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Heritage Minister to Unveil Plans to Mark and Celebrate Places Where History Has Been Made Across England

In his Heritage Day speech on Tuesday 5 December 2017, Heritage Minister John Glen will announce plans for Historic England to develop a new scheme to enable communities to identify, permanently mark, and celebrate the spots where history has been made, and the people, places and events that are important to them.

Plans and aims

Plans being developed include a competition to establish a design for the plaque or other type of marker that will be used, and collaboration with communities across the country to find the places where important history has been made, but is unmarked and uncelebrated.

The scheme will aim to help local economies through tourism and investment and improve quality of life through bringing out local pride, identity and inclusion. 

 

Black and white photo of Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol with a women sitting in the sun in the foreground looking towards it. Photo taken in 1954
The first modern bungee jumps were made from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol on 1 April 1979 by David Kirke, Geoff Tabin, and Simon Keeling, all members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club. The students had come up with the idea after discussing a 'vine jumping' ritual carried out by certain natives of the South Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu. The word "bungee" originates from West Country dialect, meaning "Anything thick and squat". © Historic England Archive aa98_04333

Public support and involvement

Recent years have seen campaigns across the country to bring new statues of famous individuals to public spaces, but also to mark out places where history has happened, including the long campaign for a permanent memorial to the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, that is now reaching its conclusion.

As the public body responsible for championing and protecting England's historic environment our research has found that there is enthusiasm for marking and celebrating local histories. We expect the scheme to be a positive addition to the many plaque schemes across the country that most often celebrate the lives or achievements of individual people in history. 

We'll pilot the new scheme over the next three years, with research, community collaboration and a design competition in its early stages.

Old factory building with signage running along above the top windows that reads 'CUMBERLAND PENCILS'
The pencil museum in Keswick, Cumbria. Local legend suggests that a violent storm in the Borrowdale area at the beginning of the 1500s resulted in trees being uprooted and the subsequent discovery of a strange black material underneath. This material was graphite, and being a rural community, it was soon used by Cumbrian shepherds to mark their sheep. A cottage industry of pencil making began in the area and this then evolved over time to create the UK's first pencil factory in 1832 © Historic England Archive

Untapped potential

We believe that the history that's been made in England's places could and should play an important role in place-making, in local identity and culture. A world of discoveries, inventions and events that shaped global history and had a profound impact on human life have emerged across the nation. But too often they are unmarked or unknown. Historic England will work with local groups and societies across the country to establish the basis for a nationally-agreed scheme.

The scheme will explore and identify the untapped potential for heritage and the historic environment to contribute positively to social, cultural and economic conditions.

Heritage Minister John Glen said: "Our heritage is what makes our towns and cities unique, and what sets them apart from each other and the world. This scheme will celebrate the history of local communities, and the people, places and events that shaped them."

Black and white photo of bare apple tree with sheep grazing behind it and a manor house in the background.
The apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, where Sir Isaac Newton was born and where he developed his theory on gravity. © Historic England Archive bb79_08410

Celia Richardson, Director of Communications for Historic England said: "The historic environment is one of the nation's great assets and we believe a historic place-marker scheme will enable communities to better understand, enjoy and care for their heritage, as well as boost their economies and sense of place. We look forward to engaging locally with the many people we know are passionate about local history and heritage, and making sure it's known and celebrated."

Complementing existing schemes

Many cities and towns do have plaques - civic societies, local history groups, universities and architectural associations place plaques on local buildings. They provide depth, character and interest in local historic fabric.

More than 70 civic societies have worked together to standardise such plaques. Many of these schemes mark out places where a single person lived or worked. The new scheme would aim to bring out broader stories about the areas where history was made, with the potential to take in groups of people whose contributions may have been previously unknown or uncelebrated. 

Cyclist riding past an old building with the word Unitarian above the large red wooden door. A banner with the words 'Birthplace of feminism Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)' hangs on the railings outside the building. The building construction dates are displayed above the door: Erected 1708, enlarged 1860.
Newington Green Unitarian Church in Stoke Newington, London. The most famous member of its congregation was Mary Wollstonecraft who, inspired by the church’s radical intellectual group, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), earning her the name “the Mother of Feminism” © Nick via Flickr
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