Help Bring Untold Histories To Life

By Maire Rose Connor Last edited 10 months ago
Help Bring Untold Histories To Life
A plaque to architect Giles Gilbert Scott. Photo: Matt Brown via the Londonist Flickr pool

Sapphire circles adorn buildings all over London, honouring people of the past who made their mark on the city. For 150 years, the blue plaques scheme — now run by English Heritage — has raised awareness of historical luminaries and their connection to the capital.

But despite having unveiled over 950 of these little blue roundels around the capital, it has barely started to scratch the surface of a history that is much richer and more diverse than the scheme, as it stands, implies.

Despite making up 50% of the population, only 14% of English Heritage's blue plaques commemorate women. The stats for ethnic minority figures are, in the context of such a multicultural city, even more dire: as of 2016, only 4% of plaques were dedicated to Black and Asian people.

Noor Inayat Khan is one of the few women of colour to be awarded a blue plaque Image: English Heritage

Such an imbalance is far from inevitable. While centuries of oppression have made it much harder for the women and people of colour to have their achievements recognised, it'd be a massive error to suggest that such groups have done less to shape our city than their white male counterparts — and it's up to all of us to help bring their often-neglected narratives to the fore.

Slowly, things are changing. Earlier this year, the English Heritage announced six new plaques honouring women, including one for war hero Noor Inayat Khan — one of few women of colour to be commemorated in this way.

A preview of the English Heritage app

The scheme is predominantly driven by suggestions from the public, so if you've heard of an unsung hero(ine) with a connection to your neighbourhood, now's the time to put forward a nomination.

On the flip side, you can also enrich your understanding of local history with the help of the Blue Plaques of London app. Use its 'near me' feature to find the landmarks hiding in plain sight in your neighbourhood (a cracking way to liven up your daily walks now that we're back in lockdown), and don't forget to keep an eye out for other points of interest along the way. Who knows — you might just uncover a local luminary of the past that Londoners need to know about.

Last Updated 05 November 2020