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The London Blue Plaque Guide
By Nick Rennison
The History PressCopyright © 2015 Nick Rennison
All rights reserved.
A TO Z OF NAMES
ABRAHAMS, HAROLD (1899–1978)Olympic athlete, lived here
HODFORD LODGE, 2 HODFORD ROAD, NW11
Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire knows something of the achievements of Harold Abrahams. Played in the film by Ben Cross, Abrahams was the gold medal winner in the 100m at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, unexpectedly beating the American Charley Paddock, then regarded as 'the world's fastest human'. As the film makes clear, Abrahams's victory was controversial because he had employed Sam Mussabini, a professional trainer, to coach him and, in those days of strict amateurism, it was considered hardly gentlemanly to do so. Presumably Mussabini's advice was usually more wide- ranging than that contained in the note he is said to have left with Abrahams on the day of the race. 'Only think of two things,' it read, 'the report of the pistol and the tape. When you hear the one, just run like hell until you break the other.' A year after his triumph in Paris, Abrahams broke his leg during training for the long jump, another event in which he excelled, and was forced to give up competitive athletics. Once retired, he became a lawyer (he had studied law at Cambridge) but he continued his involvement in sport. He was athletics correspondent for the Sunday Times for many years and was also a regular broadcaster on the BBC. He was elected President of the Amateur Athletics Association in 1976, two years before he died.
ADAM, ROBERT (1728–1792)architect; THOMAS HOOD (1799–1845), poet; JOHN GALSWORTHY (1867–1933), novelist and playwright;SIR JAMES BARRIE (1860-1937;); and other eminent artists and writers, lived here
1–3 ROBERT STREET, WC2
Robert Adam was the son of a distinguished Scottish architect and, together with his younger brother James, created some of the most original British architecture of the second half of the eighteenth century. From 1761 to 1769 Robert was Architect of the King's Works, a position in which James succeeded him. Robert Street, named after the elder Adam brother, was part of a larger and more ambitious project to transform an area between the Strand and the Thames. Nos 1–3 Robert Street are original Adam buildings in which the brothers themselves lived from 1778 to 1785. Thomas Hood, the writer of elaborately punning verse and of The Song of the Shirt, lived there from 1828 to 1830. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, was a long-term resident who had a flat there from 1911 until his death. Galsworthy, one of Britain's few Nobel laureates for literature, lived there briefly during the last two years of the First World War.
ADAMS, HENRY See under entry for UNITED STATES EMBASSY
ADAMS-ACTON, JOHN (1831–1910)sculptor, lived here
14 LANGFORD PLACE, NW8
John Adams-Acton was one of the most prominent portrait sculptors of his day, particularly known for his busts of Gladstone who sat for him many times and became a personal friend. He was also the only Protestant sculptor ever to be allowed to take sittings from Pope Leo XIII. Although a Protestant, Adams-Acton's connections with the Catholic Church were strong and one of his finest works was the effigy of Cardinal Manning to be seen in Westminster Cathedral. Sadly, Adams-Acton, on leaving the cathedral on one occasion, was hit by a passing vehicle and never fully recovered from his injuries, dying two years later.
ADELPHI TERRACEThis building stands on the site of Adelphi Terrace built by the brothers Adam in 1768–1774. Famous residents in the Terrace include TOPHAM AND LADY DIANA BEAUCLERK, DAVID GARRICK, RICHARD D'OYLY CARTE, THOMAS HARDY and GEORGE BERNARD SHAW. The LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS and the SAVAGE CLUB also had their premises here. ADELPHI, WC2
One of the greatest acts of architectural vandalism in London in the twentieth century was the destruction of the Adelphi, an imposing development of terraced houses on the site of what had once been Durham House, which had been built by the four Adam brothers in the early 1770s. At the time the brothers took on the site it was a slum area but they transformed it into a series of elegant Georgian town houses. They were demolished in 1936. Topham Beauclerk, a descendant of Charles II and Nell Gwyn, was a good friend of Dr Johnson, who was devastated by Beauclerk's early death. Beauclerk's wife Diana was a daughter of the Duke of Marlborough and a talented amateur artist. David Garrick lived here in the 1770s and his widow, who survived him by more than forty years, continued to do so until her own death in 1822. The impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte lived here through the years of his triumphs in producing the Gilbert and Sullivan operas and, in the 1860s, Thomas Hardy studied in an architectural practice that had its offices here. George Bernard Shaw moved in with his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, after their marriage in 1898. He was closely connected with the development of the London School of Economics which was situated in the Adelphi from 1896 to 1902. The Savage Club, named after the reprobate eighteenth-century poet Richard Savage, had premises there from 1888 to 1907.
