The official London blue plaque scheme which commemorates the residencies of notable figures will be expanded across England.
People across England will be able to celebrate local historical figures under a proposed expansion of the official blue plaques scheme which currently only operates in London.
This new scheme will be enabled by an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is due to be debated in the House of Lords today.
The expansion is an opportunity for people to research their own local history and nominate figures from their own communities who have helped define the towns, villages and cities they live in.
If successfully nominated, the buildings where local figures lived, worked or stayed will be marked with a blue plaque, which will shine a spotlight on diverse aspects of local heritage across the country.
Recent evidence also shows that when more people are aware of their local history it can help boost their connection and pride in their area, as well as encourage growth in local economies, a key priority for the government, through new visitors coming to explore and learn about the heritage of destinations.
Currently the official blue plaques scheme is London-only. While there are a number of local schemes operating across the country, this expansion will see one cohesive, official blue plaques scheme operate England-wide.
Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson said:
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.
I encourage people to get thinking about who has helped to define their community and makes them proud of where they live so that their impact on their home area, as well as the wider world, can be recognised and celebrated.
Chief executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson said:
Standing in a historic place and finding a blue plaque, or historical place marker, brings us face to face with our shared history. In developing a national blue plaques scheme that will celebrate heritage across England, we want to help people feel a stronger connection to the history all around us and shine a light on the people and places of the past which have made us who we are.
Working with local partners we will build on the value and success of the London scheme led by English Heritage and the many other schemes that exist in communities across the country.
Curatorial Director at English Heritage Anna Eavis said:
The London blue plaques scheme is the oldest of its kind and has inspired many similar commemorative schemes, both here in this country and around the world.
English Heritage is very proud of the London scheme and all the work we do to celebrate a huge range of people and buildings with the iconic blue roundels.
We share the Minister’s passion for blue plaques and we’re working with Historic England on how the England-wide scheme will work in practice.
Former Chair of Culture, Tourism and Sport Board for Local Government Association Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said:
Blue plaques are an excellent way of celebrating what makes our places special. The LGA has long believed in the benefits of opening up this important scheme to even more communities.
This announcement is recognition that the unique heritage of place extends beyond our capital city and has a vital role to play in boosting civic pride. It represents an opportunity for local people to celebrate the diversity of voices that have shaped our communities up and down the country.
We look forward to working with the Government, Historic England and local councils to support this programme.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Historic England and English Heritage will work together to develop this England-wide scheme. A proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill due to be debated today will seek to expand the discretionary power of Historic England to run the scheme across England while English Heritage will continue to deliver the London Scheme under the current licence.
Since the London blue plaque scheme was established over 150 years ago various organisations have helped maintain the scheme Royal Society of Arts (1866–1901), the London County Council (1901–65), the Greater London Council (1965–86), and English Heritage (1986– present).
Nominations for national blue plaques are not yet open but if you would like to start researching a notable figure in your area please consult English Heritage’s current selection criteria.
Photo credit: UK Gov Crown copyright 2023.