Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Passionate advocate will be missed

Barnet's historic almshouse charity sees longstanding clerk retire

Hero for Passionate advocate will be missed
Simon Smith
By Roger Aitken 11 October 2021

Described as a "passionate advocate" for the whole almshouse movement, Simon Smith, Clerk of the Trustees at the High Barnet based Jesus Hospital Charity (JHC), has stepped down from his role after 16 years tenure. There’s no doubt he will be missed after overseeing the expansion of the organisation. The charity has been providing much-needed housing for women aged 50 plus in Barnet since the 17th century in 63 unfurnished dwellings – almshouses – in Potters Lane, Grasvenor Avenue, Monken Hadley, Wood Street and Union Street.

Over the summer months, in the wake of his departure, Simon was met with fond farewells from residents from his time working for JHC. Others too, myself amongst them, would like to express our gratitude and thanks to him for his help and advice over the years at the charity.

As Clerk to the Trustees, he was head of the operational aspects for this historical almshouse charity, one of the foremost almshouse charities in London. Now Simon has taken early retirement after 16 years working for JHC in Union Street, High Barnet.

JHC has a rich and fascinating history and many of its almshouses are a landmark feature in High Barnet and Hadley area. When Simon started, the charity had 48 almshouses and over time this has increased to 63.

On top of his management duties, the 60-year old avid Southampton FC supporter took on responsibility for coordinating the construction of the seven new almshouses in Potters Lane, dealing with consultants and contractors on behalf of the trustees.

Simon said: “With our expansion programme, we have been able to demonstrate the continuing importance and relevance of providing housing for the elderly and needy."

Within a mile or so of Barnet Parish Church, there are well over 170 almshouses and almost 1,000 within the London Borough of Barnet. This concentration is, perhaps, surpassed only by the scale of the retirement housing provided by the Durham miners.

I applaud Simon’s effort to help to rehouse so many Barnet residents who were in housing need into charitable homes that are all set among some stunning grounds. He should also be proud of the grant-giving aspect of his job, helping to provide financial assistance to so many good causes in the local area.

His own charity work includes serving as a trustee for Rephael House, a counselling centre for young people in the Finchley area, and for Yaran, a charity that assists isolated members of the Iranian community. He was also instrumental as the quizmaster for an inaugural event hosted by ‘Czechoslovak House’ in West Hampstead on the 100th anniversary of the independence of former Czechoslovakia – now Czech Republique and Slovakia – from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Personally, I too, will miss his banter as quizmaster for Barnet Blind and Friern Barnet community library. These raised many thousands of pounds for good causes. Simon, nevertheless, hopes to put in a few more quiz appearances going forward between his other big hobby – playing tennis at Totteridge tennis club.