Judi Dench Backs English Heritage’s 'Plaques for Women' Campaign

  • Actress Margaret Lockwood celebrated with English Heritage Blue Plaque

Dame Judi Dench has urged the public to "nominate the women you admire" for blue plaques, English Heritage announced today (21 November) as the charity unveiled a blue plaque to Margaret Lockwood (1916-1990), star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The plaque celebrating the popular film actress of the 1930s and 1940s was installed at 14 Highland Road in Upper Norwood, her first home after moving to London as a child in the early 1920s.

Judi Dench’s call for more female nominations follows English Heritage’s announcement earlier this month that women make up only 14% of the over 900 London blue plaques. English Heritage wants this to change, but as the scheme is reliant on nominations, more female suggestions are needed to bring about a significant increase in the number of blue plaques to women.

Dame Judi Dench said: "If people want to find out about our London history, they can go and just stand for a minute outside and look at a house where you know that person has lived – I think that’s just wonderful. So far the scheme honours some brilliant women; Florence Nightingale, Ava Gardner and the Pankhursts, but there are many, many more unsung female heroes who deserve recognition. So nominate the women you admire, the women who did great and remarkable things throughout history, and the women who did not go quietly. English Heritage needs your help."

Making a name for herself in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938), Margaret Lockwood went on to become one of the most popular female actors of the age, appearing in numerous titles including Night Train to Munich (1940), The Man in Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945). From around 1943-1948 she was one of Britain’s biggest stars – certainly, for a time, she was its highest paid – and her on-screen performances brought her international acclaim. Sixteen thousand fan letters came to her a week, as did the Daily Mail award for best film actress for three years running (1946-48); and her name was used to advertise – among other products – Lux soap, Pringle knitwear, Dreen shampoo and Clark’s shoes.

Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director and Secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, said: "We’re thrilled to have Dame Judi Dench’s support for our 'plaques for women' campaign, especially as we unveil one to the screen legend Margaret Lockwood today. The London Blue Plaques Scheme is over 150 years old and with that legacy comes an historical gender imbalance. The scheme relies on public nominations and that’s why we need them to send us their suggestions."

The plaque was unveiled at 14 Highland Road in Upper Norwood, the place where Lockwood first experienced 'the great greyness of London'. Although it is stated in her autobiography, Lucky Star, that the family lived at the adjacent 2 Lunham Road, electoral registers and other evidence show that this was a mistaken recollection by the actress. At number 14, Lockwood, her mother and brother lived in 'a large upstairs maisonette, from the windows of which we could still see grey plains of the City stretching endlessly; a City as unknown to the Lockwoods from India as the Lockwoods were to London'. The family went on live at two other houses in the same street, both of which were destroyed in the Second World War.

Other people prominent in theatre and film who have been recognised under the London Blue Plaques Scheme include Richard Burton in Hampstead, Charlie Chaplin in Kennington, Ava Gardner in Knightsbridge and Sir John Gielgud in Westminster.

How to get a London blue plaque 

The London blue plaques scheme celebrates the link between significant figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked. In order to receive a blue plaque, figures must be judged to have met a number of criteria, including the following:   

• they should have made a great and lasting impact on society 

• the London building in which they lived or worked should still survive 

• they should have been dead for more than 20 years

Blue Plaques for Women – Key Statistics:

• The London Blue Plaques scheme was founded in 1866 

• The first plaque to a woman was erected in 1876 and honoured the actress Sarah Siddons, although this no longer survives 

• By 1905, just five women – one actress and four writers (including George Eliot) – had been commemorated with a plaque

• By 1986, when English Heritage took over the London blue plaques scheme, the number of blue plaques celebrating women was 45.

• Since then, English Heritage has unveiled more than 80 London blue plaques to women – 60% of the total blue plaques to women – including plaques to Ada Lovelace, the pioneer of computing, Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who helped discovered DNA, and Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in parliament.

To find out more, including how to nominate someone for a blue plaque, visit:

The English Heritage London Blue Plaques scheme is generously supported by David Pearl and members of the public.

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