Blow to local history as government cuts end Blue Plaque scheme after 150 years

The George Orwell blue plaque at 77 Parliament Hill

The George Orwell blue plaque at 77 Parliament Hill - Credit: Archant

In nearly 150 years that English Heritage has been running its Blue Plaque scheme, the only interruptions have been two world wars. Yet government cuts have put a question mark over the future of the tributes.

Yet government cuts have put a question mark over the future of the tributes.

English Heritage will no longer be accepting nominations to mark the homes of famous Londoners though it will put up plaques that have already been approved.

This has come as a blow not only to historians but to residents who enjoy the heritage that their areas have to offer.

Michael Hammerson, of the Highgate Society, said: “If the government does place value on heritage and the environment, they should not be cutting English Heritage. It should be treated on an equal basis with other organisations.”

The Highgate Society would be interested in running a blue plaque scheme of its own, Mr Hammerson added, but he said “we really need someone to volunteer to create our own blue plaque programme”.

He said: “We are very keen on raising the public awareness of heritage and local people who made a difference to the world.”

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Chairman of Hornsey Historical Society, Keith Fawkes-Underwood, said it had worked with Haringey Council on its own Green Plaque scheme, which also recently had to end due to lack of funding.

The 70-year-old, who lives in Flask Walk, Hampstead, said: “I think it’s a most enormous shame. These plaques commemorate people both major and minor who might otherwise be forgotten.”

Vice-chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, Frank Harding, 75, from Hampstead, said: “It’s a pity because I think the Blue Plaque scheme has interested a lot of people in the history of the area.”

However, all is not lost as the Heath and Hampstead Society already runs the Hampstead Plaque Scheme, established 20 years ago.

An English Heritage spokesman said: “Following our 34 per cent funding cut in the 2010 spending settlement, English Heritage commissioners made the decision that the Blue Plaque scheme was to be funded in an alternative way in the future.

“English Heritage remains committed to the Blue Plaque scheme that has done so much to inspire Londoners and visitors with the history of the capital and its inhabitants.”