The Crossroads Women’s Centre
began as a squat in Drummond Street near Euston station in 1975, opened
by the Wages for Housework Campaign. As far as we know, it’s the oldest
women’s centre remaining in London and possibly in the UK. The charity,
Women in Dialogue (WinD), was created in 1976 to run the Centre.
In 1978 the area was redeveloped
and we were evicted. But we had wide local support: from other squatters
including Bengali families we had worked with to get housing and
protection from racist attacks, from community groups, and from local
A determined contingent of women
of different races, ages and backgrounds walked into Camden Town Hall to
claim a new space. One of us chained herself to the first floor balcony
and dramatically unfolded yards and yards of a petition with thousands
of signatures demanding a women’s centre.
After a year in limbo, Ken
Livingstone, then Camden’s Chair of Housing, agreed to give us a small
rundown empty shop at a token rent. It became the King’s Cross Women’s
Centre, and was home for 17 years.
In 1995 this area too was
redeveloped. We couldn’t pay the expected commercial rent, and despite
local protest we were evicted.
But unlike centres which
closed down when funding stopped, we were saved by the dedication and
commitment of volunteers and supporters who had always had to manage on
a shoestring. We spent over a year at a youth centre and a church hall
which kindly gave us space in their premises. We finally moved into our
present Centre in 1996, thanks to a sympathetic landlord.
expanding activities led to serious overcrowding. So buying a
bigger centre became a long-term goal.
thanks to the generosity and commitment of volunteers, core users and
supporters, we were able to buy 25 Wolsey Mews, an old building across the mews.
recent decades people have been encouraged to accumulate personal
wealth, a number of volunteers preferred to donate or lend from their
modest inheritance or savings towards buying the Centre. The dedicated
work they contribute is their priority.
building was nearly derelict and a large sum of money was needed to
refurbish it, make it accessible and install solar
Mews (and its near twin at 26) has a long history going back to the 19th
century: it has been a doll factory and a stable; it was a carpenters’
workshop when we bought it. We have been careful to preserve and enhance
its unique character, replacing old wood beams with like, reusing old
bricks, sanding old floors, using reclaimed wood, reusing and replacing
the name Crossroads. We chose it when we moved from King’s Cross to
Kentish Town, to remind us of our old home, and to remember the brave
women of the squatter town of Crossroads, South Africa, who refused to
be moved, keeping alive the struggle against apartheid.
With all the cuts, times are hard and getting harder. We are gratified
that we have a bigger community resource to offer to all who need
it. We need each others’ support, creativity and determination more than