Famous faces from C&C’s past: Marjorie Rackstraw
C&C residents and colleagues are, for the next two weeks, taking part in a Dance-a-Thon aiming to raise money for sensory gardens to benefit current and future residents at our four care homes. As part of these efforts and our broader celebrations to mark recently turning 95, we’ve been looking back at some of the key figures who played influential roles in the organisation’s history. But if Ada Chesterton set the ball rolling 95 years ago with the start of Cecil Homes, and Harold Samuel with Central London Housing Trust 55 years ago, what of Marjorie Rackstraw?
Her part in the C&C jigsaw is of equal importance – such that her legacy can be seen to this day with Rackstraw House, a 22 flat sheltered scheme in the heart of Primrose Hill.
Marjorie Rackstraw was born just three miles away from Rackstraw House, in Highgate, North London in 1888. The second of five children to Matthew and Fanny Rackstraw, Marjorie initially attended Grove School in Highgate before transferring to Margate, Kent, to a school for disabled children. Marjorie had developed back problems, probably as a result of polio, which would continue to trouble her throughout her life.
Unpertubed, Marjorie went on to study at the University of Birmingham, where she met lifelong friend Margery Fry, with whom Marjorie would later undertake significant relief work.
Indeed, it was after Margery started work with the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee that Marjorie was inspired to take a similar path, initially working with refugees in the Marne, France – the scene of several brutal battles during World War One.
After the war, Marjorie went to Russia to provide aid during the famine. She became fluent in Russian during her time there, before returning to England to hold a brief post as a lecturer in education at the University of Sheffield.
In 1924, Marjorie became warden of Masson Hall at the University of Edinburgh – a role she would hold for the next 13 years. She also became General Advisor to Women Students at the university in 1927, interviewing most female students who were not living either in student halls or recognised hostels.
Making a Home in Hampstead
Rackstraw House today
Marjorie Rackstraw returned to her native London in 1937, undertaking voluntary work in Hampstead, often linked with the local Labour party with which her friend Margery Fry was by now serving as a councillor in the area. Marjorie started working with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in both France and Germany in the latter part of the Second World War, before herself being elected as a Labour councillor in 1945.
By 1947, Marjorie had come to realise that poverty among the older community of Hampstead was rife, with the area and nation struggling to pick itself up after the war, and with many having lost their homes to the Blitz. It was at this moment that Hampstead Old People’s Housing Trust was set up, purchasing empty housing and turning it into suitable and affordable accommodation for the elderly.
The Trust’s first home was purchased for £6,000, funded through grant donations. Today, that home is Rathmore House, one of C&C’s four care homes, and one of two that are in the Camden area of London.
In 1968, the Trust opened its first purpose built flats – Rackstraw House, which C&C has since fully renovated. It was around this time that Marjorie Rackstraw announced her retirement from the role of Trust Chair, at the age of 79. She died aged 92 on 28 April 1981.
To celebrate its rich history and invest in the future, C&C has been hosting a month-long step challenge which is to continue to the end of February. Additionally, it is now starting a fortnight’s dance-a-thon in aid of our “Move for Care” fundraising project. The aim is to raise £25,000 to build sensory gardens at each of our four care homes. To support these fundraising efforts, or to get involved yourself, please visit ccht.org.uk/our-care-homes/move-for-care/. Thank you for your support.