Houses without plaques

There are many plaques around boasting a building’s association with H. G. Wells. The seventeen noted here include ones I’ve seen personally (Midhurst, Chiltern Court in London), and the site even includes the very strange sign on the pub in Petersfield, where I can’t determine when Wells would have “regularly dined and wrote here”. Some of the plaques, though, aren’t on the Wells page, so it’s more than seventeen.

For example, Woking. I did try to get to the house in Woking when I was between trains, but I was unable to lug my suitcase up the road a sufficient distance to get to 141 Maybury Road, where Wells and Amy moved in May 1895 (this site says they married there, but the Mackenzie biography says they married at the Mornington Road house discussed below). I have also not seen the plaque at the house everyone associates with Wells, because he died there: 13 Hanover Terrace.

I am, however, investigating his younger years. I know that a number of places with which he was associated have been destroyed, or are repurposed (such as Henley House School in Kilburn, which is now a housing development — it has a plaque for A.A. Milne, but not Wells). But today I was writing introductions for a book, and I began updating my biographical material.

That’s how I discovered how many existing buildings in London associated with Wells’ early life appear to be still standing, but don’t have plaques. It doesn’t really make sense, particularly when there are (obviously unofficial) plaques at places like William Burton’s house in Stoke-on-Trent, Basford, where Wells spent a mere three months recuperating from illness in 1888.

1859 ad for Morley’s Academy

Things start of well, biographically. The dame school he attended as a child, at 8 South Street in Bromley, has a plaque. The house where he lived with his family (Atlas House, 47 High Street), unfortunately, has been destroyed, and the site is now a commercial property in the high street. Along the same street was Morley’s Academy, where Wells learned book-keeping and other subjects. The numbering on the street has changed, but this site also appears to also be gone.  Things improve in Midhurst, where Wells was a chemist’s apprentice and attended grammar school. Midhurst has a number of plaques: on the place where he lived above a sweet shop (now the Olive and Vine — I recommend the King Prawns), the chemist’s shop (now a dentist), and the grammar school (now the South Downs Center). The house Uppark, where Wells’ mother worked and where he returned frequently, doesn’t need a plaque, since the house is preserved, rebuilt after fire, and can be visited (get there in the morning in case the cellars where Sarah Wells worked close early because of a lack of volunteers — better yet, volunteer!) There is a plaque in Windsor, at the drapers where he was an apprentice.

But London, where blue plaques pop up like pimples, there’s an issue. In 1885, Wells resided at 181 Euston Road, walking across the part every day to attend classes at the Normal School of Science (now Imperial College). That house doesn’t exist, because the railroad was extended — the side of the street it would be on is now a drop onto the tracks. Fitzroy Road in Primrose Hill, however, does exist, and Wells lived at two different houses there. His aunt and cousin Isabel (later his wife) lived at 12 Fitzroy Road, and he moved in with them in 1888 (right after those three months in Batsford). In May of 1889 they all moved to a bigger house at 46 Fitzroy Road. Now I know, because of Bromley, that street numbers can change. But if they haven’t, and I’m using Google Maps correctly, those houses are there:


12 Fitzroy Road

46 Fitzroy Road

Lovely houses, but no plaques. And it’s not really near Wells’ job at Henley House School, so I’ll have to investigate streetcars, but that’s a task for another time…

In October of 1891 Wells and Isabel married, and they moved to 28 Haldon Road in Wandsworth. It seems to be still there:

28 Haldon Road, Wandsworth

Hmmm…no plaque. Wells wss 25 years old by then, and lived here several years. His mother Sarah visited him here, he had a bout of illness in May 1893 and was confined to bed here, writing like a maniac, but no plaque. He’d be commuting from here to Red Lion Square, where he taught biology. Streetcar? Later, later…

Wells also fell in love with another woman at the biology labs, Amy Catherine. He left his wife and moved in with Amy, to 7 Mornington Place, in Camden Town. Uncomfortable with the landlady (who was uncomfortable with them), two months later they moved to 12 Mornington Road. Mornington Road is now Mornington Terrace, so again, if the numbering is OK and Google streetview is correct, both these houses are also there:

7 Mornington Place, Camden

12 Mornington Terrace

No plaque (that one on the right is an alarm thing).

So let’s review. Up-and-coming famous person, writing a biology text-book and something that will later be called The Time Machine, and no plaque? After this, we’re on to Maybury Road in Woking, Sandhurst, other places that do have plaques.

It does make me wonder.


Update: Having received a question about this from my colleague Rob Bond, I looked up the rules (first at Wikipedia, then properly at at English Heritage Trust). For London, a person may only have one blue plaque. The one for Wells at Hanover Terrace is blue. The one at Chiltern Court is brown. So the others I’m proposing should likely be from one of the other schemes, which English Heritage mentions on their page, at the bottom.