Tuesday, November 17, 2009

London's Blue Plaques

The blue plaques scheme has been running for over 140 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ in London was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the Society of Arts (later Royal Society of Arts) founded an official plaques scheme for the capital. The Society erected its first plaque – to the poet Lord Byron – in 1867. In all, the Society of Arts erected 35 plaques; today, less than half of them survive, the earliest of which commemorates Napoleon III (1867).-English Heritage

Blue plaques seem to be everywhere in London, and with about 800 blue plaques floating around it's no wonder. The London Blue Plaques are sort of like The Hollywood Walk of Fame-except they are a tad more prestigious. There are a couple of books on London's Blue Plaques and there is a website where you can go and make your own Blue Plaque. There's also a pretty nice blog dedicated to the topic of Blue Plaques, called Blue Plaques of London. Like a lot of Blogger taking on a large topic he seems to have slowed down a bit.

There is also a nice little Blue Plaque Map of Central London where you can click on the shadows and pull up buildings that have Blue Plaques. Clearly a work in progress, but I like what they have done so far. This is a fun way to while away the odd moment. In real life the Blue Plaques are a little on the subtle side and it is easy enough to walk past them all without noticing them. That's when those handy people with umbrellas called Tour Guides come in handy, they point out the little Blue Plaques and tell you who they are for.

Blue plaques are placed on buildings - occasionally grand, often ordinary - where famous people lived and worked. Sigmund Freud lived and worked in fashionable Hampstead; Charles Darwin in central London’s university campus; Isaac Newton in Soho; Charles Dickens in private street of Camden; Mozart composed his first symphony in the elegant neighbourhood of Chelsea. As with all fame, of course, many of the Blue Plaques of London commemorate people the average person don't know. British Heritage has kindly composed a list of the many names and a brief bio for those interested.

So be sure to look up for a bit of blue once in a while in London, you might see a Blue Plaque telling you that someone important once lived there.

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