Surrey commemorative plaques

People are interested in the history of their surroundings and their local heritage. To come across, by accident or design, a plaque giving information about a person, an event or indeed a building with real significance for the area, is educational, enjoyable and interesting. It can put place and time in the context of history.

Plaques come in all shapes, sizes, materials and colours. Round and blue are the most common. English Heritage plaques are indeed this shape and colour but are ceramic and let into a wall to a depth of 10cm. Most modern plaques, sponsored by other organisations, are metal and surface mounted. Information on commissioning plaques from manufacturers can be found later in this paper.

The need for planning permission varies from authority to authority. Generally, the erection of a plaque on a building with the consent of the owner, does not require planning permission unless it is a listed building or in a conservation area. However it is always wise to check with the local authority concerned.

To have any interest to the passer-by a plaque should be seen from public property, and be of such scale and lettering that it can be read. Historical accuracy is paramount.

The Surrey History Trust has compiled a set of criteria against which the installation of a plaque might be judged. If a proposed plaque fulfils the criteria and full funding is not possible, the Trust will consider a grant towards costs. Further details are available from the Surrey History Trust.

The trustees of the Surrey History Trust are aware of schemes in respect of buildings, the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, and some local initiatives. The Surrey History Trust does not intend to replicate or duplicate those but provide information as an encouragement for others to recognise events, locations and people who would not otherwise be commemorated.

Surrey Commemorative Plaques are being recorded and put on a data base.

Historical events

In order to be eligible for a grant, an historical event must have occurred more than twenty years' ago.

Nominated events should also meet the following criteria:

  • be considered significant by local people or relevant historians; or make a contribution to the broad patterns of Surrey's history or have made a significant change to life in the county;
  • have chiefly occurred within the county and should have significance in the history of the locality or county as a whole;
  • the event was not one which occurred frequently at different locations within Surrey.


In order to be eligible for a grant, a location must be recognised nationally, countywide or locally as being of especial significance and worthy of recognition.

Locations are not eligible if their significance is one that occurs frequently at different locations within Surrey.

Individual buildings, or groups of buildings, will not qualify if these are covered by the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust scheme.


In order to be eligible for a grant, a figure should have been dead for twenty years or have passed the centenary of their birth.

Nominated figures should also meet the following criteria:
There must be reasonable grounds that the person is regarded as eminent in his/her sphere and, in the opinion of the Trustees has done work worthy of recognition and

  • be considered eminent by members of their own profession, calling or field;
  • should have made a significant contribution to the life of Surrey and its residents and/or should merit recognition because of an outstanding (or notorious) act;
  • have been born in Surrey, or resided or worked in Surrey for a significant period, in time or importance within their life and work;

No person may be commemorated with more than two plaques nationwide or more than one plaque in Surrey. In the case of foreign nationals, candidates should be of international reputation or very significant standing in their own country.

Location of plaques

Surrey Commemorative Plaques can be erected on the actual building inhabited by a figure or where an event took place, or (exceptionally) on a building or wall on the site where the building once stood. The wording of the plaque must make it clear that it is not the building with which the person or event is associated. Only where historical research can demonstrate a secure connection between event, locality, person or group of people and the proposed locality should a plaque be erected.
Surrey History Trust particularly welcomes suggestions that commemorate an event, location, person or group of people:

  • with especial significance for Surrey or the locality; or
  • which have otherwise been 'hidden from history'; or
  • which provides the scheme with a balanced selection, representative of the diversity of the county in the past.

Surrey History Trust will work closely with other individuals and groups who plan to erect commemorative plaques in the county to avoid duplication of effort and expense.

It is recommended that commemorative plaques

  • Are only erected with the agreement of the owner of the building.
  • Should not be placed on nationally or locally listed buildings if so doing (or subsequently removing the plaque) will materially damage the fabric of that building.
  • Should have the name of the sponsoring group, if any, on the plaque.