Katherine Mackay Low was born in Georgia, USA on July 9th 1855. Her parents were British, and when her mother died in 1863, her father, a prosperous merchant and banker, brought his family back to England and settled in Leamington. When he died, the family came to London, and Katherine devoted herself to the care of the less fortunate. When she died, on January 2nd 1923, her many friends decided to create a memorial to her which would also further the kind of service to which she had devoted herself.
Battersea at the beginning of the 20th Century was an industrial and poor part of London, and the area around Orville Road, Green Lane and Battersea High Street was particularly deprived. In 1899 Charles Booth’s survey found Orville Road occupied by ‘thieves, prostitutes, cadgers, loafers’, the few decent residents being men with large families driven there ‘in despair of getting rooms elsewhere’.
It soon attracted the attention of social workers, based at Canon Erskine Clarke’s clergy house, the Cedars, and from 1906 in the new Cedars Club or Institute adjoining. The mission there foundered after the First World War, when ill-health forced the retirement of its principal, Nesta Lloyd, but in 1921 she passed the baton to a Christ’s College, Cambridge initiative, Christ’s College Boys’ Club, and followed this up in 1923 by introducing the all-female Katherine Low Settlement to the club as its tenant at the Cedars.
Katherine Low’s friends raised the funds and on May 17th 1924, HRH the Duchess of York (later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) came to Battersea and declared open the Katherine Low Settlement.
Katherine Mackay Low died on January 2nd, 1923, her many friends decided to create a memorial to her which would also further the kind of service to which she had devoted herself