Commemorating Chiswick's Cultural Heritage

Could your home's previous inhabitant make it eligible for a blue plaque?

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The History of Chiswick

The Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society


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With Chiswick's rich cultural history, W4 has its fair share of blue plaques. E M Forster at Arlington Park Mansions, Frederick Hitch at 62 Cranbrook Road, Alexander Pope at Mawson Row, Jack Beresford at 19 Grove Park Gardens the list is long and varied.

Whilst there is no evidence that a blue plaque adds monetary value to a property, it certainly makes it stand out in a crowded marketplace. So how does one go about commemorating a property's former famous resident?

The London blue plaques scheme – administered by English Heritage since 1986 – has been running for over 140 years and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ – as they were then known – was first proposed in 1863 by William Ewart MP, in the House of Commons. Only a week later, Henry Cole expressed his support for the initiative, and recommended that a scheme be set up by the Society of Arts (awarded royal patronage in 1908).

In all, it usually takes between four and six years from the initial proposal of a blue plaque – if successful – to its installation. English Heritage receives about 100 suggestions each year for blue plaques in London, almost all of which come from members of the public.

Every nomination has to meet basic selection criteria before it can be considered. Most importantly, a London building associated with the subject must survive, and they must have been dead for 20 years or have passed the centenary of their birth.

These rules exist to allow a person’s reputation to mature and to help ensure that their achievements can be assessed dispassionately, with a proper historical perspective. Once a plaque is erected, it may last for hundreds of years, so consideration of such issues is important.

In order to be eligible for consideration for a blue plaque in London:

• a figure must have been dead for 20 years, or have passed the centenary of their birth, whichever is the earlier
• a building associated with the figure being proposed must survive in London

Nominated figures must also:

• be considered eminent by a majority of members of their own profession or calling
• have made an important positive contribution to human welfare or happiness
• have had such exceptional and outstanding personalities as to be recognisable to the well-informed passer-by, or deserve national recognition
• have resided in London for a significant period, in time or importance, within their life or work
In the case of overseas visitors, candidates should:
• be of international reputation or significant standing in their own country

Additionally, it should be noted that:

• plaques can only be erected on the actual building inhabited by the nominated figure, not the site where the building once stood. However, consideration may be given in cases where reconstructed buildings present an exact facsimile frontage on the identical site.
• buildings marked with plaques must be visible from the public highway.
• plaques can only be erected on buildings, not on boundary walls or gate piers.
• each figure may only be commemorated with one plaque: unless a case is deemed exceptional, suggestions will not be considered for figures already commemorated by a plaque erected by the (Royal) Society of Arts, the London County Council, the Greater London Council or English Heritage.
• proposals will not be considered for the commemoration of individuals still living.
• proposals will be considered for the commemoration of sites of special historical interest, though these should be of national (or even international) significance.
• a building shall not be commemorated solely because it figures in a work of fiction.
• the erection of plaques on blocks of flats is not excluded, nor are significant places of work.
• unless a case is deemed exceptional, plaques shall not be erected on educational or ecclesiastical buildings or Inns of Court.

Further information can be found here.

September 15, 2010