English Heritage Blue Plaques

Interesting facts about London’s little blue plaques

London’s great landmarks need little introduction. Historic, impressive, inspired and inspiring or in many cases, all of the above. Splendid as they all are, easy to list and magnificent to behold, if you must be fussy, the only thing you could possibly say is that they are… well a bit…obvious.

If you’ve already ticked those boxes and fancy something slightly more adventurous, perhaps more investigative and you prefer your tourism a little less straightforward then a trail of ancestral footsteps awaits you.

The Blue Plaques (although some earlier ones are brown) are dotted all over the UK but densely congregated in the Capital. They each commemorate a significant historic, cultural figure by London residence, birthplace or workplace. There are over 850 of these clay discs fixed to addresses around Greater London and if you’re staying at any of our centrally located residences you are sure to be close to dozens of noteworthy sites.

This wonderful scheme is run by English Heritage and dates back to 1866 making it the oldest of its kind in the world. The very first plaque was dedicated at the birthplace of Lord Byron in Cavendish Square. That house was demolished a little over 20 years later leaving the earliest surviving plaque dedicated to Napolean III on King Street, St. James’s. There are some quirky coincidences too. If you visit Brook Street in Mayfair you will see 2 very neighbourly plaques just four windows apart. One for Handel the other for Hendrix.

Whether you are searching for influential artists, authors, philosophers, statesmen, politicians, musicians, poets or sporting figures you cannot be disappointed by the historical and cultural significance of the legends behind each of the names on these famous blue plaques.

If we have appealed to your sense of discovery and adventure then I expect you would be interested to know some more notables amongst the hundreds of hugely significant commemorations. Without giving away too much then, all within a mile or two of Central London you can find explanatory blue plaques dedicated to The Last Bourbon King of France, The Last Viceroy of India, The King of The Zulus or to Agatha Christie, to Captain James Cook, to Oscar Wilde, to Charlie Chaplin, to George Orwell or Samuel Pepys, to Laurence Olivier, HG Wells, Horatio Nelson, Charles Darwin or Vincent Van Gogh. That is to name only a glorious few.

Whether you seek them out on a dedicated route or spot them at random as you travel through London, these English Heritage Blue Plaques are unmistakeable. Whether in apparent modesty or obvious grandeur, the locations and subjects always give pause for a thought or two and often inspire further and immediate inquiry. Cultural trails like no-other.

Blue Plaque on the British Medical Association headquarters in London commemorating Charles Dickens and Tavistock House