There is no end to the interesting family histories one unearths while digging into the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census.
I recorded in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide that in 1913 a certain ‘H.M. T Lehmann’ was the honorary secretary (pro tem) of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement and that his address was ‘Rock Mount, Shirehampton’. As a child I lived in Bristol very close to Shirehampton, so this address stayed with me and I thought that when I had an idle moment I would investigate this 3-initialled man about whom I knew nothing.
When I came to look at the census return for ‘Rock Mount’ I was very interested to discover that, although there was no mention on the form of ‘H.M.T’ Lehmann – the householder, Caroline Edith Lehmann, was a census boycotter. She wrote firmly across the form: ‘Being an unrepresented ratepayer I refuse to give any information respecting myself or my household for the benefit of an Un-Liberal government. C.E. Lehmann. ‘ But who were Caroline Edith and H.M. T. Lehmann? Their names, as far as I know, appear nowhere else in suffrage history.
Well, it took some untangling – but here goes.
Caroline Edith Mayne was born in 1859 in Kidderminster, daughter of a former captain in the 10th Dragoons In 1883 she married John Harold Watson, a minor Kidderminster industrialist, with whom she had 2 daughters, Hilda and Joyce. Ten years later, in 1893, Watson filed a petition for divorce against her, citing a Weston-super-Mare pharmacist, Henry Ruck. The petition goes into considerable detail, describing adultery committed in 1888 and 1893 – and presumably at times in between – at various addresses -in Weston Super-Mare, particularly at 5 Royal Crescent where Caroline Watson was staying. The decree nisi was given in 1895. Ruck’s wife divorced him for desertion in 1895. While the Watson divorce case was being heard Caroline was only allowed access to her children once a week – at her mother’s Kidderminster house. It is clear that her husband was trying to prevent her having any access at all and after the divorce the two daughters remained in Kidderminster with their father. I wonder how often they saw their mother in later life? Neither married.
In November 1897 in London – at 41 Burlington Road, Paddington – Caroline gave birth to a son – Heinz Maurice Talbot Lehmann. On his birth certificate his father is given as Ernst Lehmann, journalist, and his mother as Caroline Edith Lehmann, late Watson, formerly Mayne. The couple had been married in April 1896 in London – with Caroline’s name given as ‘Edith Lillie Watson’.
Four years later, when the 1901 census was taken, mother and son, who was now known as ‘Henry’ rather than ‘Heinz’, were living at Ramsbury Road, St Albans. Caroline Lehmann is described as married, but there is no trace on the census of Ernst Lehmann either here or elsewhere in England. The fact that his son’s name has been anglicized may indicate that by now Ernst was removed from the household. I think that, as Ernest Lewis, he died in Kensington in 1927.
At some point between 1901 and 1911 mother and son moved to Shirehampton, on the outskirts of Bristol, to a house in Station Road that went under the name, variously, of ‘Rockmount’ or ‘Rock Mount’. In 1911 the census enumerator was informed that Henry Lehmann was a pupil at Clifton College. Caroline was to remain living in Shirehampton for the rest of her long life. Her later address was Talbot Cottage, 27 Grove Leaze.
Caroline Lehmann’s interesting marital history and the separation from her two daughters may well have coloured her views on ‘votes for women’. How could they not? Certainly by 1910 she was an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union. In that November she was part of a Bristol delegation arrested when Mrs Pankhurst led a deputation to Downing Street in the aftermath of the ‘Black Friday’ violence in Parliament Square. In 1911, as we have seen, she followed the WSPU call to boycott the census.
Then, on 2 March 1912, Caroline travelled to London to take part in the WSPU’s window-smashing campaign on 4 March. Her diary for this period survives – describing a few suffrage meetings in Bristol (including one organised by the Labour party), followed by the journey to London with about 16 other Bath and Bristol WSPU members, including Victoria Simmonds (later Lidiard). She described how she felt a little fearful. On 3 March she went to the house of Mrs Beatrice Sanders in Battersea to hear details of the next day’s demo.
