The Changing Face of Blue Plaques
The iconic blue plaque design has been the subject of regular experiment over the years. Plaques have been made of bronze, stone and lead, in square, round and rectangular forms, and have been finished in shades of brown, sage, terracotta and – of course – blue. Find out more below about how the plaque designs have evolved since the scheme began 150 years ago.
The earliest plaques
The earliest plaques, commissioned by the Society of Arts, were handmade by the pottery firm Minton, Hollins & Co. The inlaid or encaustic roundel had a distinctive border pattern with the letters of the name of the Society of Arts worked into the decorative design. Some were set into a painted wooden mount.
The very earliest plaques were blue, but this was an expensive and difficult colour to produce and over the next 35 years the Society mainly used a chocolate brown background.
The last 50 years
Since 1965, the GLC and English Heritage have continued – with only a few, very occasional exceptions – to use the standard blue roundel. Today, the name English Heritage is always inscribed on the top edge and our logo of a crenallated square is centered on the bottom edge. Our current specifications state that plaques should be 495mm (19½ inches) in diameter and 50mm (2 inches) thick.
Subtle changes in the font and layout of the text have developed over the years, but the general formatting principles have remained the same for some time. These dictate that the name appears in capitals with the surname slightly larger, followed by life dates, profession or accomplishment, and then the commemorated figure’s relationship to the building – whether they were born, lived, worked or died there, or any combination of the above.