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Harrow history could be celebrated under proposed national expansion of blue plaques scheme

Local residents in Harrow and across England may soon have a chance to celebrate their local history and notable figures through an expansion of the official blue plaques scheme, currently exclusive to London.

The proposed expansion is part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, set to be debated in the House of Lords today.

This development allows communities throughout England to nominate individuals who have made significant contributions to their local areas, shaping the history and heritage of their towns, villages, and cities. If the nominations are successful, buildings where these local figures lived, worked, or stayed will receive the iconic blue plaque treatment, bringing attention to the diverse aspects of local heritage across the nation.

Back in 2017, Harrow Online explored the blue plaques within the Harrow area. Among these notable plaques were commemorations of individuals such as R. M. Ballantyne, known for his literary contributions, and Sir Ambrose Heal, a prominent figure in the world of design and commerce. The blue plaques also recognised the residency of W. Heath Robinson, a renowned artist and illustrator.

These local blue plaques are a testament to the talent and heritage that has thrived within the Harrow community over the years. This has made the idea of expanding the blue plaques scheme across England even more exciting for residents who want to celebrate their local history.

One of the key benefits of this expansion is the potential to boost local connections and pride among residents. As more people become aware of their local history, it can lead to economic growth in these areas, drawing visitors interested in exploring and learning about their heritage.

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson said: “London’s blue plaques are world-renowned. For over 150 years they have helped to celebrate the rich and diverse heritage of our capital city and the people who have passed through it. But people everywhere should be able to celebrate the figures who have shaped their community – which is why we are seeking to extend this opportunity across the country, to allow people and buildings from anywhere in England to be nominated.

“I encourage people to get thinking about who has helped to define their community and makes them proud of where they live so that their impact on their home area, as well as the wider world, can be recognised and celebrated.”

Chief executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson said: “Standing in a historic place and finding a blue plaque, or historical place marker, brings us face to face with our shared history. In developing a national blue plaques scheme that will celebrate heritage across England, we want to help people feel a stronger connection to the history all around us and shine a light on the people and places of the past which have made us who we are.

“Working with local partners we will build on the value and success of the London scheme led by English Heritage and the many other schemes that exist in communities across the country.

Curatorial Director at English Heritage Anna Eavis said: The London blue plaques scheme is the oldest of its kind and has inspired many similar commemorative schemes, both here in this country and around the world.

“English Heritage is very proud of the London scheme and all the work we do to celebrate a huge range of people and buildings with the iconic blue roundels. We share the Minister’s passion for blue plaques and we’re working with Historic England on how the England-wide scheme will work in practice.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Historic England, and English Heritage will collaborate to develop the England-wide scheme. A proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill seeks to expand the discretionary power of Historic England to run the scheme across England, while English Heritage will continue to oversee the London Scheme under the current license.