It rained all day on 21 October- a rare occurrence in the dry period August-October 2009. But the attendance at our first winter lecture was nevertheless good, for which there is a clear explanation - Dr John Blatchly. Most of us know that Dr Blatchly's enthusiasm and scholarly curiosity can make anything interesting. But Blue Plaques aren't just' anything' for him because he provided helpful information when the Society set up our scheme in 1999-2000, and when English Heritage decided to promote Blue Plaques in Eastern England he and Norman Scarfe were asked to nominate suitable candidates for commemoration. English Heritage. incidentally, were pleased with the Society's scheme which we had already started and simply gave us their blessing.
We learned that it was Gladstone's idea to commemorate famous people with plaques in London. The first ones installed were for Byron and, surprisingly, the exiled Napoleon III. Apparently the only one which had to be taken down because of vandalism was Karl Marx's! The criteria in London are stricter than ours. We share the principle that the person should have contributed to "human welfare or happiness" but we can't stick to the condition that the plaque must go on the actual building lived in. For example, Gainsborough's house in Foundation Street has been demolished, but we've done the next best thing in putting his plaque on the wry similar house next door to where he lived in 1752-59.
Dr Blatchly commented interestingly on all the people the Society has commemorated, which I shan't mention here because you can pick up our leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre and read all about them, albeit without his fascinating extras! But he went on to talk about many other Ipswich worthies whom we could honour. I select from that number Samuel Ward, the hugely influential Town Preacher of the early 17h century and John Harbottle. leader of the Suffolk Rebellion in the mid-16th century, whose exploits are so little known compared with Robert Kett's in Norfolk, perhaps because Harbottle was a good organiser who treated his prisoners well and no lives were lost. He also highlighted Sir Charles Sherrington, O.M. and Nobel Prizewinner for his pioneering work on neurology and, as Dr Blatchly said, the Ipswich man second only to Wolsey in national and international importance.
More recent people were not ignored. Dr Blatchly underlined the claims of Birkin Haward as architect and architectural historian, and members were eager to add their suggestions which included Sir Daniel Goddard, Clifford Gray, John Moore, Nina Layard, Sir William Reavell and Peter Bruff (see October Newsletter and letter about Bruff in this edition).
The Society will hope to create some more plaques - if not all of those somewhat overwhelming suggestions - because as Dr Blatchly said at the beginning, Blue Plaques "enliven one's visit to a town or city."