Irene Barclay – a blue plaque

Image of lady in hat alongside imege of priest walking with 2 ladies in 1920s clothing in street.

Irene Barclay OBE – arguably the woman who initiated the slum clearance and housing project – has been shortlisted for a Blue Plaque by Historic England, after our nomination. We held a talk in March 2021 and clips can be heard below.

Irene worked with the St Pancras Housing Trust in London from its inception in 1924. The first eight flats were finished in 1926. By the time she retired in 1972, 830 homes had been created along with schools, halls and commercial properties.

Irene Barclay was the first women to qualify as a surveyor. She qualified as a Professional Associate in 1922; and became a Fellow in 1931, and Evelyn Perry a Fellow in 1937. Irene and Evelyn formed their own partnership, called Barclay and Perry, which continued until at least 1940. From 1940 onwards we only have a private address listed for Evelyn.

Irene was in practice for 50 years and she was very much involved in social housing in inter-war Britain. Her practice managed the St Pancras Housing Association’s properties from 1924 until her retirement in 1972 , and she wrote an autobiography called People Need Roots, which covers her life and work. Irene is regarded as one of the key social reformers of the 20th century for her work improving housing conditions in the slums of St. Pancras, and as a result she received an OBE in 1966 in recognition of her work.

Here are clips from our talk on Irene Barclay given by Carrie de Silva March 2021

What was her family background?

Irene Barclay’s family background

The first women to qualify

Audio on Irene and how she qualified as a surveyor

A personal recollection of Irene as ‘landlady’

A local remembers Irene

Early achievements in her career

What motivated Irene and was she religious?

What motivated Irene

Why housing was not enough?

Housing was not enough – on community

St Pancras Housing

St Pancras Housing Interview with Irene Barclay

Why are street names such as Somers Town?

Why are the streets names as they are in Somers Town?

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