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Image: illustration of several characters from the past (by Jasmine Whiteleaf)

Past Lives

From a captive queen to the father of the NHS, and from a medieval hermit to a reggae superstar, discover the stories of the people who shaped our country's past.

Image: John Seely and Paul Paget

Seely and Paget at Eltham Palace

The partners behind the architectural practice that designed Stephen and Virginia Courtauld’s Art Deco mansion at Eltham Palace and Gardens.

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Image: Illustration of St Aelred by Jasmine Whiteleaf


The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in north Yorkshire stand as a monument to its inspiring former abbot, who oversaw much of its expansion.

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Image: Illustration of Henry II by Jasmine Whiteleaf

Henry II, Becket and Dover Castle

How the consequences of Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral 850 years ago may have influenced Henry II in creating Dover Castle’s Great Tower.

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Image: blue plaque dedicated to Aneurin 'Nye' Bevan and Jennie Lee


Discover the story of the visionary who founded our beloved NHS to provide free health care services to the nation – an act commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home.

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Image: illustration of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Simon Pemberton

Eleanor of Aquitaine at Old Sarum

How this formidable French princess and former queen of England came to be imprisoned in the windswept castle of Old Sarum in Wiltshire.

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Image: illustration of Bob Marley by Peter Strain

Bob Marley in London

The Jamaican reggae star came to regard the capital as a second home, and has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former Chelsea base.

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More Past Lives

Image: illustration of Lilian Lindsay by Harry Tennant

Pioneering dentist Lilian Lindsay in London

The accomplishments of Britain’s first female dentist are commemorated by a blue plaque, which also had to overcome adversity of a different kind.

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  • The hermit of Barnard Castle

    A visit to Barnard Castle in Durham should include a visit to Frank’s Cell, once home to its most eccentric resident.

  • George Orwell in London

    It is more than 70 years since the novel 1984 was first published. Its author, George Orwell, is now commemorated with a blue plaque.

  • St Godric at Finchale Priory

    Finchale Priory was founded in about 1196 on the site of the hermitage of St Godric, a former sailor who settled here after years of adventure.


  • Sir Walter Scott at Conisbrough Castle

    Following the 200th anniversary of the publication of Ivanhoe, we reveal the role of this romantic fortress in Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel.

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