In 1867 William Ewart MP persuaded the Royal Society of Arts to erect plaques in London to draw attention to buildings of interest because of their association with famous people. The focus was on the buildings, rather than to the people themselves. This remains the official approach of English Heritage, which administers the scheme in London and the Royal Boroughs as well as many of the other bodies, including local authorities, who have schemes of their own. However, it has been widely interpreted elsewhere as also honouring people who have made a significant contribution to their country, community, profession or calling.
The oldest surviving plaques, both in London, were erected in 1875, identifying buildings with, respectively, Napoleon III and the poet John Dryden.
In addition to English Heritage, the Corporation of the City of London and Westminster Council both provide their own distinctive plaques – rectangular blue glazed on the one hand and green on the other. Other London Boroughs have their own schemes and distinctive plaques.
Over the years many local authorities developed similar schemes and they can now be found all over the country. Links to a number of such groups can be found on our Other Blue Plaque Groups page.