The Queen Mother visits the Manor Gardens Centre in 1948 with Lady Crosfield
Right: The Queen Mother paying a visit to the playgroup 40 years later; left: Phillip Watson
Published: 29 June, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
ONE of Islington’s oldest charities – whose patron was the late Queen Mother – is about to celebrate 100 years of service to the community.
Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, which opened in 1913 as a “school for poor mothers”, is also the new Mayor of Islington, Councillor Jilani Chowdhury’s charity of the year.
Pioneering welfare worker Florence Keen (1868-1942), known as the “angel of Islington” launched the organisation at a time when one in 10 babies was dying from preventable conditions soon after birth. The charity, which became internationally famed for its welfare work, was often compared to Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel.
A green plaque in memory of Ms Keen OBE will be placed outside the offices of the organisation in Manor Gardens, off Holloway Road, during the centenary celebrations which begin later this year. Many local people speak warmly of the Queen Mother’s visits to the centre, particularly at Christmas time when she gave out presents to the children. She visited for the last time, aged 97, four years before she died in 2002.
The Royal figure became involved in the charity through a friend, Lady Crosfield, who was the wife of the chairman of Highgate School.
A series of tennis tournaments, fetes and other events, were organised by the wealthy residents of Highgate at the turn of the century to raise funds for the trust. Today the charity employs 20 full- and part-time staff and provides essential health and welfare advice for the hundreds of people who come through its doors on a weekly basis.
Speaking this week, chief executive Philip Watson, 51, said the trust, like many charities today, is struggling to survive.
“At the time the charity was set up babies were dying soon after birth and people in Islington wanted to do something. Islington was a bit like today with rich people living alongside the poor,” he said.
“Today there are still huge social problems. Families are struggling to cope in the recession, old people are often lonely and isolated, and people need help and support.”
Manor Gardens also acts as an umbrella for other organisations including Islington People’s Rights, Age Concern and a stroke club.
Mr Watson said the charity is launching a million pound appeal to secure its future.
“Nothing is guaranteed in today’s difficult climate,” he said.
“Already several services which we provide have been closed or cut back due to lack of funding.”
• Manor Gardens Centre is at 6-9 Manor Gardens, N7 6LA. Call them on 020 7272 4231, or email on: norma@manorgardens centre.org