The End of Blue Plaques? Budget Cuts Could Kill London’s Historic Markers Program

Is it important to know that a Hampstead boarding house is the former home of modernist pioneer Piet Mondrian, or that sculptor Henry Moore lodged and worked behind the brown bricks of a building in Belsize Park? Since 1866, the blue plaques scheme in London has been indicating such historic homes of artists, writers, politicians, scientists, and other celebrated figures, but due to budget cuts, that all might end.

Facing a 34 percent cut in their funding, the government organization focused on preservation and history, English Heritage, is scaling back the staff working on the blue plaques to two, and mostly ending the scheme until it can find other ways of supporting the program, Time reports. The only other instances when the program was been reduced to such a degree was during the two World Wars.

However, all hope might not be lost, as Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of The National Trust — who has been in talks about the program — stated that the blue plaques are “certainly worth saving,” according to the Telegraph.

“I care about it personally. It is clearly an important part of the history of London and we are active in the London (sic) and the history of London,” Jenkins told the Telegraph. “The question of how you pay for continuing the scheme is a matter for debate; it ought to be sponsorable. It is conceivable that outside the remit of a quango [quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation] it might be easier.”

The blue plaques scheme, which costs some £120,000 ($192,780) yearly,  is one of the most established and prolific historic marker programs in the world, with nearly 900 plaques installed around London. Without the round, blue emblems quietly dotting the city, something of the memory and history of the people who walked there before would be lost.

Allison Meier

(Image: Blue Plaque for Aubrey Beardsley, via Jim Linwood/Flickr)