Kensington & ChelseaNews

Blue plaque for pioneer of adventure playgrounds

A blue plaque in memory of Marjory Allen, Lady Allen of Hurtwood, has been unveiled at her former Chelsea home. 

The plaque has been placed on the wall at 22 Lawrence Street, Chelsea, where she lived between 1958 and 1966. 

Lady Allen was known for creating adventure playgrounds in London in the 1950s.  

She has also been described by English Heritage as a “pioneering landscape architect, and a tireless campaigner for child welfare”.

A Blue Plaque dedicated to Lady Allen (Picture: English Heritage)

Marjory Gill was born in Bexleyheath on May 10, 1897, to George Gill, a rate collector for the Kent Waterworks Company, and Sarah Shoreys Gill, who worked in the Civil Service. 

She became Lady Allen of Hurtwood when her husband Clifford was made a peer in 1932.

In the 1950s, Lady Allen had been inspired by a playground she viewed in a housing estate in Copenhagen and brought the idea to the UK.

With her mantra “better a broken bone than a broken spirit”, she created a playground on a former bombsite in Notting Hill and another at Lollard Street, Lambeth.

English Heritage said the latter had to be insured “to answer criticism that it was dangerous to let children dig, build, carve, and make fires and dam streams”.

Lady Allens Blue Plaque being unveiled by her nephew, Richard Gill(Picture: English Heritage)

Lady Allen coined the term ‘Adventure Playgrounds’ to describe these spaces and under her chairing, the London Adventure Playgrounds Association (LAPA) created 61 adventure playgrounds in the capital.

As chairwoman of the Nursery School Association, she challenged Government policies aimed at encouraging women to work full-time in factories, leaving their babies in day nurseries.

Instead, she campaigned to give women a choice to work or stay at home for the first two years of a child’s life.

She also co-designed the first prefabricated nursery in Britain in 1941 and within a year there were 200 nurseries built, based on their model.

The dedicated blue plaque was unveiled by her nephew, Richard Gill. Lady Allen died in 1976, aged 78.

Pictured top: The plaque at 22 Lawrence Street, Chelsea (Picture: English Heritage)

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