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Londons Blue Plaques – History, Heritage and Story Telling

James Vevers, Grangewood’s Heritage Director talks about English Heritage’s Blue Plaque buildings scheme and some of his favourites.

London’s famous blue plaques place notorious figures directly into our present day lives and are a source of great fascination to me. Now run by English Heritage, the London scheme is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world, and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

Explore the streets of Britain’s towns and cities and it won’t be long before you see an inscribed circular blue plaque on the wall of a building. Across the capital over 900 plaques, on all sorts of buildings, honour the notable men and women who have lived or worked in them.

But the plaques are as much about the buildings in which people lived and worked as about the subjects being commemorated – the intrinsic aim of English Heritage blue plaques is to celebrate the relationship between people and place. For this reason, it only erects a plaque if there is a surviving building closely associated with the person in question.

The stories that go with these buildings are incredibly interesting and paint a vivid picture of the lives of their famous occupiers. As our Heritage Buildings celebration gets underway I thought I’d take a look at some of the blue plaque buildings within the communities we’re a part of.

Very close to our office and many of our sites is 22 Ebury street, a converted former Baptist Church. Between 1934 and 1945 007 creator, Ian Fleming, lived here in the heart of Belgravia. This would be his home whilst working during the war for Naval Intelligence. Bond aficionado’s will know that Drax, the villain in Moonraker, lived in Ebury St.

In Bloomsbury, close to the British Museum, a plaque attests to John Nash designing and living in the building, this relatively unassuming terrace only provides hints of the ability of the man that has had one of the most significant impacts on Heritage London architecture. The story behind his time here is perhaps a snapshot of a low time in his life but for me this just makes him more current and relevant.

In Lyall Street there is a blue plaque to Thomas Cubitt, described as a master builder. Cubitt, originally a carpenter, developed large chunks of Belgravia and was commissioned by Grosvenor to design and construct many of the buildings we’ve restored and represented over the years. A lovely pub in Elizabeth Street is named after him and you may occasionally find one of the Grangewood team here relaxing after a busy day at work!

Next time you’re walking through the streets of London, take the time to look at the buildings and find out a little bit about the colourful and full lives that were lived within their walls. If you close your eyes you can easily imagine the sounds and sights that made London so vibrant then and continues to do so today.