London

Blue Plaque unveiled on Freddie Mercury's first London home

Freddie Mercury/Blue Plaque Image copyright PA/English Heritage
Image caption Freddie Mercury moved with his family to 22 Gladstone Avenue in Feltham in 1964

A Blue Plaque marking the first home Freddie Mercury lived in when he arrived in England has been unveiled.

The Queen frontman moved to the semi-detached home in Feltham, west London, after his family left Zanzibar in 1964 when Mercury was 17.

The singer was living in the house when he met two other members of the band - Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Kashmira Cooke, his sister, said he "secretly would have been very proud and pleased" to receive the honour.

Image copyright Universal
Image caption Freddie Mercury posing as Jimi Hendrix, photographed in his bedroom by a friend in 1968
Image caption Mercury composed some of Queen's most famous hits including Bohemian Rhapsody and Don't Stop Me Now

Mercury's parents, Jer and Bomi Bulsara, decided to leave Zanzibar as the country was becoming independent from Britain.

They moved to 22 Gladstone Avenue in autumn 1964 choosing the area because Jer had a sister who already lived in Feltham.

Yet everything was not straight forward for the family.

"The house had no central heating... We were not familiar with coal fires and had to be shown how to light it," Kashmira Cooke said.

She said her brother spent much of the time in the house "sketching for his college art work" and "listening to music, particularly Jimi Hendrix".

"He spent hours in the bathroom grooming his hair. At the time I wasn't best pleased as there was only one bathroom," she said.

Away from the house he studied Graphic Art and Design at Ealing College of Art and worked in kitchens at Heathrow Airport.

Image caption Mercury designed the band's crest representing the zodiac signs of the four band members
Image copyright English Heritage
Image caption The semi-detached house is near to Heathrow Airport

Guitarist Brian May said he visited Freddie Mercury in Gladstone Avenue shortly after the pair first met.

"We spent most of the day appreciating and analysing in intimate detail the way that Jimi Hendrix had put his recordings together," he said.

The Blue Plaque was unveiled days before Mercury would have celebrated his 70th birthday on 5 September.

He died in 1991 at the age of 45.


English Heritage Blue Plaque facts

Image copyright English Heritage
  • The scheme began in 1866 after the idea of erecting "memorial tablets" was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863
  • The first plaque was for the poet Lord Byron, although this was lost when the building it was on was demolished in 1889
  • More than 900 plaques have been unveiled across London
  • An official plaque can only be proposed for a person who has been dead for at least 20 years
  • A plaque put up in Chalk Farm in 1937 to mark Karl Marx's final address had to be taken down because it was repeatedly vandalised

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