New Blue Plaque

Housing Pioneer Irene Barclay has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque, recognising her achievement in becoming the first woman to qualify as a chartered surveyor in Britain, and her many years of work at St Housing Association.

After a wet welcome from Emily Gee of English Heritage, the plaque was unveiled by Irene’s grandson, Benedict Barclay, outside St Martin’s House, Polygon Road, where Irene worked for eight years. Benedict was one of many members of Irene’s family who came to see the new plaque, who shared memories of Irene, including how she would take him to work where he would be babysat by tenants.

At a reception appropriately at the housing associations own hall; the Basil Jellicoe Hall run by Origin there were talks. Professor Carrie de Silva gave us an insight into Irene’s career, the barriers broken when she moved from housing management into the professional sphere of surveying, and her legacy in the still male-dominated field of chartered surveying. St Pancras Housing’s holistic was the subject of archivist/ author Malcolm Holmes, including furniture shops, mums and dads clubs, and improving tenants’ circumstances.

Carol Carter of Origin took a broader view of social housing, and asked what lessons we could learn today, when millions of people live in unstable or unfit conditions. Finally, our founder, Diana Foster, about Irene’s impact on the people of Somers Town and memories of her from residents. All the speeches can be viewed below.

With a short walk back to the museum, taking in some of the features of the estates, including the finials and a ‘No Ball Games’ sign – on order of Mrs. Barclay!

The family gathered at the museum for a reminisence over tea with museum director Diana Foster who recorded their memories of Irene Barclay – a final tribute we hope to publish.

Some of the Barclay family outside the museum

You can read much more about Irene Barclay’s life and work here.

Emily Gee introduces the ceremony
Carol Carter speaker at the event in the hall
Diana Foster, speaker at the event in the hall

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