April 18, 2016 Bradford Civic Society

Bradford’s blue plaques explained

As our project to highlight some of Bradford’s blue plaques continues, many people have asked who has been responsible for commissioning and administering heritage plaques in Bradford over the years. 

Many people think that there is a national blue plaque scheme, however this is not the case. Whilst English Heritage is a national charity, it currently only oversees and funds blue plaques in London. A nationwide scheme was trialled in the late 1990s, but this was discontinued in 2005.

In towns and cities outside Greater London, blue plaques are now the responsibility of a number of different groups – from local councils, to voluntary groups such as Bradford Civic Society. In the wider Bradford district, Ilkley Civic Society runs the Ilkley blue plaque scheme, and some parish council’s in the outlying towns have installed their own plaques too.

Blue Plaques in Bradford over the years

There is no record of a formal blue plaque scheme ever being established in Bradford, unlike other cities such as Birmingham and Leeds. You may notice from our current project that some heritage plaques in Bradford are square, some are circular, and they often vary in colour/shade.

The square ‘Bradford City Heritage‘ plaques were installed – mainly in the city centre – in the late 1980s/early 1990s by Bradford Council, although there is no public record of which department administered this or how it was funded. This particular project was focussed on Bradford’s historic buildings, rather than notable people.

There are a number of ‘ad hoc’ people plaques around the city too – such as those dedicated to J B Priestley which were installed with the support of the J B Priestley Society.

A number of plaques were installed around the district to highlight Bradford’s role in the history of cinema. These mark locations used in films, as well as places connected to stars of the big screen.

In 2007, a group called ‘Bradford: City for Peace’ funded and installed three plaques dedicated to women of Bradford who played a pivotal role in the advancement of peace and the improvement of society.

The current scheme 

In 2019, Bradford Civic Society took the decision to launch a formal blue plaque scheme for Bradford, with the intention that this will lead to more plaques being installed for notable Bradfordians, and more consistency with the design and text of the plaques. This scheme will see the production of new blue plaques for Bradford, and the replacement of existing Bradford City Heritage plaques where appropriate. To date, Bradford Civic Society has unveiled five new blue plaques in Bradford, and has a further six currently in production. Plaques are funded on an individual sponsorship basis, and we receive no statutory funding to operate  this scheme.

The current, and hopefully more permanent, blue plaque scheme for Bradford uses the more iconic and circular blue plaque. Our plaques are made by the same foundry as other established big city blue plaque schemes in the hope that it will lead to a more consistent ‘national network’ of civic plaques.

In 2022, Bradford Civic Society will mark its 80th anniversary, and the refurbishment of Bradford’s existing blue plaque network – as well as the continuation of new installations – will be at the heart of our anniversary activities.


The Bradford in Blue Plaques series has been made possible with support from City of Bradford Council