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London has 933 blue plaques plotted on this new interactive map — find out who's lived near you

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Sat 28 Apr 2018

London has 933 blue plaques plotted on this new interactive map — find out who's lived near you

Chances are, you will have spotted at least one of London's blue plaques as you make your way around the city. 

These bright blue roundels often catch your eye as you rush past, making you stop, read and learn a little about our capital’s long and colourful history.

Over 150 years, 933 blue plaques have been unveiled across the city, marking the places that politicians, philosophers, scientists, sports stars, authors, musicians and more once called home. 

Howard Spencer, blue plaques historian, believes the historic scheme is important because it reminds us that houses are “so much more than bricks and mortar”.

It’s uplifting to stumble upon a blue plaque while going about our daily lives,” he says. “They’re a reminder that these people actually lived here and we’re walking in their footsteps”.

British actor, comedian and activist Stephen Fry has also raved about them, writing in the foreword to Lived in London: Blue Plaques and the Stories Behind Them, that they “really do animate their environment like nothing else; an ordinary window in an anonymous Camden street becomes the window out of which George Orwell is looking while he dreams up Big Brother, a smart Mayfair jeweller’s looks across to where Handel is writing the 'Hallelujah Chorus'."

WHERE CAN I FIND LONDON'S BLUE PLAQUES?

Mapping specialists Esra UK have released a new interactive map showing the location of every official blue plaque from Winston Churchill’s to Sylvia Plath’s.

It features a handy search tool to help you hunt down the iconic memorials near you, or simply click on each blue dot for a pop-up info box telling you who used to lived there.

The borough of Westminster has the most blue plaques, with 309, followed by Kensington and Chelsea with 175 and Camden with 166.

There is then a sharp drop to Wandsworth in fourth place with just 26. Havering and Hillingdon are the only boroughs with no blue plaques to their names.

Howard Spencer, blue plaques historian, explains that this disparity reflects the gradual spreading out of London from its core since the historic scheme launched in 1866.

It was not until the late Sixties and early Seventies that blue plaques began appearing much further out from the city centre. 


 


 

London borough

Number of blue plaques

City of Westminster

309

Kensington & Chelsea

175

Camden

166

Wandsworth

26

Lambeth

25

Richmond-upon-Thames

25

Hammersmith & Fulham

22

Tower Hamlets

21

Islington

18

Southwark

17

Barnet

16

Greenwich

16

Lewisham

11

Croydon

10

Haringey

10

Hounslow

10

Merton

10

Hackney

7

Bromley

6

Ealing

6

Enfield

4

Harrow

4

Waltham Forest

4

Kingston-upon-Thames

4

Bexley

2

Newham

2

Redbridge

2

The City

1

Barking & Dagenham

1

Brent

1

Sutton

1

Havering

0

Hillingdon

0

If you’re in a hurry and want to cram in as many sightings as you can into a short space of time, head to Bedford Square in Camden or Fitzroy Square in Kensington, which have nine and eight blue plaques respectively.

You might, alternatively, want to make a beeline for the oldest surviving blue plaque, installed for the last French Emperor Napoleon III in 1867 and found in King Street off St James’s Square.

More unusual ‘highlights’ include the blue plaques belonging to Luke Howard, meteorologist and ‘Namer of Clouds’, in Tottenham, and Sir Edwin Saunders, Queen Victoria’s dentist, who is remembered on the wall of a grand, Grade II-listed building in Wimbledon. 


 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A BLUE PLAQUE?

Londoners must have been dead for at least 20 years before English Heritage will consider them for a blue plaque.

"This is to help ensure that the decision about whether or not to shortlist a candidate is made with a sufficient degree of hindsight," it says.

So, for example, singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011, will only be eligible for a blue plaque on her Camden townhouse in 2031 at the earliest.

Nominees also have to have made a big enough national impact in their field to merit the accolade. 

Nominations for blue plaques are made by the public. English Heritage then thoroughly researches all the former homes of a nominee to choose the most suitable location, with a panel led by historian Professor Ronald Hutton making the final decision. 

The process from nomination to installation takes two to three years and costs English Heritage about £1,000 a pop. It must get permission from a property’s owner, and leaseholder if applicable.

If English Heritage turns your application down, you can lobby your local council, history group or residents’ association as many run their own plaque schemes.

CAN I LIVE IN A BLUE PLAQUE HOME?

Though rare, blue plaque properties do come up for sale.

British landscape painter John Constable’s four-bedroom former home on Well Walk in Hampstead is currently on the market with a guide price of £4 million. The artist moved there in 1827 and stayed for a decade.

one-bedroom Chelsea flat in which Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Importance of Being Earnest was taken off the market on Friday after a letting offer was accepted.

DO BLUE PLAQUES ADD VALUE TO PROPERTIES?

While the initial valuation of a property is unlikely to be significantly affected by a blue plaque, it certainly adds to its saleability. 

Estate agents have found that blue plaques help a house stand out in a crowded market, particularly if the name is recognisable, with overseas buyers most likely to be tempted by a British heritage home.

Peter Brookes, head of residential at Savills Hampstead, agrees that the presence of a blue plaque “sparks a sense of eager anticipation” among house hunters.

There’s certainly something romantic about owning a property that sports the badge," he says.

"Who lived there and what significant deeds went on within those four walls? It’s almost impossible not to stop and take a closer look.

But while a blue plaque makes a property stand out from the crowd and can create a favourable impression, it’s difficult to isolate any value it might add.

Buyers are fascinated by houses with history and if they’ve fallen for one they might be prepared to pay a small premium, though huge celebrity may cause concerns about living on a tourist trail.”