Sun 18 Oct 2015
By Ellie Sales at Anthony Webb Estate Agents, Palmers Green
Upon visiting the Ruth Winston Centre it became immediately obvious that this was no day care home for the elderly. The modern centre offers our 50 plus community a wide variety of services as well as a meeting point for friends to get together and socialise. The Centre coordinator, for the past 26 years, Jean Waller and Centre Manager Yvonne Quigley where keen to share their memories and knowledge of the history of our country’s first old peoples welfare centre.
Ruth Winston (Southgate Mayor 1958-59) purchased 190 Green Lanes for the princely sum of £3,650 with money she had personally raised. Ruth had a passion for helping people having qualified as a social worker. Following the death of her mother Ruth was instinctively aware of a lack of service provided to the elderly and was adamant to do something about it. Mr Charles Owen-Ward was commissioned to design the conversion of the house to the centre. He was a well known and imposingly tall figure who wore a trilby hat with a pipe clamped between his teeth.
The centre was officially opened on March 7th 1961 by HRH Princess Alexandra, it offered the local “old folk” a place to meet, tea dances, whist card games, and a luncheon club. The centre also prepared a small “Meals on Wheels” service for locals unable to leave their homes. Between 1958-1962 the committee where responsible for generating and managing their own funds however after 5 years the operating costs became too great for the committee and it was agreed that the house would be given to the council on the understanding that “Southgate Old People's Welfare Committee” could remain at the premises on a peppercorn rent, which is still the case today.
Jean Waller Centre Coordinator joined Ruth Winston Centre as an employee of Enfield council in 1987. At the time the Centre supplied 300 “Meals on Wheels” Monday to Friday servicing Palmers Green, New Southgate, Southgate, Cockfosters and Arnos Grove. In early 2000 “Meals on Wheels” was centralised by the council to provide a 7 day service.
Enfield Council continued to fund the Centre and 2 members of Staff. In 2005 the Centre was closed for 6 months for refurbishment including a ground floor rear extension and the instillation of a wheelchair lift. Economic times were changing and in 2009 the Centre was given a grant for 3 years to enable Ruth Winston Centre to self-fund and manage the project independently. At that time Jean was offered alternative employment by the council but she was determined to remain at Ruth Winston House and was subsequently employed by the Ruth Winston Charity.
Jean, who lives locally and was invited to the Queens Garden party in 2012 for 25 years dedicated service, remarks “I have always been involved in the community in Palmers Green and to be given the opportunity to work for the Ruth Winston Charity was wonderful. I am so proud of the changes that have taken place at the Centre, it continues to move with the times, identify new requirements and diversify after all 50 is the new 40!”
Today The Ruth Winston Centre hire out rooms to local organisations and groups that offer a wide variety of services for everyone aged 50 and over, they have a cafe and organise lunch clubs as well as day trips, they even have an onsite hairdresser!. Ruth Winston generate their own funds through fundraising initiatives including Christmas Bazaars/ Summer Fairs/ Festival lunches and are fortunate to have been the beneficiary of a local lady’s will who attended the centre for many years before she passed away. They have in the past received funds from a City Bridge Grant. (City Bridge Trust was established to make use of funds generated from tolls on 5 of London’s bridges, they provide grants totalling around £15m per year towards charitable activity benefitting Greater London. In relatively recent years the charity built Blackfriars Bridge, purchased Southwark Bridge and, just over a century ago, constructed Tower Bridge.)
The Centre is managed by Yvonne, alongside Jean and 50 volunteers. HRH Princess Alexandra has revisited the Centre on three occasions, most recently in 2011 on its 50th Anniversary. At the 2013 December Christmas Party the Centre was joined by Ruth’s daughter Willow, who continues to have strong connections with the house and even has artwork displayed at the Centre.
For as little as £12 per year membership you can become one of the 1,000 members that benefit from any of the subsidised services on offer including;
• Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba Gold, Line Dancing, Latin American and Belly Dance
• IT Club, Computer courses and How to use a smart phone
• Knitting Circle, Scrabble matches, Dress Making, Flower Arranging
• Art Classes, Water Colour Classes, Craft Classes
• Book Club, Bridge Club, Whist Drive & Drama Club
• Greek Cypriot Club, Spanish, Italian and French Conversation, Sangam Asian Ladies Group
• Luncheon Club on Thursday’s, weekly healthy lunch
• Day trips, Supper club (supporting local restaurants) and cheap theatre tickets
• Health Checks, Stroke Clinics, Chiropody
• Full time hairdresser
For prices and a complete time table please visit their website http://www.ruthwinstoncentre.com/
If you would like to find out more information about The Ruth Winston Centre pop in and meet the welcoming team over a cup of tea!
RUTH WINSTON FOX: A Self Portrait
(Extracts from a Talk to the Jewish Research Group - 25 November 1980)
Born:12.9.1912 – 25.11.2007 aged 95 years
I was terribly lucky because I had exceptional parents. My father, Solomon Lipson, was a Yorkshire man, a grandson of the Minister of the
Sheffield Synagogue. My mother Tilly was either a Maid of Kent or a Kentish Maid, as she was born on the Isle of Thanet. Her father, Rev Herman Shandel, was the Minister of Ramsgate Synagogue.
