THE LATE JENNIFER WARE: Her impact on Earl's Court.
Jennifer was born in January 1923 in 19 Earl’s Court Square and grew up there. She died in April 2019 aged 87 in the same house, now converted to flats. The family have lived in the Square since 1908 running and owning the White House Hotel which spanned No’s 15, 17 and 19 with an annex at No. 12. This was the place that neighbours met regularly, and artistic folks frequented. The hotel was sold in the property crash of 1972. When flat conversions took place, 19a was purchased by the Ware’s and became ‘operation central’ as Jennifer knew everything that happened in Earl’s Court.
Jennifer married David Ware, an RAF Squadron-Leader and WWII war hero. They travelled after the War on secondments to Rhodesia and America. Their four daughters were born by the time they returned to Earl’s Court Square in 1963.
Jennifer’s impact on Earl’s Court Square is legendary. Arguably she is the reason we enjoy the beautiful place it is to live now. She mainly lead from behind to make others reach success, but if it hadn’t been for her planning interest and swift response we could have had a parking area in the middle of the Square and a large portion of the north west arm of the Square demolished and who knows what erected. This was 1974 and the Square was a sorry sight, but our buildings although dirty from the London smog, were to be treasured.
When Jennifer heard that property speculators were planning to bring a ball and chain to knock down the buildings in days, she leafleted everyone in the Square to warn them and gate-crashed the Greater London Council office to get a stop order. Within 48 hours she was able to stop the destruction of the buildings by brandishing the GLC paper in front of the demolition men and machines on the Monday morning and just in the ‘nick of time’.
So that the protection of the Square could be ongoing, Jennifer is credited with starting the Earl’s Court Square Residents’ Association (ECSRA) which was formed after this episode. This was followed soon after by the creation of a Garden Sub-Committee, to concentrate on the garden, whereas ECSRA would protect and enhance the lives of people living in the Square beyond the garden area. David Ware was elected as the first Chairman from 1974-1976. With the help of committee member Pamela Case, enough votes were collected from residents to recognise this Square a conservation area. ECSRA continues today with an active committee. One of whom, David Ramsden, was a founder ECSRA Member. We are happy to say he is still on the committee to this day.
Jennifer was a well-known committed Liberal Democrat. Politics were a life-long passion and the family would spend many mealtimes in energetic debates and ideas. Jennifer always struck one as political but fair, as she would listen to all sides. In the 70s she helped to form the Green Liberals who campaigned to stop lead in petrol. In the 80s she wrote a comprehensive newspaper article which was published as a two-page spread on how Councils should run. Reading it, the principles would still hold today. She stood for election in 198?
In the 70s and 80s Earl’s Court had many cheap B&B lodgings. At one point in the 80s there were around 1,000 children under 14 living in these family lodgings with very little money. Jennifer became an influential trustee of St Cuthbert’s Centre by St. Cuthbert’s Church. It became a walk-in centre for the disadvantaged in the area and her family remember her doing Christmas dinners for the children and latterly the elderly. Jennifer and other volunteers would cook at home and bring the turkeys, veg and roast potatoes to the centre each Christmas. She was involved in activity there up until just a few years ago. Fr. Paul remembers Jennifer and Sheila Kemp in their 80s, serving lunch to the elderly who were younger than them. With that foundation and years of commitment, St Cuthbert’s continues to this day providing food for the homeless and vulnerable in society, under the management now of the Felix Project, where between 60 to 80 people are now being fed daily.
To further help the disadvantaged locally, Jennifer started Response Community Projects in the early 80’s. This was to help people with emotional and educational support, particularly to learn to communicate in English. For some years Response created and ran a local Earl’s Court newspaper. Today 30 years later Response is still going, located on the Old Brompton Road opposite the Cemetery and ably run by Linda Ogbuehi. The raison d’etre remains close to Jennifer’s aim, to support the most vulnerable individuals with education and general wellbeing.
During this time Jennifer was part of ECNA, the Earl’s Court Neighbourhood Association, which was a group that included other residents’ associations in the area. Planning was a big focus of this group’s activities. Hilary Temple formed the Cromwell Road Residents’ Association and between them were a formidable team, Hilary who is now 96 having qualified as a Civil Engineer. They got involved in any sort of development, the red route and Tesco build were the big ones of the day. Hilary remembers Jennifer writing a very sound paper on hostels and hotels. Linda Wade was also involved with her Residents’ Association. Hilary says she remembers Jennifer giving wonderful hospitality and warmth. You could say anything to her. She always had time for you. She never wanted to be in the front, she was the power that drove everything.
The Kensington Council Planning Officers would change every two to three years and were terrified of her as Jennifer knew all the notifications and where to put her hands on the information. So they couldn’t get away with anything that wasn’t deemed good for the area.
When ECNA became unwieldy, the Earl’s Court Society (ECS) was formed. Jennifer was secretary and her friend Hilary the Treasurer. I remember Jennifer would be working in her ‘bolt-hole’ office, stacked to the gunnels with paperwork, well past midnight most nights on ECS detailed work and all the other projects she was involved with at the time.
Jennifer was a great hoarder of information and anything and everything ‘useful’ was dutifully kept. It’s amazing what her flat at 19a could hold. Much of it is now in the RBKC Library archive.
