This is a guest post by Laura Porter of About.com London Travel especially for The Beaufort. Thank you Laura!
London is a city with many stories and you may have noticed circular blue plaques on the outside on some buildings noting important people associated with the address. This is known as the Blue Plaque Scheme and is managed by English Heritage. There are now over 870 blue plaques in London and the idea to install ‘memorial tablets’ was proposed by William Ewart MP in 1863. The (Royal) Society of Arts founded the scheme in 1866 to encourage the preservation of important historical homes and it has since been run by governing London councils before English Heritage took over in 1986. The plaques from before the Second World War might be green, brown, white or terracotta in colour but blue is now the standard colour.
All the people chosen had to meet a strict selection criteria which includes being dead for at least twenty years and to have made an important positive contribution to human welfare or happiness.
There are plenty of interesting blue plaques near to The Beaufort. Turn right on Brompton Road and right again on Hans Road and you’ll find a plaque for Jane Austen. Although not listed on the English Heritage site, there is a blue plaque on the side of 23 Hans Place to record that Jane Austen stayed here with her brother, Henry, in a house on this site in 1814-15. The area is named after Hans Sloane, the benefactor of the British Museum, who has his own blue plaque in Bloomsbury.
Hans Place surrounds private gardens but you can see the drinking fountain set into the railings directly opposite 23 Hans Place. This is part of a memorial to the son of Herbert Spencer, a prominent Victorian philosopher, and although the memorial faces into the gardens the drinking fountain faces outwards.
Continue left along Pont Street and cross Sloane Street and Cadogan Place is the first right alongside Cadogan Place Gardens. Now numbered as 43B, although it sits between 43 and 45, is a blue plaque for William Wilberforce who died at this address. He was an anti-slavery campaigner and there are two more blue plaques for him in south London.
This area was also owned by Hans Sloane – yes, he is also the reason for the name of Sloane Street. His youngest daughter Elizabeth married Charles Cadogan and their area was known as the Cadogan Estate.
Go back across Sloane Street and along Pont Street and at no.57 there’s a blue plaque for Sir George Alexander who was an actor and theatre manager who made a fortune from putting on Oscar Wilde’s plays, in particular The Importance of Being Earnest yet blacked-out Wilde’s names from all advertising billboards when he was imprisoned for “gross indecency”.
I suggest heading back up to Brompton Road and round to The Beaufort for a complimentary drink and time to relax and talk about the interesting people who have lived in the area.
When you next go to the Victoria and Albert Museum, known locally as the V&A, look opposite the main entrance and you’ll see 33 Thurloe Square where Sir Henry Cole, the first Director of the museum once lived.
And when you go to the Royal Albert Hall, which is less than 30 minutes walk from The Beaufort, have a look at 22 Hyde Park Gate which has three blue plaques – something I’ve not noticed anywhere else. And there are even more on other buildings along the same street including Sir Winston Churchill.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on Twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook.
Images credits: Benjamin Brittan plaque: © Oxyman (can be seen at 171 Cromwell Road).
Jane Austen: Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
William Wilberforce by John Rising, 1790. Sir George Alexander: Still photograph from Act 1 of the original production of The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). It shows Algernon Moncrieff (left, played by Allan Aynesworth) refusing to return Mr Jack Worthing’s (Sir George Alexander) cigarette case.
22 Hyde Park Gate: © Laura Porter.