The Blue Plaques of Kent

History of Blue Plaques... The blue plaques scheme has been running for over 140 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ in London was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the Society of Arts (later Royal Society of Arts) founded an official plaques scheme for the capital. The Society erected its first plaque – to the poet Lord Byron – in 1867. In all, the Society of Arts erected 35 plaques; today, less than half of them survive, the earliest of which commemorates Napoleon III (1867). In 1901, the plaques scheme was taken over by London County Council (LCC), which erected nearly 250 plaques over the next 64 years and gave the scheme its popular appeal. It was under the LCC that the blue plaque design as we know it today was adopted, and the selection criteria were formalised. On the abolition of the LCC in 1965, the plaques scheme passed to the Greater London Council (GLC). The scheme changed little, but the GLC was keen to broaden the range of people commemorated. The 262 plaques erected by the GLC include those to figures such as Sylvia Pankhurst, campaigner for women’s rights; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer of the Song of Hiawatha; and Mary Seacole, the Jamaican nurse and heroine of the Crimean War. Since 1986, English Heritage has managed the blue plaques scheme. So far, EH has erected nearly 300 plaques in London, bringing the total number to over 800. Kent has now followed this same tradition, and has started to erect Blue Plaques at notable places. Below is a list of some that we know of, but as the list grows and the plaques are erected, this list will inevitably be altered accordingly. Keep visiting to see who or what has been honoured by a plaque...

1. John Blaxland (1769 - 1845) and Gregory Blaxland (1771 - 1852) lived at Watergate House in Fordwich from 1769 to 1806. The Blaxland brothers were pioneers and explorers of Australia, and are important figures in Australian history. John Blaxland encouraged the cattle industry to develop in Australia. Gregory Blaxland together with Lawson and Wentworth found the route through the Blue Mountains.

2. Thomas Byrne VC (1867 - 1944) lived at 30 Notley Street, Canterbury from 1914 to 1944. Thomas Byrne won his VC at the battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898 when he was a private in the 21st Lancers. Sir Winston Churchill who was acting as a war correspondent witnessed his gallantry and wrote about it in a letter dated 16 September 1898.

3. Joseph Conrad (1857 - 1924) lived at Oswalds, Bishopsbourne from 1919 to 1924. Joseph Teador Conrad Korzeniowski was an internationally renowned author and he is buried in the Canterbury Cemetery. His tomb is a listed building.

4. Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803 - 1902) lived at Vernon Holme, Harbledown from 1849 to 1902. Thomas Cooper was one of the finest Victorian animal painters and is famous for his paintings of cattle and sheep.

5. Peter Cushing (1913 - 1994) lived at Seaway Cottage, Whitstable from 1959 to 1994. Peter Cushing was a famous actor and artist who lived at Whitstable for most of his working life. He was well known around the town and regularly took tea at the Tudor Tea Rooms in Harbour Street.

6. John Deane (1800 - 1884) lived at 65 Island wall, Whitstable from 1848 to 1854. John Deane was the co-inventor of diving apparatus and the diving helmet.

7. Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964) wrote 'You only live twice' at the Duck Inn, Pett Bottom in 1964.

8. 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (1850 - 1916) lived at Broome Park, Barham from 1911 to 1916. Kitchener was a famous soldier and statesman.

9. Henry Moore (1898 - 1986) lived at The Orchard, Marley lane, Kingston from 1934 to 1940. Moore was a famous sculptor and artist who lived at The Orchard in the years leading up to the Second World War. His sketches of sheep and field flints influenced his abstract three-dimensional forms.

10. Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909 - 1993) lived at 36 Harkness Drive, Canterbury from 1988 to 1993. Professor Parkinson was an historian and author. He created the famous 'Parkinson's law' - which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion .

11. The Philosophical and Literary Institute opened in Guildhall Street in 1825. The building has now been incorporated into Debenhams but the Egyptian style windows on the façade are still visible.

12. James Simmons (1741 - 1807) lived at 24 High Street, Canterbury (now ASK Restaurant) from 1802 to 1807. Simmons was a MP, Alderman and Mayor and was responsible for reshaping Canterbury into a 'Georgian' town. He gave the city the land to create the Dane John gardens and also founded the Kentish Gazette newspaper.

13. Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809) Born in Thetford, Suffolk (present day Norfolk), England, Thomas Paine moved to Sandwich in 1759. He lived in a small house in New Street, where he practiced his trade as a master stay-maker. He married a local girl, Mary Lambert. She was an 'Orphan of Sandwich' meaning she had no money or relatives to provide for her, and had to depend on the local government for assistance. She died after a few months of marriage. Mary's father had been an excise man, Paine moved to Grantham in Lincolnshire to take up this profession. Eventually he was dismissed from this post and moved to London where he became a teacher. In 1768 he became an excise officer again and settled in Lewes, Sussex. Here he wrote a pamphlet calling for an increase in wages and lost his job as a result. His activities caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin. Paine went on to produce a series of books and pamphlets, the most famous being, The Rights of Man, and, in one of his pamphlets, he was the first to coin the phrase, 'The United States of America'. He travelled between England, France, and America and played a prominent role in both the French and American revolutions, but was eventually outlawed by the British government for his views on religion and the monarchy. He spent some time in jail in France for opposing the execution of the King. Finally, he settled on his farm in New Rochelle, New York State, America, where he died an American Citizen, in 1809. He is still remembered in Sandwich and a blue plaque marks the house where he lived.

14. Joseph Lister (1827-1912) Born on the 5th April, 1827 at Upton, Essex, England. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College, London and then continued as a medical student in 1848. He was influenced by the physiologist William Sharpney and obtained his medical degree in 1852.
In 1856, Joseph Lister became an assistant surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he met his future wife, who was extremely interested in his work. Lister was appointed to the Regius Professorship of Surgery at Glasgow University in 1861 and was later made surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Conditions in operating theatres in hospitals were very unhygienic at the middle of the nineteenth century. As a result some 50 percent of patients died due to infection after surgery. The infected wounds were generally known as 'hospital gangrene' or sepsis, the Greek word for 'putrefaction'. The common belief seemed to be that sepsis was caused by the exposure of moist body tissue to air, with the resultant claim that wounds should be covered to keep the air out. Lister did not believe that exposure to bad air alone led to infection, but that some form of decomposition of the open wound was happening. After reading the work of Louis Pasteur, he thought that he might be able to kill bacteria which were getting onto the wound from the air. It has been suggested that he had recalled the old idea of covering amputations with tar and got the idea that the pure carbolic acid found in tar could destroy the bacteria. As a result, he soaked dressings in carbolic acid and had them applied to wounds immediately after an operation. He also had a spray of carbolic acid directed on the wound during an operation. Lister continued his experiments for two years, and in 1867 made public that carbolic acid was an antiseptic, i.e prevented the wounds he had treated from going septic. As a result of Lister's work and similar work in hospitals in Germany, the drive for cleanliness gathered pace and it became commonplace for staff in operating theatres to wear long white gowns which easily showed dirt and use surgical gauze to meticulously clean sores and wounds. In 1871 Lister was successful in lancing an abscess in Queen Victoria's left armpit. In 1877 Joseph Lister was appointed to the Chair of Clinical Surgery at King's College University Hospital, London. He was able to continue his work on the development of antiseptics and 'clean' surgery until his retirement in 1893.
Joseph Lister died at Walmer, Kent, England on the 10th February 1912. The plaque is sited half way along Wellington Road, Walmer.

15. Nathaniel Gubbins (1893 - 1976) The World's Leading Humourist. As a boy he worked in the Daily Express archives; after he fought in World War I he was rehired as a reporter, but later was laid off. He worked as a freelancer and for the Daily Mirror. From 1930 onwards he wrote a highly popular column in the Beaverbrook-owned Sunday Express called Sitting on the Fence. The column was particularly successful during the Second World War, and is associated with London's spirit during the Blitz by many. According to Time: "Once a week Nat Gubbins speaks for the British man-in-the-street better than the British man-in-the-street can speak for himself...Dry-eyed sentimentalist, sly humorist, casual reformer, recorder of mutton-headed remarks, he has become the most widely read of British columnists. He has no U.S. parallel." Gubbins' ability to reduce wartime annoyances to absurdity and make Britons chuckle at themselves and their annoyers is the peg on which hangs his success. Last week, counting an average of three readers for each copy of the Sunday Express sold, lugubrious Nathaniel Gubbins had an audience of almost 5,000,000. He was known to have said, "If only Gandhi would fast at our house we could have his ration book." The plaque is sited 109 Beach Street, Deal.

