The millionaire plumber who has offered to take over London’s blue plaques
A self-made millionaire has offered to take over the running of London’s familiar blue plaques, which mark the houses where famous people once lived, after English Heritage’s announcement that they cannot afford their upkeep any more.
Charlie Mullins, who runs a plumbing business with a £18 million a year turnover and a staff of more than 220, says he is shocked that the 850 blue plaques might go untended. He left school at 15, and it was the blue plaques that gave him an interest in history. “This is the sort of issue that screams ‘Big Society’,” he said.
He is right that insofar as ‘Big Society’ means anything, it presumably encompasses private benefactors stepping in to take over the work of charities and other bodies which have lost their state funding. Provided the words Pimlico Plumbers appeared on blue plaques in very small writing they might not ruin their appearance, and it would certainly be better than seeing them go to rust.
But the offer leaves open one huge question. Someone has to decide which famous people merit one of these plaques, if they are not be devalued by turning up everywhere. English Heritage have done that job to most people’s satisfaction, though they hit a storm of controversy last year when they decided that it was “too soon” to erect a plaque in memory of Dame Thora Hird, who died in 2003. They would have got into even worse trouble if they had done what Camden’s Labour council did, and put up a plaque on the house where Lenin once lived. People who run an efficient plumbing service may not be the ones best qualified to cope with these political blockages.
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