Irene Barclay was a local legend – a pioneer in social housing, the first female surveyor in England in 1922, and a women who transformed the living conditions of thousands of poor in Somers Town and London, through her work in slum clearance, her surveys, and founding many housing Associations. So we feel a Blue Plaque would be a fitting tribute and historic England has a Women for Plaques campaign, so we have nominated her. But what building is she most associated with?
Irene became a FRICS in 1931 and received an OBE in 1966, for her work which ‘shaped the organisation of housing associations’.
She had a major impact and worked tirelessly over 50 years in the St Pancras Housing Association here in Somers Town. When Irene retired in 1972, 830 homes had been created, after being Secretary and Manager from 1925.
Arguably, she shaped the area and the community for a generation. She was part of a group of women who formed the backbone of this community, including Phyllis Hodges and Edith Neville, who became fondly known as ‘landladies’ by locals. Outside of her achievements in the world, an Award would also acknowledge the typically unrecognised emotional aspects of ‘women’s work’, that typified their interactions: their personal attention, the selfless and quiet care shown to the people they served. An anecdote can help illuminate this; Irene, like the others, knew each of the children’s names, and could intervene with parents.
Somers Town History Club would like to nominate her. Locals feel more recognition is overdue, and a Blue Plaque would be a fitting tribute and memorial to her work in the context of the place where a model of social housing took root.
Let us know your support!
Come along to our workshop on 26 January to tell us – Basil Jellicoe Hall 2.30pm.