Irene Barclay

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Irene Barclay (1894–1989), née Martin,was the daughter of a socialist and pacifist Congregationalist minister and the first Woman in Britain to qualify as a chartered surveyor, following the passage of the Sex Disqualification Removal Act 1919. She was at the time of her qualification working for the Crown Estate as housing manager its working class housing estates near Regent's Park.

Barclay had a general surveying practice but is best known for the work her firm did for the St Pancras House Improvements Society (later St Pancras Housing Association) of which she was secretary. This was founded in Somers Town by the Anglican priest Basil Jellicoe and Barclay provided it with stability over her long tenure as its Secretary. The Association later worked elsewhere in North London.[1] Her pioneering social and housing surveys in the 1920s drew the attention of the middle classes to the plight of slum dwellers including Somers Town, Pimlico, North Kensington and Edinburgh as described in her memoirs[2][3]

Barclay subsequently played a leading role in the foundation of a number of housing associations in the 1920s and 1930s, including Kensington Housing Trust, Stepney Housing Trust, Isle of Dogs Housing Society and Bethnal Green Housing Society.Most of these were established on the basis of her surveys of property and housing conditions.

Irene Barclay was sister of Kingsley Martin, and married John Barfield Barclay (c 1897-1966), sometime staff member of the Peace Pledge Union and of International Help for Children. On retirement Barclay went to live in Canada, where she died.


  1. ^ Roland Jeffery, Housing Happenings in Somers Town in Housing the Twentieth Century Nation, Twentieth Century Architecture No 9, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9556687-0-8
  2. ^ Irene Barclay, ''St Pancras Housing Association in Camden: What It Is and Why - A History'', St Pancras HA, London 1972
  3. ^ People Need Roots, National Council of Social Service, London 1972