Lauderdale House heritage weekend set to shout about Highgate history as 'pink plaques' launched
PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 February 2019
A heritage weekend is set to change the reputation that Highgate "doesn't like to shout about its history".
Among the events at the two-day festival at Lauderdale House is the launch of a “pink plaque” project in the village to help highlight the remarkable women who have lived there.
Alicia Pivaro will be one of four artists speaking alongside the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution’s Catherine Wells about the scheme.
It is looking for public nominations of well known and locally important women to have lived in the village and surrounding neighbourhoods. The group will talk about their work and the project’s next steps.
“It’s a continuation of a women-only history of Highgate that we did at last year’s Highgate Festival,” Alicia told the Ham&High. “We picked a woman who was either well-known or really interesting, and did a piece that celebrated their life.”
Some of the village’s better known figures include Angela Burdett-Coutts, who lived in Highgate and was once Britain’s richest woman.
Other names that were put forward for last year’s exhibition included “Miss Constance”, who ran a hat shop in Highgate High Street for many years.
Once the nominations are received, a selection will be chosen and included on local heritage walks or trails locally, with a view to putting up pink plaques on houses in the future. A similar scheme in Hampstead has seen memorials on buildings to notable former residents.
Alicia said: “For a blue plaque you have to get it confirmed with [English Heritage]. We were going to do an alternative version of that with the walk.”
She told the Ham&High her personal choice for a nomination would be Felicity Sparrow, who she covered during the exhibition last year.
“She sat on the feminist art film collaborative and was quite a radical thinker in the 1970s in the feminist movement,” she said, “and she lives in Holly Lodge. She’s a remarkable woman.”
As well as the exhibition last summer, Alicia was also involved in erecting the local history signs around the village, giving visitors an insight into its past.
It’s hoped this will help bring people to Highgate and, once there, they will spend more time (and money) there.
“I did a series of 10 history boards on the high street shops,” said Alicia.
“It was something we were keen to do to get that information in the streets.
“It is all part of the village trying to establish itself as a place to visit and keep the shops.
“Highgate’s had a lot of shops and restaurants closing in the village. There’s a sense of urgency about it now.”
And she admitted: “It’s one of those places that doesn’t like to shout about itself.”
Alicia, who is the chair of the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, also shared two of her favourite stories, which she feels should be part of wider Highgate folklore.
“I love the story about [how] Francis Bacon experimented with early refrigeration and stuffed a chicken with snow from Pond Square,” she said. “He died from pneumonia shortly afterwards as a result of this.
“And Queen Victoria, early on in her reign, was going down West Hill and the horses bolted, and someone saved her. There’s a lot of great stories, and obviously we’ve got some well known celebrities living nearby as well.
The Highgate Heritage Weekend will take over Lauderdale House this weekend and is free to attend. The talk on the launch of the pink plaque project will take place at 3pm on Saturday.
The weekend will also see tours of the house, in Waterlow Park, by Peter Barber and Nick Peacey, at midday and 2pm respectively.
The British Library’s former head of maps Mr Barber will talk through a donated copy of William Morgan’s gigantic map and panorama of London in 1682. It is widely considered the first modern survey of London, and will be on permanent display in the house.
Local organisations will also have information throughout the weekend at a heritage fair that will run from 11.30am to 4.30pm. And on Sunday there will be activities for children.
Alicia said: “Anyone in the community who might be interested should come along.
“It’s good for people of all ages – including kids, who can come along and know they are part of a place where people have been doing brilliant things in the local area.”