- Why are English Heritage Blue Plaques limited to London?
The London-wide plaques scheme was taken over by English Heritage when the Greater London Council was abolished in 1986. In the rest of the country, plaques have continued to be installed by other organisations – mostly local councils and civic societies. English Heritage did, however, put up plaques in four provincial cities – Birmingham, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Southampton – as a trial for a national scheme. For reasons of cost and logistics – and the fact that so much of the ground was already effectively covered by local initiatives – it was ultimately decided that the scheme should continue to focus on London alone.
- Who should I approach to propose a plaque outside London?
To find out if there is a scheme in your area, first consult English Heritage's register of plaque schemes across England, updated up to 2013. Even if nothing is listed for your area, it would be worth contacting your local council or civic society to see if any plaque scheme exists, or is planned.
- How do I go about putting up a plaque privately, and how do I start my own scheme?
A detailed guidance document, Celebrating People and Place – intended for use by groups and individuals across England – was published by English Heritage in 2010. A download is available in two parts - Part 1 and Part 2.
Proposing a plaque
- How much address information do you require to accept a plaque suggestion, and where can I find this information?
The minimum requirement is for a single authentic address to survive within the Greater London boundary – by 'authentic' we mean that it needs to be the actual building that was inhabited by the candidate for commemoration. The first port of call for address information is normally a biography – including entries in the Dictionary of National Biography – or an autobiography. More detail can be obtained from such sources as electoral registers, Post Office directories and census returns, many of which are now available online on family history sites such as ancestry.com and findmypast.com, which can be accessed free of charge from many public libraries and local archives.
Please supply as much information as you can about addresses, including dates of residency and any interesting detail about the historical figure's links to a particular building. While we will thoroughly research cases ourselves, it is helpful – given the limitations on our resources – to have as much information as possible from the outset.
- Who decides if a nomination to English Heritage is shortlisted for a plaque?
English Heritage's Blue Plaques Panel advises on all nominations, and is comprised of experts in a wide range of disciplines. It meets three times a year, and is currently chaired by Professor Ronald Hutton.
- If my nomination is turned down or does not meet your criteria, what else can I do?
Many other groups erect their own plaques, often based on different criteria to English Heritage. Some London local authorities run schemes, such as the Green Plaques put up by Westminster City Council. Other active schemes include those run by the Heritage Foundation, which puts up plaques to figures who worked in the broad field of entertainment, and by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, which commemorates prominent black historical figures.
English Heritage maintains a register of other schemes across England, updated up to 2013. Your local council or borough archive may hold further information on specialist societies who support the installation of plaques and other forms of local commemoration.
Plaques and property
- Once a nomination is shortlisted by English Heritage, how long does it take before a Blue Plaque goes up?
It varies: the current average waiting time is 2–3 years. There are several reasons for this: there is a rigorous two-stage research process, a shortlist of names to be worked through, and the consent of building owners to be secured (and other approvals too, especially in the case of listed buildings). The plaques themselves are unique pieces, handmade by dedicated craftspeople; they are kiln fired twice, meaning that their manufacture takes 2–3 months.
- Do Blue Plaques help to increase the value of a property?
There is no empirical evidence that plaques add to the value of a house, though they certainly increase its historical interest. And in recent years, several estate agents have chosen to highlight the presence of a plaque as a selling point for a house.
- Does a plaque offer protection to the building on which it is placed?
The presence of a plaque does not afford a building any statutory protection; it has no connection with listing. There are, however, several clear examples of a building being accepted for listing and thereby protected from redevelopment due to the important historical associations of a past resident being highlighted by a plaque – one example is D.H. Lawrence's house, next to Hampstead Heath.
- What happens to a plaque when a building is demolished?
If it is to be removed from a building, there is a requirement to return all plaques in the London-wide scheme – including those put up by its former custodians – to English Heritage. Research is then undertaken to try to find a suitable alternative building for commemoration. This is not always possible – in cases like that of the polar explorer Captain Lawrence Oates there was no alternative London address, meaning that he is no longer commemorated by the scheme.