Here are all the nominees for this year’s Southwark blue plaque, their connection to the area and how to vote for your favourite to win.
For over twenty years, the News has been proud to have been one of the founders of the Blue Plaque scheme here in Southwark and nominations are now open for next year.
Last year’s winner was ‘exceptional’ Walworth tailor, George Dyer who impressed locals and celebrities with his craftsmanship and became renowned across the UK for his custom-made suits and kindness to all.
His plaque is currently being prepared and there will be more information regarding the unveiling soon.
The nominees for 2024 are:
1. John Davis – Missionary for American Civil War veterans
Connection to Southwark: During the 19th century, Davis helped hundreds of Civil War veterans and their widows get pensions from the US Government, at his missionary based under the railway arch at Gedling Place in Bermondsey.
2. Francis Rossi OBE – lead singer of British rock band Status Quo
Connection to Southwark: Born in Forest Hill, Rossi has several links to the area. He played his first ever ‘gig’ at the Samuel Jones Sports Club in Dulwich in the ’60s and it is believed he lived above the chemist on Lordship Lane in 1972.
He also got married at Peckham Registry Office and Rossi was often spotted at the Peckham Settlement on Pitt Street.
3. Apsley Pellatt & Co – pioneering glass-works
Connection to Southwark: A Blackfriars-based glass-works (1815-1891) that famously made lots of developments in glass, including Cameo Incrustations – the process of embedding ceramic figurines into the sides of paperweights, jugs, and decanters.
4. Stock Aitken & Waterman – legendary songwriting trio
Connection to Southwark: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman were responsible for over 200 million records sold worldwide between 1984 and 1993 for artists including Kylie Minogue and Donna Summer. All their songs reportedly began at a little backstreet studio in Southwark – The Vineyard in Sanctuary Street.
5. Zdenka Pokorna – powerhouse anti-Nazi campaigner
Connection to Southwark: Czech teacher and unswerving patriot who defied the Habsburg, Nazi and Communist authorities. After she was exiled from her homeland in 1948 she spent the rest of her long life (she was almost 102 when she died in 2007), in Dulwich where she continued her campaigning.
6. James Henderson – trailblazing newspaper founder
Connection to Southwark: Not only did he start the South London Press in 1865, Henderson also started the first penny daily newspaper in the UK, the first halfpenny illustrated magazine, the largest circulation provincial newspaper, and the first British comic.
7. Brian Catling – talented artist and sculptor
Connection to Southwark: Catling grew up off the Old Kent Road in the 1950s-’60s, and as an artist, he had a number of notable works including being asked to create a memorial to the Site of Execution, Tower of London in 2006.
8. William Pullum – Olympic weightlifting trainer and champ
Connection to Southwark: Pullum was a revolutionary in the world of weightlifting – both in his own right (he won 192 British and world championships, including 12 gold medals) and for others. He opened a world-famous gym – the legendary Camberwell Club – and trained the 1948 Olympic weightlifting team. He’s buried at Camberwell New Cemetery.
The scheme came about after the News and Southwark Heritage Association tried to find a way around English Heritage’s strict criteria, that a building must be standing and the person dead for them to qualify.
The latter was not really a problem, but the idea that so much of our rich heritage could not be recognised because a building was no longer there was not acceptable to us. Much of our physical heritage was destroyed in the Blitz, but it is perhaps the 1960s and ‘70s architects who did the most damage.
So, we invited Southwark Council to join us in drawing up our own Blue Plaques and getting local people to vote. There are now well over 50 blue plaques across the borough.