It was during the running of Response Community Projects that Jennifer was instrumental in creating an Earl’s Court summer festival that ran for some 15 years with a village feel to it.
In 2007 it was registered in a separate entity, The Earl’s Court Festival, when The Earl’s Court Community Trust (ECCT) was formed. Jennifer along with five other residents and two local priests formed the committee. Jennifer was ‘the glue’ that made this happen. In the summer of 2011, it became a month-long Festival with 40 events. Today the ECCT from its hub at 1 Nevern Place supports local people who wish to put on events. Toby Brown is the Chairman and in his own right is the driving force behind The Earl’s Courtiers’ and the wonderful plays to entertain us throughout the year.
Jennifer still active on the committee until six months before her passing, was the driving force behind The Court Newspaper which is run out of the ECCT hub. Several of us were summoned monthly to distribute hard copies in our blocks. The distribution continues and is now mainly by email.
All sorts of other activities had Jennifer’s hand in it.
The Strawberry Tea Party held in Earl’s Court Square each summer for the elderly, with the help of many volunteers, continued for many years and was another wonderful occasion for people to look forward to in the wider Earl’s Court community. Sandwiches, scones, cakes, strawberries and cream were given to all at no charge. All produce was donated by our local stores, Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, who had had the ‘Jennifer persuasion’. Entertainment was laid on and deck chairs erected. It regularly got 150 people attending. This could continue but currently needs a team of volunteers.
At this point, readers please note that Earl’s Court has an apostrophe. Woe betide anyone if the apostrophe was missing. A longer version of the reason is available, but this communication to the Senior Highways Maintenance Engineer in 2014 thanking him for taking on board the preservation of our original York paving when repairs or renewal came onto their list to replace them, sums it up.
“Firstly your letters etc. and communications from your department omit the apostrophe from before the s in Earl's Court. This is not sentiment, there are sound historical and grammatical reasons why we are Earl's Court. The manorial Court House of the Earl of Oxford was roughly where Old Manor Yard is now. It was a Court in the same sense as a Magistrates' Court: a place where disputes were settled, fines handed out and rents paid. Maps, public signage and official documents for the past 300 years have an apostrophe before the 's'. “
Although the Square is now in the comparatively happy position of having full Conservation Area status, ECSRA which Jennifer served on from inception till her death continues to fight for the conservation and, where necessary, replacement of original features, such as the capitals, dentil friezes, cornices, mouldings, finials and other architectural features of the Square.
A welcome victory for preservation was our coal hole covers. Beautifully designed plates with ‘star’ and ‘octifloral’, designs were created in the first half of the 19th century. It was Jennifer on the Earl’s Court Square Residents’ Association committee in 2005 who first alerted our Council, protesting vigorously that they were disappearing with pavement repairs and being replaced by plain ones with Durey on them. Once alerted, our Council officers were reactive, and contractors were instructed to save old plates and where possible to re-instate them. This is now the declared practice throughout the Royal Borough
In the 45 years of its existence ECSRA has done battle on behalf of residents over all aspects of life in the Square from heritage to rubbish, taking in traffic, parking, bike racks, motorbike bays, security, pollution, antisocial behaviour and liaison with external bodies such as the Earl’s Court Society and the Kensington Society. In 2011 our Residents’ Association was awarded a Gold Standard by the Royal Borough. This distinction is awarded to Residents’ Associations which have performed outstandingl. Jennifer has been a key member throughout, participating and making sure we had the right Chairman, with her legendary persuasiveness.
At every annual BBQ she was on the gate greeting us locals and taking the money. At every Christmas tree lighting she would buy and heat the mince pies and made sure the children had sweets and chocs on the tree as a little present. At every Members evening Jennifer was there to support. Jennifer was tireless, selfless, supportive of her neighbours and hugely persuasive.
To quote Keith Clancy, in his address to the congregation in St Cuthbert’s Church in April 2019, a founder Trustee of the Earl’s Court Community Trust, who was apprehended by ‘this imperious woman who persuaded him to join and develop the arts in Earl’s Court’.
“Something happened that I had not predicted, Jennifer became our Earl’s court Mum, the natural Mother of Earl’s court who like all Mum’s drove you mad with her requests at times but like all loving Mum’s, in return by those around her, Jennifer was deeply loved and deeply respected, in equal measure. Years rolled on and somehow without us really knowing how it had happened, we had become a family”.
To quote Cllr. Wade in her address, “Jennifer has been such a strong presence in Earl’s Court for so long that it is hard to overestimate her influence, as she was involved in so many aspects of local life”. “One of her many talents was being able to identify opportunities and bring different people or organisations together to achieve an end”.
She was awarded the Mayor’s Community Award for Kensington and Chelsea and put others up for recognition too. Having written this piece for the ECSRA Magazine, I believe it is a missed opportunity that we didn’t put our own, Jenifer Ware up for a Queen’s Award.
It was thought her funeral was quite the most glamorous and interesting that most of us had ever been to, with wonderful singing and appreciations from people from all walks of life.
A write up in the Times by Cilla Ware, plus appreciations from Cllr. Linda Wade, Keith Clancy and Tom Somers are all available as PDFs on the links below. Also enclosed is the Order of Service for her funeral at St. Cuthbert's Church, in Earl's Court.