16. Charles Hawtrey (1914 - 1988) Born in Hounslow, Middlesex, England, as George Frederick Joffre Hartree, he took his stage name from a celebrated theatrical knight who died in 1923, Sir Charles Hawtrey. It has mistakenly been suggested, and encouraged by Hartree himself, that he was his son, but there is no foundation to this. His father was actually a London car mechanic. Charles Hawtrey made an early start to a remarkable career that was to span a period of almost 60 years, and broke through in all the major entertainment media of the time. He began in the field of music as a renowned boy soprano, making several records before then moving onto the wireless where he performed in programmes for 'Children's Hour'. Following study at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London, he embarked on a career in the theatre as both actor and director. Finally he moved from the cinema where he regularly appeared supporting Will Hay in the 1930s and 40s in films such as The Ghost of St Michaels through the Carry On films, to the television screen. Hawtrey was prone to elaboration on his career, as reported by Roger Lewis in his biography The Man Who Was Private Widdle. He elevated a cameo appearance at the piano in Passport to Pimlico to his having orchestrated the score. Very little is known about Hawtrey's private life as he guarded his relationships very carefully – perhaps no surprise in an age where male homosexual behaviour was illegal and punishable by a prison sentence. However during his life he never hid his homosexuality, and was one of the first actors in British cinema to be identifiably 'gay' in the characters that he played. His outrageous drunken promiscuity however, did not portray homosexuality in a positive light to an unsympathetic world, and nor did his general demeanour with those around him earn him many (if any) close friends. Nevertheless a few anecdotes told by his Carry On colleagues shed a little light on the character off the screen. Kenneth Williams records several encounters with Hawtrey in his 'Diaries' and 'Letters' (both published). He remembers a visit to Deal where Hawtrey's house was full of old brass bedsteads which the eccentric actor had hoarded, believing that one day he would make money from them. He would also wave with gusto at the sailors on the beach. The plaque is sited in Middle Street, Deal.

17. Stephen Phillips (1864 – 1915) was an English poet and dramatist, who enjoyed considerable popularity in his lifetime. He was born at Somertown near Oxford, the son of the Rev. Stephen Phillips, precentor of Peterborough Cathedral. He was educated at Stratford and Peterborough Grammar Schools, and entered Queens' College, Cambridge; but during his first term at Cambridge, when F. R. Benson's dramatic company visited the town, he joined it, and for six years played various small parts. In 1890 a slender volume of verse was published at Oxford with the title Primavera, which contained contributions by him and by his cousin Laurence Binyon and others. In 1894 he published Eremus, a long poem of loose structure in blank verse of a philosophical complexion. In 1896 appeared Christ in Hades, forming with a few other short pieces one of the slim paper-covered volumes of Elkin Mathews's Shilling Garland. This poem arrested the attention of watchful critics of poetry, and when it was followed by a collection of Poems in 1897 the writer's position as a new poet of exceptional gifts was generally recognized. This volume contained a new edition of Christ in Hades, together with Marpessa, The Woman with the Dead Soul, The Wife and shorter pieces, including To Milton, Blind. The volume won the prize of £100 offered by the Academy newspaper for the best new book of its year, ran through half a dozen editions in two years, and established Phillips's rank as poet, which was sustained by the publication, in the Nineteenth Century in 1898 of his poem Endymion. The plaque is sited just off Middle Street, Deal.

