Friday, 27 December 2019 15:35

Wood Street’s eyesore is no more

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Going, going gone – Barnet’s blot on the landscape Going, going gone – Barnet’s blot on the landscape
A massive pile of rubble, beams and planks was all that was left of Barnet’s blot of the landscape – the derelict nurses’ home for the former Victoria Maternity Hospital in Wood Street.

Heavy mechanical equipment moved into the Marie Foster Centre site just before Christmas and the demolition was completed within a day.

There had been a short delay in starting work on clearing the site, ready for the construction of a 100-room care home which is to be built on the 2.5-acre site fronting Wood Street and Cattley Close.

Demolition of the maternity hospital’s nurses’ home follows the demolition in 2016 of another derelict and abandoned nurses’ home opposite the Arkley public house, which has now been replaced by the new Elmbank housing estate.

Barnet’s nurses’ homes have had a chequered history: in addition to the two that have now been demolished, an uncertain future faces the former nurses’ home in Bells Hill which is in a poor state of repair and is currently protected by scaffolding.

However, work is underway fitting out Graseby House, at the corner of Fitzjohn Avenue and the High Street, which will provide accommodation for nurses at Barnet Hospital.

Signature Senior Lifestyle, which purchased the Marie Foster Centre site from NHS Property Services, obtained planning approval for the construction of the £22 million care home last February.

Architects say the design of the new building will be compatible with the Wood Street conservation area.

It will be of two to three storeys in height and will offer studio flats and one-bedroom flats suitable for couples, together with a secure dementia wing

It will be of two to three storeys in height and will offer studio flats and one-bedroom flats suitable for couples, together with a secure dementia wing.

Facilities will include a ground floor café and restaurant, a second-floor bistro, community area suitable for events, and a small cinema.

Construction of the new home is likely to take around 18 months. It is due to open in 2021 and will provide about 120 full and part-time jobs. Recruitment will start six months’ ahead of opening.

When it opened in 1973, the former Marie Foster Centre, named after a Potters Bar housewife, was the first purpose-built home in the country for the care of young people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Inside the entrance to the centre was a commemorative plaque unveiled by the Duchess of Gloucester when she opened the Marie Foster Centre in November 1973.

The Barnet Society hopes the plaque can be preserved and incorporated inside the new building.

The foundation stone for the Victoria Maternity Hospital – which can still be seen in the Cattley Close garden – was laid by Mrs Stanley Baldwin in 1923 when the hospital moved from Barnet Hill and was re-established in Cedar Lawn, formerly an elegant Georgian House fronting Wood Street, which has been converted into flats.

The Royal Free Charity, which includes Barnet Hospital, purchased Graseby House from Barnet College last year.

When opened in 1994, it provided student accommodation and a teaching area for students on beauty and therapy courses.

The ground floor has been converted into offices for up to 100 medical, clerical and support workers from Barnet Hospital and the upper floors are being converted to provide over 60 one-bedroom units for nurses and other key workers at the hospital.


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