You might soon be seeing those iconic blue plaques dotted about London around the rest of the country as there are new plans to expand London’s blue plaque scheme outside of the capital. Similar plaques have been seen around the country but the official scheme has remained exclusively within London – until now that is.
There are currently almost 1,000 plaques that commemorate historically significant figures and their connections to buildings across the city that they have lived or worked in. The scheme was officially launched in 1867 by the Society of Arts and was taken over by English Heritage in 1986 and is seen as the oldest project of its kind in the world.
The Minister for Art and Heritage Lord Parkinson has said he was keen for the project to expand across the country, saying “London’s blue plaques are world-renowned. For over 150 years they have helped to celebrate the rich and diverse heritage of our capital city and the people who have passed through it.
“But people everywhere should be able to celebrate the figures who have shaped their community – which is why we are seeking to extend this opportunity across the country, to allow people and buildings from anywhere in England to be nominated.”
While there are local schemes around the country which have put up similar plaques, this new official country-wide scheme will see the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Historic England, and English Heritage working together to roll out the new plaques. A proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is due to be debated by the House of Lords, which will hopefully give power to Historic England to be able to run the scheme country-wide.
To be awarded an English Heritage plaque the proposed candidate must meet certain criteria including that the recipient must be dead for at least 20 years and must have lived at the particular location for a long time or during an important period when they have created a significant piece of work, with formal proposals from any member of the public can be considered. Since 1984, Frank Ashworth has been commissioned to make the plaques for English Heritage with his wife Sue being tasked with the inscriptions which are all done in their home in Cornwall. It’s safe to say Frank and Sue will be pretty busy if the country-wide plan goes ahead.