18. J B Priestley (1894 - 1984) was born in what he described as an "ultra-respectable" suburb of Bradford. His father was a teacher and his mother died young. On leaving grammar school Priestley worked in the wool trade of his native city, but had ambitions to become a writer. He was to draw on memories of Bradford in many of the works he wrote after he had moved south. As an old man he deplored the destruction by developers of Victorian buildings such as the Swan Arcade in Bradford where he had his first job. Priestley served during the First World War in the 10th battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. He was wounded in 1916 by mortar fire. After his military service Priestley received a university education at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. By the age of 30 he had established a reputation as a humorous writer and critic. His 1927 novel Benighted was adapted into the James Whale film The Old Dark House in 1932. His first major success came with a novel, The Good Companions (1929) which earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and made him a national figure. His next novel Angel Pavement (1930) further established him as a successful novelist. However, some critics were less than complimentary about his work, and Priestley began legal action against Graham Greene for what he took to be a defamatory portrait in Stamboul Train. He moved into a new genre and became as well known as a dramatist. Dangerous Corner began a run of plays that enthralled West End theatre audiences. His best-known play is An Inspector Calls (1946), later made into a film starring Alastair Sim in 1954. His plays are more varied in tone than the novels, several being influenced by J.W. Dunne's theory of time, which plays a part in the plots of Dangerous Corner (1932) and Time and the Conways (1937). Many of his works have a political aspect. For example, An Inspector Calls, as well as being a "Time Play", contains many references to socialism — the inspector was arguably an alter ego through which Priestley could express his views. During World War II he was a regular broadcaster on the BBC. The Sunday night Postscript broadcasts through 1940 and again in 1941 drew audiences of up to 16 million; only Churchill was more popular with listeners. But his talks were cancelled, apparently as a result of complaints that they were too left-wing. He chaired the 1941 Committee and, in 1942, he was a co-founder of the socialist Common Wealth Party. The political content of his broadcasts and Priestley's hopes of a new and different England after the war influenced the politics of the period and helped the Labour Party gain its landslide victory in the 1945 general election. Priestley himself, however, was distrustful of the state and dogma. The plaque is sited in Beach Street, Deal.

19. Arnold Hawthrow (1913 - 1993) The I-Spy books were spotter's guides written for English children, particularly successful in the 1950s and 60s. The company, "an organisation innocently insulting of North American aboriginal peoples", was supposedly run by a Red Indian chief called Big Chief I-Spy: better known as Camden antiques dealer Arnold Cawthrow. Members were called Redskins, and the head office was the 'Wigwam-by-the-Green', to which children could send their completed books and receive a feather in return. The tribe was based on the I-SPY Books, 40-odd small volumes that sold in hundreds of thousands. ... Each book covered a subject such as I-SPY Cars, I-SPY on the Pavement, I-SPY Churches, I-SPY on the Railway etc. As you spotted objects such as coalhole covers, oak trees, semaphore signals, fire engines, whelks and so on you recorded the event in the relevant book, and gained points. Once the book was complete, you sent it to Big Chief I-SPY for his seal of achievement, and in return you would recieve a Big Chief feather. The plaque sited in Beach Street, Deal.

20. Rev T S Treanor (1878 - 1910) Author of 'Heroes of the Goodwins' and 'Log of the Sky Pilot', also Missions to Seaman for Deal and The Downs. Plaque sited in Beach Street, Deal.

The Canterbury Blue Plaque Scheme is based on the famous London scheme, which was launched by the Royal Society of Arts in 1867. The scheme is now run by English Heritage and several towns and cities run their own versions of the scheme. The rules for blue plaques are quite strict and are strictly adhered to. The procedure is that nominations are sought from local people. Notices in the local press, radio and in 'District Life' invited people to give us suggestions. We then have to make sure that the nominations fit the criteria. If they are approved they are then discussed and agreed by the City Council's Executive. We then have to obtain the permission of the owner of the building to install the plaque.

The criteria for the scheme is as follows
1. That the person to be commemorated is regarded as being eminent by a majority of members of their profession or calling.
2. They should have genuinely contributed to human welfare or happiness and deserve recognition.
3. They should have had such exceptional or outstanding personalities that the well informed passer-by recognises their name.
4. The people commemorated must have been dead for at least ten years (or until the centenary of their birth) and any events to be commemorated must have happened 20 years previously. A site or event must be recognised nationally or locally as being of special significance and worthy of recognition.
5. Their stay in the Canterbury district should have been significant as a period of time, or in importance, within their life and work.
6. Plaques will only be placed on the residence or site of residence of the person, or the place where the significant event took place. Plaques shall not be erected on redeveloped sites of former houses, i.e. where the original building or site no longer exists save in exceptional circumstance.
7. Only one plaque will be erected for each person/event and they must not otherwise be appropriately commemorated in the district.

Blue Plaques add to the character and colour of the district and are a tourist attraction. If you would like to nominate a person or an event for a blue plaque please email conservation@canterbury.gov.uk

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