ALDRIDGE, IRA (1807–1867)Shakespearean actor, 'The African Roscius', lived here
5 HAMLET ROAD, UPPER NORWOOD, SE19
The greatest black actor of the nineteenth century was born in New York, the son of a preacher. He came to London as a young man in order to further his career on stage. In 1825, aged only eighteen and billed as a 'Man of Colour', he appeared in the lead role in a play entitled A Slave's Revenge at the Royal Coburg Theatre and, over the next few decades, he performed in towns and cities all around Britain. Othello was, unsurprisingly, a favourite role but he also took on many other parts usually associated with white actors. Throughout his career Aldridge was obliged to struggle against the unthinking, often ludicrous racism of the day. One newspaper told its readers, in all seriousness, that it was quite impossible for him to pronounce English properly 'owing to the shape of his lips'. Yet less prejudiced reporters in Aldridge's audiences were in no doubt that they were in the presence of a great actor. One writer noted that the evenings he saw Aldridge play Shakespeare 'were undoubtedly the best I have ever spent in the theatre'. Much of the African Roscius's later career was spent touring Europe and he died in the city of Lodz in what is today Poland. He is buried in the Evangelical Cemetery there.
ALEXANDER, SIR GEORGE (1858–1918)actor-manager, lived here
57 PONT STREET, SW1
One of the great actor-managers of his day, Alexander ran the St James's Theatre in King Street, Piccadilly, from 1891 until his death. The 1890s were his period of greatest artistic and commercial success. He appeared in the dual role of Rudolf Rassendyll and the King in The Prisoner of Zenda and was the first to stage several of Oscar Wilde's plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest, in which he appeared as John Worthing. Less successful was his staging of Henry James's play Guy Domville. On the first night, when Alexander came to the line, 'I am the last of the Domvilles', a voice from the gallery called back, 'Well, at any rate, that's a comfort to know'.
ALLENBY, FIELD MARSHAL EDMUND HENRY HYNMAN, VISCOUNT, (1861–1936)lived here 1928–1936
24 WETHERBY GARDENS, SW5
One of the last great cavalry commanders and a scholarly soldier, who could quote Plato and Homer in the original Greek, Allenby was educated at Sandhurst and, as a young man, saw much service in South Africa, both before and during the Boer War. At the start of the First World War he was in command of the cavalry division which formed part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France and, the following year, was given charge of the Third Army. Allenby remained on the Western Front until 1917, taking command of the Allied troops at the Battle of Arras, but the Front was scarcely an arena in which to display cavalry skills. This chance came when Allenby was transferred to Palestine where, aided and abetted by the guerrilla forces under Lawrence of Arabia, his army swept the Turks aside and took first Jerusalem and then Damascus. After the war Allenby was high commissioner in Egypt for a number of years. He lived in Wetherby Gardens after he had retired from the army and from public life.
ALLINGHAM, MARGERY (1904–1966)writer of crime fiction and creator of Albert Campion, lived here 1916–1926
1 WESTBOURNE TERRACE ROAD
Margery Allingham was one of the great writers of the Golden Age of English detective fiction and her most famous creation, the affable and gentlemanly Albert Campion, is one of the most engaging of all the amateur detectives the period produced. Allingham came from a family of writers and her first stories were published when she was still in her teens. Campion made his debut in a book published in 1929 and went on to appear in nearly twenty others. Aided sometimes by his wife, the beautiful Lady Amanda, sometimes by the Scotland Yard inspector, Stanislaus Oates, and sometimes by his manservant, the weirdly named Magersfontein Lugg, he solved his mysteries with charm and panache. He is an almost peripheral figure, however, in what many would claim as Allingham's finest novel, The Tiger in the Smoke, in which a ruthless killer named Jack Havoc is loose in the fog-enshrouded streets of a London that is now long gone. Margery Allingham once described the essential ingredients of a crime novel as 'a Killing, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an element of satisfaction in it'. For more than forty years her own novels made stylish use of these four essentials.
ALMA-TADEMA, SIR LAWRENCE (1836–1912)painter, lived here 1886–1912
44 GROVE END ROAD, ST JOHN'S WOOD, NW8
Alma-Tadema, one of the most successful painters of Victorian England, was born in the small town of Dronryp in the Netherlands. Trained as an artist at the Antwerp Academy, he moved to London in 1870 and became a naturalised British citizen three years later. Alma-Tadema specialised in meticulously painted reconstructions of life in the ancient world, particularly Ancient Rome, and these proved enormously appealing to his Victorian patrons and buyers. He was one of the most highly paid artists of his time and was awarded a knighthood in 1899 and the Order of Merit in 1905. As one critic remarked, Alma-Tadema's scenes of everyday life in the Roman world appear to be peopled by 'Victorians in togas' and his reputation suffered when Victorian art went out of fashion. More recently his work has been reassessed and his energy and technical skill acknowledged. His house in St John's Wood was once the property of another successful artist of foreign extraction, James Tissot.
