Fifth in a series of articles on Pimlico, putting words to page on an area of London that I’ve lived in for a few years. If these read well, I might cover other parts of London I know or explore in the same manner. You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts. This one is about some of the historical figures that have lived in the area.
I’ve always enjoyed wandering around London and spotting those little English Heritage blue plaques on buildings that mean someone of historical importance lived in or near that spot. Politicians, reformers, philosophers, artists, playwrights… they all give a momentary glimpse into the history of London, reminding us that these important figures were real, living their lives in the area that we now stand.
Pimlico also has a share of these, and I recently fired up the relevant Wikipedia list and went looking for them. It’s entirely possible to search the English Heritage site for plaques in Pimlico, too. On both lists, I feel that at least two of the seven are not actually inside the boundaries of Pimlico, so I only went to find the five that are.
First: Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, on St George’s Drive. Listed as being the father of lawn tennis, and all-round high achiever, by the looks of the Wiki. No wonder I’ll never afford a place in Pimlico, if that’s what you need to do to live here. Just invent a major version tennis, nothing much.
Second: Douglas Macmillan, on Ranelagh Road. After seeing his father pass due to cancer, he went on to set up one of the most famous cancer charities in the UK, the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. That’s quite the admirable feat, and certainly something that has been important to many over the years.
Third: Aubrey Beardsley, on Cambridge Street. Artist, political cartoonist, magazine founder, eroticist, eccentric and writer. Interesting guy – though the tuberculosis that killed him or some of the rumours that seemed to follow him aren’t exactly fun sounding. Apparently part of the same social circle as Oscar Wilde.
Fourth: Jomo Kenyatta, also on Cambridge Street. First president of the Republic of Kenya. I couldn’t find this one the first time I looked for it. I had to go back later to spot it – it would appear that I didn’t look up. Reading about the politics of Kenya following his presidency (Wikipedia is always a rabbit hole of interesting information for me), I can’t say I think it all turned out peachy, but it’s still an impressive achievement.
Fifth: Swami Vivekananda, on St George’s Drive. A Hindu philosopher, and according to the Wiki I can now take all my yoga-practising friends to visit the plaque, as someone who helped expose the West to Hinduism and yoga. Also has a day celebrated after him, back in India. That’s pretty cool. Can we have Anthony Day, anyone? No? What do you mean I have to achieve something first? Oh.
Bonus 1: Winston Churchill. Although the official English Heritage blue plaque for Winston Churchill is over in Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, there is another one in Eccleston Square, Pimlico, which appears to be somewhat less official – it doesn’t bear the mark of English Heritage, for example. That said, it is backed up as being his residence for a time by winstonchurchill.org. I presume English Heritage frown on people just putting up false blue ceramic plaques outside their house, but perhaps if there is still an underlying truth?
Bonus 2: Laura Ashley, Green Plaque, another one on Cambridge Street. Seriously, three plaques on one street? And a secret cocktail bar? This road has something special going on. The green plaques, unlike the blue plaques, are not English Heritage sites. Instead they are Westminster’s own recognition of its diverse cultural heritage. Perhaps I should go hunting for those someday, too.
Bonus 3: Millbank Prison, Millbank. This one is on the blue plaque list for Pimlico despite not being blue, or in Pimlico. But it was close by and interesting, so I went and found it anyway. The inscription reads “NEAR THIS SITE STOOD MILLBANK PRISON, WHICH WAS OPENED IN 1816 AND CLOSED IN 1890. THIS BUTTRESS STOOD AT THE HEAD OF THE RIVER STEPS FROM WHICH, UNTIL 1867, PRISONERS SENTENCED TO TRANSPORTATION EMBARKED ON THEIR JOURNEY TO AUSTRALIA.” SO that is definitely a site of some pretty significant importance. It was also, and the reason I first remember reading about it, the original site for a planned panopticon, a particularly dystopian approach to prison construction that I stumbled across a few years ago (the Wikipedia and Reddit one-two combo… it never fails to kill off an evening).
There we go. The five English Heritage blue plaques of Pimlico, one not of Pimlico itself, one ‘other’ blue plaque, and one green. That was a nice little explore, and I’m glad the weather was so obliging. Next up, the eight predominant types of paving slab in Pimlico…
I jest. Probably.
Edit 25/02/2019 – Bonus 4: William Morris Hughes. Just found this one the other day, while wandering along Moreton Place in Pimlico. It’s not on the English Heritage site, but was very definitely there right in front of me. And so now I’ve found another site that lists blue plaques, and now I need to find the ones on there that I don’t have here just yet. Anyway, William Morris Hughes became the 7th Prime Minister of Australia, which is why he’s not on the English Heritage plaques list. Which, to be fair, makes sense. Still, it was a fun little moment when I discovered one that I didn’t know was there.
You can use the ‘Pimlico’ category tag on this site to see the related posts.