Caroline Lehmann threw her stones at a basement window in the Home Office – she was then dragged to Cannon Row police station – where she met up with Victoria Simmonds who was also being charged. Caroline described how she had managed to get rid of one of the number of stones she was carrying on her way to the police station – and then tried to drop the rest under the table. She described how she felt the greatest happiness in having done her bit – saying that while she was waiting to do her deed in Whitehall she kept in mind the horrors of the White Slave Traffic. The arrested suffragettes in that police station were all bailed out at 11pm by Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, a prominent supporter of the WSPU. Caroline was not tried under her own name – but is doubtless ‘Caroline Maurice’ who appeared at Bow Street on Sat 9 March. (Maurice was her son’s second name).
Caroline’s diary then describes prison life in great detail- a day by day description. She had managed to smuggle her knitting, a book, and notepaper and pencils hidden in her bloomers – to keep her occupied in her cell. She describes the games of football played by the younger suffragettes – the ball was a vest stuffed with fibre taken from mattresses. She joined in the hunger strike but was not forcibly fed before the Home Office gave in and allowed them Rule 243A privileges.
Had Caroline encouraged her son to take up the position as ‘hon sec pro tem’ of Bristol’s Men Political Union? He was barely 16 in 1913 but, from what I have learned of his subsequent career, would certainly have been ‘up’ for anything that might set him in opposition to the establishment.
Henry Lehmann joined the army in October 1914. His military record states that he was 19 but he was, of course, actually only 17. I wonder if he consulted his mother before taking this step? I rather doubt it. On 17 December 1915, at the grand old age of 18 and 1 month, Henry Lehmann, now a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd Essex Regiment, gained his Aero Club Aviator’s certificate. He qualified while flying a Maurice Farman biplane. His address at this time was 192 Redland Road, Bristol. The Royal Aero Club album containing his 1915 photograph can be accessed by subscribers to Ancestry.com. While serving with the Royal Flying Corps, he was awarded the Military Cross.
In 1917 Henry married and with his wife, Joyce, had two daughters – Yvonne and [Bridget] Margaret. The couple divorced in 1925, with Joyce being given custody of children. Matters had obviously become rather desperate as Joyce forewent maintenance on condition that Henry had no communication with her.
In January 1928 Joyce Lehmann was living in Malvern with her younger daughter, working as secretary to Malvern Ladies’ College, having left the elder daughter, Yvonne, in Shirehampton in the care of her mother-in-law, with whom she clearly had a rapport despite the divorce. Henry Lehmann arrived one day at the school and, posing as a ‘Major Brown’ asked to see Mrs Lehmann. Despite this trick, Joyce Lehmann felt compelled to agree to her ex-husband’s request to take their daughter for a walk. She was clearly fearful that he would cause a scene and jeopardise her position at the school.
Henry did not return young Margaret at the due time and Joyce Lehmann was forced to institute court proceedings. After an Interpol search Margaret was discovered two weeks later, enrolled in a boarding school at Lille, and returned to her mother.
Henry Lehmann had an exotic post-First World War flying career, on occasion wing-walking with a flying circus and working as an advisor the the Chinese Nationalist air force. The latter position resulted in questions being asked in the House of Commons.
Clearly a man of parts, in 1940, while based in Sydney, Australia, Henry designed and built a sailing yacht, the Escapee, which, classed as a ‘tall ship’, is still sailing in the 21st century.
Lehmann later emigrated to Canada, flying with the Canadian Royal Air Force and as a commercial pilot – and died in 1956, the same year as his mother.
Anyway, all this is what comes of wondering who was the ‘hon sec pro tem’ of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement. Alas, I am unable to use images of Caroline Lehmann and her diary in order to enliven the story – but perhaps readers may consider it quite lively enough without.