Bob Marley's London house to get English Heritage blue plaque

Angela Carter, Gertrude Bell and Martha Gellhorn among this year’s honourees

A house in Chelsea where Bob Marley sought refuge after the trauma of an assassination attempt in Jamaica is to have an English Heritage blue plaque installed.

Marley, the novelist Angela Carter, the writer and traveller Gertrude Bell and the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn were among a cluster of names announced on Tuesday as figures to be celebrated in 2019 by the London heritage scheme.

The house on Oakley Street, off King’s Road, was where Marley lived with his band the Wailers in 1977. When they were not recording they would make the short trip over the Albert Bridge to play football in Battersea Park.

It was while living in Oakley Street that Marley and the Wailers finished recording Exodus, the album which featured Jamming and One Love.

The historian David Olusoga, a trustee of English Heritage and blue plaques panel member, said he was particularly excited by the Marley plaque.

Marley, he said, remained “one of the most loved and most listened to musicians of the 20th century.

“He was one of the first superstars to come from a developing country. He is one of the most famous faces in the world, one of the most recognisable faces in the world, and he blazed a trail for other artists from developing countries.”

Marley once said he regarded London as his second home and his stay provided provided much-needed stability after the horrific events of 1976, when politically motivated gunmen shot Marley, his wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor.

Around 12 blue plaques are given out each year and English Heritage is conscious of needing to have more women and more people of colour commemorated.

Chairman Sir Tim Laurence said: “We went through a long phase where unless you were white and male you had less chance of getting a blue plaque. We are trying to make the selection much more balanced and more diverse.”

All possible recipients have to have been dead for at least 20 years and be nominated by members of the public.

On Tuesday a plaque for the film-maker and gay rights campaigner Derek Jarman was unveiled on the former warehouse near Tower Bridge that he lived in and used as a studio.

Later this year Carter will be honoured at her former home in Clapham, and Gellhorn at the house in Cadogan Square she called home for 28 years.

Bell, the archaeologist, adventurer and diplomat who played an important role in establishing the modern state of Iraq, will be marked at a house in Chelsea which English Heritage said was a family home and her London base for over 40 years.

One possible blot on Bell’s reputation is her fervent opposition to women getting the vote. She was secretary of the northern branch of the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage and was on its national executive committee.

Olusoga said Bell was not the only blue plaque recipient to have elements of controversy, pointing to the first one, Lord Byron. “I don’t think it is the position of the committee to make judgments about people, we look at their achievements in the round.”

Also getting blue plaques in 2019 will be Lilian Lindsay, the first woman to qualify as a dentist in Britain, and Sir John Wolfe Barry, the civil engineer whose greatest achievement was Tower Bridge.

English Heritage also announced a £2.5m donation from Julia and Hans Rausing towards its project for a dramatic slate footbridge for visitors to get to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. It is a contemporary replacement for the natural land bridge which collapsed in the 15th or 16th century and will save people the long stair climb from one side to the other.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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