more interest than one to Fanny Burney.

The plaque to Dr Harold Moody at 164 Queen’s Road, Peckham, erected by English Heritage in 1995.

The plaque to Dr Harold Moody at 164 Queen’s Road, Peckham, erected by English Heritage in 1995.

When was the first blue plaque put up in London?
The first blue plaque was erected in 1867 by the (Royal) Society of Arts. It commemorated the birthplace of Lord Byron in Holles Street, near Cavendish Square. The building was demolished in 1889. The earliest blue plaque to survive is that to Napoleon III at 1 King Street, St James’s; it too was put up in 1867.

How many blue plaques are there?
The London-wide blue plaques scheme includes over 880 plaques. There were once an additional 100, but these were removed or destroyed due to demolition.

Why aren’t all plaques blue?
Blue has been the standard colour for plaques erected under the London-wide scheme since the Second World War. Before that, there was a great deal of experimentation; plaques could be green, brown, white or terracotta in colour, and varied in design. In the second half of the 1800s, when the scheme was run by the (Royal) Society of Arts, blue was considered to be an expensive and difficult colour to use. Other schemes in London and across the country use a wide range of colours and materials for their plaques.

Are there blue plaques across the whole of England?
English Heritage itself trialled a national plaques scheme between 1998 and 2005, erecting 34 plaques in Liverpool, Merseyside, Birmingham, Southampton and Portsmouth.  It now concentrates on providing advice and guidance to individuals, groups and organisations interested or involved in putting up plaques. There are thousands of plaques across the country, of every shape and colour, which complement the work of English Heritage in London. Please see our plaques register for a list of plaque schemes across England

Who decides which people are commemorated with blue plaques in London?
English Heritage’s Blue Plaques Panel, which comprises experts in various disciplines from across the country and meets three times a year. Its role is to advise and support the Commission and staff of English Heritage.

Are all plaques unveiled?
No. Around two thirds of plaques erected by English Heritage are unveiled. Unveiling ceremonies are organised by external partners – usually the proposer of the plaque in question – in partnership with English Heritage.

Is the general public allowed to attend plaque unveilings?
Yes. The unveiling itself is always clearly visible from a public highway, although there may be private receptions afterwards.

Does a plaque offer protection to the building on which it is placed?
No. Unfortunately, the presence of a plaque does not in itself afford a building any statutory protection; it has, for example, no connection with listing. Plaques that have been removed in the course of redevelopment include those to the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, the Antarctic explorer Captain Lawrence Oates, and the leader of Fighter Command, Lord Dowding.

How do you discover where a person lived?
Careful and detailed research is carried out into the various addresses of each successful candidate. In order to pinpoint and verify residences and precise years of occupancy, English Heritage historians make use of sources including autobiographies, electoral registers, post office directories and census returns.

How long does it take to make each plaque?
Each plaque is manufactured by hand by skilled craftspeople. Around two months is allowed for the completion of each plaque.  

Are all plaques erected by English Heritage?
No. The plaques erected by the (Royal) Society of Arts, the London County Council, the Greater London Council and English Heritage are sometimes termed ‘official’ and constitute the capital's blue plaques scheme. Many other groups have erected their own plaques separately from the ‘official’ scheme, often using very different criteria. Plaque schemes are, for example, run by various local authorities, and by organisations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Transport Trust and the Nubian Jak Community Trust. Please see our plaques register for a list of plaque schemes across England. 

Why are there fewer blue plaques in outer London?
The London County Council, which ran the plaques scheme from 1901 until 1965, was responsible for what is now inner London. It was only after the scheme passed to the Greater London Council in 1965 that plaques began to be erected in areas such as Barnet and Wimbledon.  

Can blue plaques only commemorate people?
No. A number of plaques erected under the London-wide scheme commemorate historical events (such as the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) and sites (such as Alexandra Palace).

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