At the time I was born my father was the Minister of the Hammersmith Synagogue. I went to the Froebel Educational Institute which was a very, very farseeing educational establishment for those days. I therefore had the advantage of modern training as a little girl from six to ten years in the atmosphere of this Institute. This gave me an immense love of history and certain kinds of literature. From the Froebel Institute I went to St. Paul's Girls' School.
I went to King's College Household and Social Science (now known as Queen Elizabeth College) in Kensington. It was quite an experience, a curious course that has since gone out of existence. When I took it, it was the first Social Science Degree of the time, which shows exactly how old a dame I am!
After college I then had a certain amount of voluntary work to do and this I did with the Charity Organisation Society and the County Council.
I then married Laurence Winston and had to give up my job as there was a marriage bar. I probably would have been rather more useful as a social worker as a married woman.
The whole family moved to Southgate as my father, who had served as Minister at Hammersmith Synagogue for 30 years, decided to work full time as the Chaplain to Colney Hatch Asylum (now Friern Hospital).
I found the first year of my married life almost the hardest year of my life because I had been so busy doing my full time job with the L.C .C. and also with teaching the classes at the Hammersmith Synagogue. It sounds ridiculous that we felt we were going to Australia when we were only moving from Hammersmith to
Southgate. The whole atmosphere was different, both the Synagogue and the congregation we wanted to join.
There was really nothing to do; it was the second year of our marriage, and so we started on our first child. We had three children during the war. We had a shelter next to the house and despite the bombs I stayed in London for all but three
weeks when my parents persuaded me to be away.
During that time the Women’s Voluntary Service. (now the W.R.V.S.) Was started: by the remarkable woman Dr. Westlake. She gave me a tremendous opportunity to serve with the W.V .S. First of all I was Billeting Officer and subsequently Secretary. Later on I became Deputy Organiser and this gave me knowledge of Borough Council affairs. In 1945 I stood for the Borough Council and got in as an Independent member. I was one of three women on the Council and later on I became the only woman among twenty-eight men, which did not worry me at all. I am a great believer in women taking their opportunities.
When my husband died he left me with children aged eight, five and four, without a bean among us. In 1949 I applied for a post with the Hertfordshire County Council. Three weeks before my husband died I obtained the post and at least we had some money coming in to keep the family together.
In 1954 I was appointed a Justice of the Peace. I was associated with a considerable number of committees on the Borough Council, especially Education and Housing, the sort of things you would expect a woman to be interested in. I was on the Southgate Borough Council for 14 years when, in 1958 I was nominated to be Mayor. I knew three months before I was going to be Mayor but unfortunately my mother did not know as she died a few months earlier.
It was quite an effort in my Mayoral year to run my own home, my father's home and my full-time job -now a senior post -and be Mayor. I attended about 500 engagements, some finishing quite late, and it was a regular occurrence to wash my hair at 3.00 a.m.
The position in the Borough at that time for Old People's Welfare was not good. It is only in the last 20 to 30 years that we have become aware of the fact that there is a tremendous amount that can be done for the elderly. I think the thing that really made me aware was when my mother was very ill. For about six weeks, when she was gradually fading, I did not have enough nursing help. I went to the ambulance station to get some sort of apparatus and I said to the man, how do people manage who do not have loving daughters to get help for their parents? He replied, Madam, they just rot! And this stuck in my mind.
As Mayor I was given my opportunity to do something of permanent benefit. From the records of my Mayoral year there is a section headed: ''WELFARE OF THE OLD PEOPLE -WELFARE CENTRE SCHEME", it reads:
A proposal was put forward by the Mayor to provide an Old People's Welfare Centre which could give better accommodation for the W .V .S. Meals-on-Wheels Service; accommodation for an Old People's Lunch Club and a Day-time Club; also ancillary services such as an advice bureau for the problem s of the elderly and a chiropody service; and the upper part could be used as offices for the Women's Voluntary Services.
The W.V .S.'s lease of existing offices at 173, Green Lanes, was almost expired. The freehold premises at 190, Green Lanes, was for sale and it is understood that a figure of £3,650 would be accepted by the vendors. It had taken me six months to get the Borough Council to agree to this yet it was passed in one night. Thus started the first comprehensive Old People's Welfare Centre in the country. Sufficient money was raised but it took eight years, a good committee and good permanent help, to get it really going. The Jewish community gave me marvellous support to raise the money.
A couple of years after I was Mayor I remarried. Goodwin Fox gave me immense support and wonderful kindness. I have been extremely fortunate in having two super marriages. There was only one thing wrong with them: neither lasted long enough.
I have had a rich life and have done many interesting things. In the last five years I have visited about 20 countries all over the world. I have been invited to Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, Admiralty House and the usual places one always hopes to visit. However, what matters to me by far the most is that my children, in spite of having a mother who was occupied with many matters, have all turned out well and done exceptionally well.
My elder son, Lord Robert Winston, is an internationally known micro-surgeon. My younger son, Anthony, lives in the United States and is Director of Research and Development for a well-known chemical company. My daughter, Willow Eve, is an artist who in 1979 won the Stowell Centenary Trophy for a mezzotint which was hung in the Royal Academy. She told me that somebody said, having a mother with so many interests must have been terrible for you. She replied, Thank goodness! Can you imagine what it would have been like if she had concentrated all her energies on us? It would have been unbearable.
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