AMBROSE, BERT (c.1896–1971)dance band leader, lived and played here 1927-1940
THE MAY FAIR HOTEL, STRATTON STREET, W1
Born in the East End of London, the son of a Jewish wool merchant, Benjamin Baruch Ambrose began playing the violin as a child. He was taken to America by his aunt when he was in his teens and it was in the States that he launched his professional career as a musician. His American experience stood him in good stead when he returned to London and he was working as a highly paid band leader when he was still a very young man. As Bert Ambrose, or often just Ambrose, he was one of the stars of British popular music in the 1920s and 1930s and his band enjoyed major success on radio, in the recording studio and live on stage in nightclubs and West End hotels. The May Fair Hotel in Stratton Street now carries a Blue Plaque which celebrates Ambrose's years as maestro in residence there. His name will always be linked with those of two legendary female singers: 'The Forces' Sweetheart', Vera Lynn, sang with his band in the late 1930s and, twenty years later, he discovered and managed the teenage Kathy Kirby. It was backstage at the recording of a TV appearance by Kirby that Ambrose collapsed and died in 1971.
In this houseSUSANNA ANNESLEY,mother ofJOHN WESLEY,was born 20 January 1669
7 SPITALYARD, BISHOPSGATE, EC2
CITY OF LONDON
Susanna Annesley, the daughter of a well-known Nonconformist, married Samuel Wesley in 1690 and together they had seventeen children, among them John and Charles, the founders of Methodism. She died in 1742 and was buried in Bunhill Fields. John preached a funeral sermon by his mother's grave and later wrote of the service, 'It was one of the most solemn assemblies I ever saw or ever expect to see on this side of eternity.'
ARCHER, JOHN RICHARD (1863–1932)Mayor of Battersea who fought social and racial injustice, lived here
55 BRYNMAER ROAD, BATTERSEA, SW11
JOHN RICHARD ARCHER Mayor of Battersea (First Black London Mayor) had a photography shop and lived here 1918–1932
214 BATTERSEA PARK ROAD, SW11
BOROUGH OF WANDSWORTH
When John Richard Archer was elected Mayor of Battersea by his fellow councillors, he became the first black man to hold a senior public office in London. After his election, in a victory speech he predicted that news of his triumph 'will go forth to all the coloured nations of the world. They will look to Battersea and say "It is the greatest thing you have done. You have shown that you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done."' Born in Liverpool, the son of a Barbadian father and an Irish mother, Archer settled in London after working as a merchant seaman. After attending the Pan-African Conference held in the city in 1900, he was inspired to enter local politics, joining the Battersea Labour League. Voted on to Battersea Borough Council in 1906, he went on to serve a number of terms as a local councillor and was chosen as the borough's mayor in November 1913. After his year as mayor, Archer continued to work as a local politician and to advocate social and political reform until his death in July 1932. The house in Brynmaer Road was Archer's home from the late 1890s to the end of the First World War, the years during which his political career flourished.
ARDIZZONE, EDWARD (1900–1979)artist and illustrator, lived here 1920–1972
130 ELGIN AVENUE, W9
Ardizzone's father, who was French, worked in the Far East for a telegraph company and Edward was born in Haiphong in what is now Vietnam. He was brought to England as a young boy and raised in Suffolk by his maternal grandparents. After leaving school, he joined his father's firm as a clerk in London but the urge to draw and paint was ever present and, at the age of twenty-seven, he horrified his family by giving up his secure job to work as a full-time artist. They need not have worried. Within a short while he had had his first one-man show in London and won his first commission as an illustrator. He began to write and illustrate his own books for children in the 1930s – the first was Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain in 1936 – and continued to do so for the rest of his life. Over the years, he also produced illustrations for books by many other writers, from Stig of the Dump by Clive King to the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope. An official war artist during the Second World War (when he accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France and, in London, was briefly arrested as a spy while sketching during the Blitz), Ardizzone was one of the most original and distinctive illustrators of the twentieth century.
ARKWRIGHT, SIR RICHARD (1732–1792)industrialist and inventor, lived here
8 ADAM STREET, WC2
Born into a poor family in Preston, Arkwright first showed his entrepreneurial talents when he moved from a job as a barber to become a dealer in discarded human hair, collecting material for the creation of wigs. He also showed his inventiveness by devising a method of his own for dyeing the hair. However, he is best remembered for his innovations in the cotton industry which he entered about 1767, joining forces with another inventor, John Kay, to produce the spinning-frame, which created cotton thread of a strength not hitherto possible from a machine. In 1771 he set up a factory in Derbyshire that used water power to drive his machines and the profits from this went to open further mills. Arkwright's success was resented both by business rivals and those who were put out of work by his frames. In 1779 a mob burned down one of his mills in Chorley but it was fighting against the tide of history. Arkwright was knighted in 1786 and, by the time he died, was a very wealthy man indeed.
Excerpted from The London Blue Plaque Guide by Nick Rennison. Copyright © 2015 Nick Rennison. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents
A to Z of Names,
List of Names by Profession,
List of Names by Postal Code,