Dame Judi Dench calls for public to nominate women for blue plaques

Dame Judi Dench wants more “unsung female heroes” to get a blue plaque.

The Oscar-winning actress, 83, has urged the public to “nominate the women you admire” for the scheme.

She made the call as English Heritage unveiled a plaque to Margaret Lockwood, star of Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes and at one time Britain’s highest-paid actress.

Dame Judi said: “If people want to find out about our London history, they can go and just stand for a minute outside and look at a house where you know that person has lived – I think that’s just wonderful.

The plaque to Margaret Lockwood
The plaque to Margaret Lockwood (English Heritage)

“So far the scheme honours some brilliant women –  Florence Nightingale, Ava Gardner and the Pankhursts, but there are many, many more unsung female heroes who deserve recognition.

“So nominate the women you admire, the women who did great and remarkable things throughout history, and the women who did not go quietly.”

Women make up only 14% of more than 900 blue plaques in London.

English Heritage says it wants change but needs the public to help as the scheme is reliant on nominations.

A plaque celebrating Lockwood, who died aged 73 in 1990, has been installed in Upper Norwood.

After starring in The Lady Vanishes (1938), Lockwood became one of Britain’s biggest stars, appearing in Night Train To Munich (1940), The Man In Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945).

She is said to have received 16,000 fan letters a week and her name was used to advertise products from soap to knitwear and shampoo to shoes.

The plaque was unveiled at 14 Highland Road in Upper Norwood, the place where Lockwood, who was born in Karachi, first experienced what she called “the great greyness of London”.

Margaret Lockwood
Margaret Lockwood (PA)

The family went on live at two other houses in the same street, both of which were destroyed in the Second World War.

Anna Eavis, curatorial director and secretary of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, said: “The London Blue Plaques Scheme is over 150 years old and with that legacy comes a historical gender imbalance.

“The scheme relies on public nominations and that’s why we need them to send us their suggestions.”

Other people prominent in theatre and film who have been recognised include Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner and Sir John Gielgud.

The London plaques scheme began in 1866 and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world.

Information can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/