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Image: illustration of several characters from the past (by Jasmine Whiteleaf)

Past Lives

From a captive queen to the father of the NHS, and from a medieval hermit to a reggae superstar, discover the stories of the people who shaped our country's past.

Illustration of First-World-War soldier Arthur Roberts in front of the barracks at Berwick-upon-Tweed


Find out how this soldier’s diaries provide a powerful account of the First World War.

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Image: Illustration of Margaret Cavendish by Susan Burghart

Margaret Cavendish at Bolsover Castle

On the 400th anniversary of the birth of Margaret Cavendish, it’s the perfect time to discover the story of Bolsover Castle’s most fascinating individual.

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Image: Illustration of Howard Carter, Tutankhamen and the Valley of Kings

Howard Carter's blue plaque

We look at the blue plaque that honours Egyptologist Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen

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Image: Illustration of a Polish operative

Station 43 at Audley End House

80 years ago, Audley End House in Essex was transformed into a training school for the Polish Special Operations Executive – and its secrets are still being uncovered.

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Image: Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury's Blue Plaque

On the 30th anniversary of the death of Queen’s frontman, we look back at his life, commemorated by a blue plaque at his childhood home in London.

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Image: Robert Adam

Robert Adam's architectural legacy

How architect Robert Adam left a lasting impression at Kenwood and Apsley House in London, and Audley End House in Essex.

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Image: Eleanor of Castille

Eleanor of Castile and the Eleanor Cross

Discover the monument erected in Geddington, Northamptonshire, to commemorate the remarkable life of King Edward I’s beloved first wife.

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Image: Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell at Mount Grace Priory

How industrialist Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell’s Arts and Crafts mansion became
a retreat for his granddaughter Gertrude between her Arabian adventures.

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Image: John Seely and Paul Paget

Seely and Paget at Eltham Palace

The partners behind the architectural practice that designed Stephen and Virginia Courtauld’s Art Deco mansion at Eltham Palace and Gardens.

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More Past Lives


    The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire stand as a monument to its inspiring former abbot, who oversaw much of its expansion.


    How the consequences of Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral 850 years ago may have influenced Henry II in creating Dover Castle’s Great Tower.


    Discover the story of the visionary who founded our beloved NHS to provide free health care services to the nation – an act commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home.


    The accomplishments of Britain’s first female dentist are commemorated by a blue plaque, which had to overcome adversity of a different kind.

  • The hermit of Barnard Castle

    A visit to Barnard Castle in Durham should include a visit to Frank’s Cell, once home to its most eccentric resident.

  • George Orwell in London

    It is more than 70 years since the novel 1984 was first published. Its author, George Orwell, is now commemorated with a blue plaque.

  • St Godric at Finchale Priory

    Finchale Priory was founded in about 1196 on the site of the hermitage of St Godric, a former sailor who settled here after years of adventure.


  • Sir Walter Scott at Conisbrough Castle

    Following the 200th anniversary of the publication of Ivanhoe, we reveal the role of this romantic fortress in Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel.

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine

    How this formidable French princess and former queen of England came to be imprisoned in the windswept castle of Old Sarum in Wiltshire.

  • Bob Marley in London

    The Jamaican reggae star came to regard the capital as a second home, and has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former Chelsea base.

  • King Cetshwayo at Osborne

    Discover the story of the encounter between Queen Victoria and an exiled Zulu king at Osborne.

  • St Milburga at Wenlock Priory

    How an Anglo-Saxon princess became a miracle-working saint at this Shropshire monastery founded during England’s conversion to Christianity.

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