Tuesday, 23 October 2018 18:07

Plea to save historic plaque

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The plaque in the Marie Foster building looking rather sad The plaque in the Marie Foster building looking rather sad
Barnet’s pioneering role in the development of care for young people suffering from multiple sclerosis has one lasting memento – a plaque commemorating the opening of the Marie Foster Centre by the Duchess of Gloucester in November 1973.

The centre, in Wood Street, High Barnet, is due for demolition if planning approval is granted for a new private care home for the elderly, and the Barnet Society is appealing to the developers to take care of the historic plaque.

Marie Foster, a housewife from Potters Bar – and herself an MS sufferer – gave her name to the centre after leading fund-raising efforts for a highly-innovative level of care for people with neuro-muscular disabilities.

H.R.H. the Duchess of Gloucester, President of the National MS Society, unveiled the plaque at an opening ceremony which was attended by Mrs Foster, who was crippled and unable to use her arms, and who died in 1977.

The Barnet Society has asked Signature Senior Lifestyle, developers of the proposed new care home, to ensure that once it takes up ownership of the property that steps are taken to preserve the plaque prior to demolition.

Robin Bishop, chair of the society, told the company that he hoped the commemorative plaque could be retained, and either incorporated into the new building or donated to Barnet Museum. It is situated on a wall near the front entrance, surrounded by stored furniture.

Signature gave an undertaking that it would take “good care” of the plaque and either install it as a feature in the new building or donate it to the museum.

The centre is currently divided up into temporary accommodation and is occupied on short-term rentals by what are known as “resident guardians.”

Every time we walk past the plaque you can almost feel the history of this sadly, now disused, building

Jonnie Bayfield, an author and journalist, who has been living in rooms at the centre with his partner for the last few months, gave his backing to the society’s efforts to ensure the plaque is preserved.

“When we moved in to the centre along with other resident guardians, I read up about Marie Foster’s work at Barnet Museum and I found out how important it had been in pioneering care for young MS sufferers.

“What my girlfriend and I found slightly prophetic was that one of our close relatives suffers from MS and then we found we were living in the country’s first specialist centre.

“Every time we walk past the plaque you can almost feel the history of this sadly, now disused, building.

“I’m glad that us resident guardians have been able to find a home here and stop the place from falling into disrepair.  

“We’ve enjoyed living at Marie Foster. High Barnet has quite a buzz, especially the Wood Street conservation area, which has lots of character,” said Mr Bayfield.

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