When walking in London, keep an eye out for the Blue Plaques. These historic markers will tell you where famous people once lived, and occasionally make for strange combinations.
One blue plaque at 23 Brook Street in the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood tells how Jimi Hendrix lived there from 1968-1969. Next door at number 25 is another Blue Plaque, this time for Classical composer George Frideric Handel, who lived in the house from 1723 until his death in 1759. Sadly, there’s no record of what Jimi thought about living so close to an earlier and slightly different composer.
The upper stories of these two homes are now the Handel House Museum, which, as the name implies, is dedicated to Handel and not Hendrix. The house has been refurnished with period furniture and paintings and contains a collection of Handel’s personal items. The museum hosts many special events and concerts throughout the year, including weekly recitals. My wife is a big Classical music fan and taking her here to listen to a string quartet is something she still talks about years later.
One disappointment was not being able to see where Jimi Hendrix stayed. He loved London and loved his place, calling it his first real home of his own. At that time he had no neighbors and so he could practice his music as loudly as he wanted.
When the Handel House Museum opened in 2001, his apartment was restored to look like it had when he lived there, minus the large amount of drugs scattered about. Sadly, the apartment is now used as museum’s administrative offices and isn’t generally shown to the public.
[Photo courtesy David Holt]
Any traveler in the UK is familiar with the Blue Plaques. The plaques mark the spot of a famous event or building, or where a famous person has lived, worked, or died.
English Heritage has recently announced that due to government budget cuts, half of the shortlist for new plaques will be canceled, with such big names as Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Monty Python’s Graham Chapman missing out, the BBC reports.
Some forty other prominent people have received the go-ahead, including comedian Peter Sellers and actor David Niven.
Blue plaques help bring context to a walk through UK cities and towns. A stroll through London can show you where Dickens worked in a sweatshop as a child, Marx researched “Das Kapital” and Jimi Hendrix spent his last days.
Other organizations put up similar plaques. The Heritage Foundation and Thame Town Council have announced they’ll unveil a blue plaque for Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb at his home in Oxfordshire. Near my house in Oxford is this blue plaque honoring Sir Roger Bannister, who ran the first mile under four minutes. He helped carry the Olympic torch this year.
It’s a shame some people won’t get blue plaques, but at least they didn’t give one to L. Ron Hubbard.
English Heritage has rejected an application to put up a plaque at the former home of L. Ron Hubbard.
The American science fiction writer, who became a controversial figure when he founded Scientology, was based at 37 Fitzroy Street in London’s West End from 1957 to 1959. The Hubbard Foundation had applied to English Heritage for a blue plaque to mark the building. Blue plaques are recognizable to anyone who’s been to London as marking the spot of a famous event or building, or where a famous person has lived, worked, or died.
English Heritage states they rejected the application because, “It was felt that since Mr Hubbard had died only relatively recently, in 1986, that more time was required to make an objective assessment of the importance and longevity of his achievements. The panel also noted that Mr Hubbard had no address in London which could be considered as comparatively settled, and moved around a great deal.”
The Hubbard Foundation owns the building and runs it as a museum. They are appealing the ruling.