London Plaques To People Who Never Existed

M@
By M@
London Plaques To People Who Never Existed

London contains an abundance of plaques. Plaques to heroes, plaques to heritage, plaques to historic events, rock 'n' roll plaques... a plaque marking the widening of a road in Croydon. Bloomsbury even has a grovelling plaque, apologising to the land-owners for building something without full permission.

Arguments will always rage about who deserves to be commemorated with a plaque. You'd think that being a corporeal being would be a minimum requirement. But no. In London, we even have plaques to folk who never existed. Here are a few.

A pair of Sherlocks, Smithfield and Piccadilly

A plaque recording the first meeting of Holmes and Watson
Image: Matt Brown

In the vast pantheon of London's fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes is the fellow who most readily crosses into reality. He's one of the few literary characters to have his own statue. The Sherlock Holmes Museum (which has a plaque to him) still receives plenty of credulous fan mail. And when Benedict Cumberbatch took his apparently fatal fall from the roof of Bart's hospital, the walls and phone boxes beneath became a near-permanent shrine.

Head inside Bart's Museum and you can see yet further evidence of this phenomenon. It's a plaque (above) commemorating the place where Holmes and Watson first clapped eyes on each other — and it's been at the hospital since the more sober times of 1953.

It doesn't stop there, though. Head under the canopy of the Criterion restaurant (now 'Granaio') in Piccadilly Circus and you'll find a plaque commemorating an even more tenuous fictional event... the time Dr John H Watson first heard about Sherlock Holmes.

A plaque marking the spot where John Watson first heard tell of Sherlock Holmes
Image: Matt Brown

Paddington Bear, Paddington

A green plaque to Paddington Bear
Image: Matt Brown

We have plaques to non-existent animals as well as humans here in London. Paddington station and its environs are stuffed with memorials to a certain bear. He's remembered in several sculptures, the name of a pub, a bench, a gift shop, and this tidy green plaque on Platform 1.

Monty Python, Covent Garden

A blue plaque to Monty Python on a brown-brick wall
Image: Matt Brown

And now for something completely different. Look high up on the eastern wall of Neals Yard and you might spot this tiny plaque to a well-known proprietor of flying circuses. The brief bit of biography we get suggests that Mr P became a filmmaker and lived in this building from 1976 to 1987. It seems that the studio behind was indeed owned by Pythons Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, and used as an animation studio and editing suite between those dates.

Jacob von Hogflume, all over the place

A montage of plaques to Jacob von Hogflume

Another plaque with Python links concerns the noted time traveller Jacob von Hogflume. Memorials to the man started appearing in 2012, supposedly placed by Python fans irked at English Heritage's refusal to recognise Graham Chapman with an official Blue Plaque (a connection we haven't been able to verify). The first (now vanished) was placed in Golden Square, Soho but he's now commemorated in numerous locations, including the Netherlands and the USA.

Amanda Grayson in Brockley

A plaque commemorating the (future) birth of Amanda Grayson. She has been photoshopped on to the left, with her son Spock to the right.
Image of plaque courtesy of Irmani Smallwood

More time-bending sci-fi in Brockley. Marnock Road, SE4 will be the unlikely birthplace of Amanda Grayson, a recurring Star Trek character who will go on to marry Sarek of Vulcan and eventually beget the noted science officer and diplomat Spock. The plaque was installed by the "Vulcan High Council" in 2017 and appears to still be in place, according to Google Street View.

Ziggy Stardust, Mayfair

A black plaque to Ziggy Stardust.
Image: Will Noble

Is Ziggy Stardust a fictional character or an alter-ego? Well, a bit of both. David Bowie's alien persona is marked in large letters up on a wall of Heddon Street. The plaque marks the spot where the cover photograph to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was taken.

A plaque to a fictitious murder, in a counter-factual location

A plaque describing the remaining arch of John Rennie's London Bridge, and the murder of Nancy in Dickens's Oliver Twist on nearby steps
Image: Matt Brown

On Tooley Street, where it passes beneath London Bridge, can be found this troublesome plaque. The disc is unusual in not carrying the name of the organisation who installed it. Whoever it was, they make a common blooper in assigning the steps of London Bridge to Nancy's murder. Dickens's tragic character was slain by her lover Bill Sikes back at their shared lodgings, and not on the bridge. (The confusion perhaps stems from later film versions where the murder scene is transposed to the bridge.)

The Great Dangaroo Flood, Soho

A plaque on a brick wall describing the Great Dangaroo Flood
Image: Matt Brown

And finally... a plaque not to a make-believe person, but a fictional inundation. It's on Great Compton Street, Soho and indicates the high-water mark of the Great Dangaroo Flood. This cataclysmic event is part of the Kcymaerxthaere project, which posits a parallel universe that "to some extent co-exists with ours". You can explore this enigmatic branch of the multiverse on a dedicated website, which includes details of two other London plaques — in De Laune Street, Kennington and Angel Alley, Whitechapel.

We'd love to hear about further examples. Leave a comment below or email matt@londonist.com

Last Updated 31 August 2022