Blue plaques go to the wall: Government cuts spell the end to tributes on former homes of the great and the good after 140 years

Blue plaques go to the wall: Government cuts spell the end to tributes on former homes of the great and the good after 140 years
Taxpayer-funded quango says it faces 'uncertain future'Will honour existing commitments but can't accept new nominationsEnglish Heritage may seek private sponsorship to maintain scheme

By
Chris Hastings

PUBLISHED:

22:10 GMT, 5 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 6 January 2013


Tribute: Stephen Fry unveiling one of the blue plaques for writer P.G. Wodehouse in 2004

Tribute: Stephen Fry unveiling one of the blue plaques for writer P.G. Wodehouse in 2004

English Heritage plans to stop erecting the blue plaques that commemorate the lives of the great and the good because it can no longer afford to pay for them.

The taxpayer-funded quango says the tributes, which have been around for more than 140 years, have ‘an uncertain future’ because of Government cuts.

It says it will honour existing commitments but not accept any new nominations.

The decision is outlined in a letter to a blue plaque campaigner from Dr Emily Cole, head of English Heritage’s blue plaques team.

She said the advisory panel of experts – which includes Stephen Fry, former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion and broadcaster Bonnie Greer – ‘will be stood down’.

Dr Cole wrote: ‘These are extremely
difficult times for English Heritage and for the scheme, which has a
very uncertain future.’

English
Heritage, whose annual budget has been cut from 130 million to
92 million, may also seek private sponsorship to try to maintain the
scheme.

The moves follows
the news that the number of names considered for plaques had been scaled
back, with plans to honour Monty Python star Graham Chapman and cellist
Jacqueline du Pre scrapped.

Labour
MP and historian Tristram Hunt said: ‘The blue plaque scheme has been a
genuinely innovative heritage project. It will be an unnecessary loss
and they should do everything possible to keep it going.'

Literary
biographer Claire Tomalin added: ‘People love the plaques even if they
do get steamed up about some of the choices. They are part of England’s
glory.’

Scrapped: The news could spell the end for blue plaques such as this tribute to Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street, London

Scrapped: The news could spell the end for blue plaques such as this tribute to Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street, London

Lord Byron was the first person to be honoured when a plaque was placed on his former London home in 1867. That property has since been demolished.

English Heritage, which took responsibility for the scheme in 1986, has erected more than 350 plaques to figures including Vivien Leigh, David Lloyd George and Jimi Hendrix.

The public can nominate anyone for the honour but candidates must have been dead for 20 years or have passed the centenary of their birth. They must also be regarded as eminent.

English Heritage last night said it was committed to the blue plaques but could not consider any new proposals for the foreseeable future.