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A blue plaque showing information about The Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey in Torquay.

A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker. Commemorative plaque schemes exist in England (the world's first formal scheme) Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Oslo, Norway; Dublin, Republic of Ireland, in Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

Contents

UK

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England

English Heritage scheme

An English Heritage Blue Plaque on 40 Falkner Square Liverpool home of Peter Ellis
A Greater London Council blue plaque at Alexandra Palace, commemorating the launch of BBC Television there in 1936.

Perhaps the best-known blue plaque scheme is the one run by English Heritage. The scheme was founded in 1867 by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), which erected plaques in a variety of shapes and colours. Most RSA plaques were chocolate brown in colour, and made by Minton, Hollins & Co. In 1901 the scheme was taken over by the London County Council (LCC), which gave much thought to the future design of the plaques, and eventually it was decided to keep the basic shape and design of the RSA plaques, with the exception that they would from then on be blue. Though this design was used consistently from 1903 to 1938, some experimentation occurred in the 1920s, and plaques were made in bronze, stone and lead. Shape and colour also varied. In 1921 the most common (blue) plaque design was revised, as it was discovered that glazed Doulton ware was cheaper than the encaustic formerly used. In 1938 a new plaque design was prepared by an unnamed student at the LCC's Central School of Arts and Crafts and was approved by the committee. It omitted the decorative elements of earlier plaque designs, and allowed for lettering to be better spaced and enlarged. A white border was added to the design shortly after, and this has remained the standard ever since. On the abolition of the LCC in 1965, the scheme was taken over by the Greater London Council (GLC). The scheme changed little, but the GLC was keen to broaden the range of people commemorated. The GLC erected 252 plaques, the subjects including Sylvia Pankhurst, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Mary Seacole. In 1986, the GLC was disbanded and the Blue Plaques Scheme passed to English Heritage. English Heritage has erected over 300 plaques in London so far, with many more shortlisted.

Selection criteria

In order to be eligible for an English Heritage blue plaque, a figure must have been dead for twenty years or have passed the centenary of their birth. Nominated figures must be considered eminent by a majority of members of their own profession; have made an outstanding contribution to human welfare or happiness; have resided in a locality for a significant period, in time or importance, within their life and work; be recognisable to the well-informed passer-by, or deserve national recognition. In cases of foreigners and overseas visitors, candidates should be of international reputation or significant standing in their own country. EH plaques can only be erected on the actual building inhabited by a figure, not the site where the building once stood; buildings marked with plaques should be visible from the public highway; unless a case is deemed exceptional, a single person may not be commemorated with more than two plaques nationwide.

Other English schemes

A scheme in Manchester uses colour-coded plaques to commemorate figures, with each of the colours corresponding to his/her occupation. The British Comic Society (previously known as the Dead Comics' Society) installs blue plaques to commemorate the former residences of well-known comedians, including those of Sid James and John Le Mesurier.

A green plaque scheme is run in London alongside that of English Heritage by Westminster City Council, which is sponsored by groups campaigning for memorials.

Southwark

In 2003, the London Borough of Southwark started a plaque scheme which included living people in the awards.[1] The London Borough of Southwark awards Blue Plaques through popular vote following public nomination. Unlike the English Heritage scheme, the original building is not necessary for nomination.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Ulster History Circle are the officially recognised heritage organisation administering blue plaques in the UK province.

Other plaque schemes

Norwegian version of Blue plaque Old house in Oslo

The notion of commemorative plaques and tablets is a very ancient one. Not all plaques are blue, and many are not ceramic. Commemorative plaques schemes are often run by civic societies, district, borough or town councils, or local history groups, and often operate with different criteria.

Notable plaques

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Blue Plaques: A Guide to the Scheme. English Heritage. 2002.  
  • Rennison, Nick (2003). The London Blue Plaque Guide.  
  • Sumeray, Derek. Discovering London Plaques.  
  • Sumeray, Derek (2003). Track the Plaque.  

External links


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