11 January 2011
Benjamin Franklin House original 'blue' plaque finally to be erected
On 17 January 2011 (7-9pm), in celebration of Benjamin Franklin’s 305th birthday, and the 5th anniversary of the opening of Benjamin Franklin House to the public as a dynamic museum and educational facility, the original ‘blue’ plaque intended to commemorate Franklin’s nearly sixteen year tenure at 36 Craven Street, London will finally be erected. One of history’s great polymaths, Franklin is famous for his contributions to science, letters, invention, diplomacy, music, and more.
In 1875, the (Royal) Society of Arts, originators of what became the popular blue plaque scheme to recognise the lodgings of London’s important past residents, commissioned a large terracotta plate surrounded by a wooden frame to honour Franklin, their first international member. However, they accidentally erected it on the wrong building.
Prior to two rounds of renumbering and the construction of new buildings on the street, Franklin lived at 7 Craven Street which had become 36 by the late 19th century. It was affixed incorrectly, however, to the 7 Craven Street of 1875, but this was discovered too late; it was cemented tight. In the course of investigations, the Clerk of the London County Council proved by consulting City of Westminster rate-books (which tracked annual assessments) that Franklin’s landlady, leaseholder Margaret Stevenson, had lived two doors from Craven Passage on the east side of the street – number 36 – not at the top of the west side, where number 7 was then located.
In 1914, 7 Craven Street was demolished to make way for a restaurant (which no longer stands) and the plaque was finally removed. It was donated to the London Museum, then at Stafford House, St. James’s, the forerunner to the Museum of London. It eventually came to rest in the Museum’s Hackney storehouse where it has been ever since. It was kindly donated by the Museum to Benjamin Franklin House last year.
In 1914, the London County Council put up a new ‘blue’ plaque on 36 Craven Street, a bronze scroll and the only one of its kind, which denotes Franklin’s only surviving residence anywhere in the world. But soon there will two plaques.
According to Benjamin Franklin House Director Dr. Márcia Balisciano, “For the first time in 136 years, on an auspicious Franklin day, the original plaque [to feature on an interior brick wall] will finally be displayed where it was always intended!”
If you are interested in attending the reception please contact Operations Manager, Sally James firstname.lastname@example.org.