After seven years of renovations, the latest addition to the Southwark Blue Plaque Scheme will be unveiled by the Mayor of Southwark this morning, writes Kirsty Purnell…
The Medieval St Giles’ Church doorway is the newest addition to the scheme’s list of local honourees, which celebrates the achievements of people and places in the borough.
Most of the Old St Giles’ Church, built in 1154, was destroyed in a fire in 1841. The porch was the only thing to survive.
It was publicly polled as a plaque winner back in 2009 but extensive renovations were required before the big unveiling could take place.
“The council were using the doorway itself as a binstore,” explained Veronica Alden from Southwark Heritage Association, “and people were using it to urinate. At one point it was derelict. A lot of the stonework was knocked off. We had to raise funds to pay for the renovations.”
In the following seven years, Southwark Heritage Association secured funds from the council’s Cleaner, Greener, Safer programme and enlisted the help of a specialist to draw up work plans and assess what needed to be done.
“These renovations have probably taken longer than any of the others in the blue plaque scheme, we had to get a lot of specialists in,” said Veronica, “That makes it special.”
“My husband went and took photos all the way through the work, through its stages. A lot of work went into getting that restored,” she said.
The Southwark Blue Plaque scheme was launched by Southwark News and Southwark Heritage Association, with the support of Southwark Council, because the borough’s heritage spots were struggling to get recognition via the English Heritage blue plaque scheme. Conditions of the pan-London scheme are that honoured sites must still be standing. Many of Southwark’s sites were destroyed or damaged during the blitz, making it difficult for them to get the nod.
Since its 2003 inception, the Southwark scheme has awarded over 50 plaques across the borough. “The scheme is very important because otherwise, we’ll lose our heritage,” said Veronica.
The much anticipated unveiling will take place at 11.30 this morning (Thursday, December 8), at Benhill Road, Camberwell.