Posts Tagged Aldwych

WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Suffragettes and Tea Rooms: The Eustace Miles Restaurant – and the Tea Cup Inn

The Gardenia Restaurant, subject of yesterday’s post, was by no means the only vegetarian restaurant favoured by suffragettes. Close by, at 40-42 Chandos Place, at the western end of Covent Garden, was the rather more famous – and successful – Eustace Miles Restaurant.

Eustace Miles was a Cambridge-educated health guru – a real tennis player – prolific author – and vegetarian. He opened the restaurant, with his wife, Hallie, – as a ‘Food Reform’ restaurant – in May 1906, a few months after their marriage. Among the restaurant’s  shareholders were his close friend, the writer E.F. Benson, the headmaster of Eton, Bernard Shaw and his wife, Dr Helen Wilson, a Sheffield-based doctor and suffragist, and Mrs Ennis Richmond, a suffragette who ran West Heath, a progressive school in Hampstead.

Ellen Terry’s daughter, Edith Craig, who lived nearby in Bedford Street, sold Votes for Women from a pitch outside the Eustace Miles. It was a sensible spot to choose; vegetariansm and suffragism went hand in hand for those whom H.G. Wells characterized – caricatured – in Ann Veronica  as ‘a small but energetic minority, the Children of Light’, for whom ‘ everything…was  “working up”.. “coming on” – ‘the Higher Thought, the Simple Life, Socialism, Humanitarianism’.

Opening just as the WSPU arrived in London, the Eustace Miles grew up alongside the suffragette movement. In March 1907 the WSPU chose it as the venue for a breakfast celebrating the release from Holloway of the prisoners who had been arrested when taking part in the deputation from the first Women’s Parliament. Similar breakfasts were also held there– including, a year later, one for women who had taken part in the pantechnicon raid on Parliament. (another suffragette episode hijacked by Wells for use in Ann Veronica – see my article, The Woman’s Bond of Freedom’: H.G. Wells, Ann Veronica and the suffragettes, published in the 2011 edition of The Wellsian, the journal of the H.G. Wells Society.)

Comic card – one of a series – poking gentle fun at the ‘Simple Life’ suffragettes

As with Alan’s Tea Rooms and the Gardenia, so the Eustace Miles had a space to rent – an offer taken up, on occasion, by those giving women-related talks. The Eustace Miles, however, went one better than the other two, offering their ‘Simple Life’ audiences ‘ozonized air’ to breathe as they listened to, for example in 1912, Miss Hoskyns-Abrahall lecture on ‘The Religion of the Great Mother’, to the accompaniment of a lantern show operated by Vera Holme. In January 1910 the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement held its inaugural meeting at the Eustace Miles – the owner surely being a member of the MPU –  and in October 1914 it was the venue for committee meetings of the  United Suffragists.

The Eustace Miles was by all accounts an attractive place in which to lunch or dine; Kate Frye – by no stretch of the imagination a vegetarian – often ate there – as readers of my Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary  will discover. The restaurant did very well during the First World War – when meatless cookery was more or less a necessity – staying in business for over 30 years.

Alas, Hallie Miles’ Untold Tales of Wartime London, the source of the words spoken by Alison Steadman in The Great War: The People’s Story, is out-of-print.  But for much more about the life and times of Kate Frye do read  Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette. In this I tell the whole story of Kate – and of John Collins, her soldier husband. For details see here. I hope you will find it a Good Read.

 

Teacup Inn

While not specifically a vegetarian café, the Teacup Inn, much frequented by suffragettes, made sure that its vegetarian credentials were mentioned in its advertisements in the WSPU paper, Votes for Women –  ‘Dainty luncheons and Afternoon teas at moderate charges. Home cookery. Vegeterian dishes and sandwiches. Entirely staffed and managed by women.’ The café was opened in January 1910 in Bank Buildings, Portugal Street, just off Kingsway, in a new building in area that was, as I have stressed in recent posts, still under development

The Tea Cup Inn occupied a ground-floor shop and basement in the building – then, as it name suggests – mainly given over to a bank – and now occupied by the Chaplaincy of LSE. In this photograph, taken c 1915, I am sure, after peering at it with a magnifying glass, that a sign ‘Tea Cup Inn’ is visible,  hanging just above the smart open-topped car.

The site today of the Tea Cup inn

When it opened its owners were Mrs Alice Mary Hansell (c 1859-1923) and Miss Marion Shallard. However Miss Shallard quickly disappears and the rate books from then on show Mrs Hansell as sole proprietor. She had been born in Yorkshire, was about 52, and long a childless widow when she opened the café. Her husband, a traveller for a coal factor, had died in 1897, leaving only £87. I do not know what Mrs Hansell was doing  in the intervening years – the 1901 shows her a visitor, with ‘no occupation, in a household in the Lake District..

Once the cafe was opened – certainly by April 1910- Mrs Hansell lost no time in advertising the Tea Cup Inn in Votes for Women – taking care to mention its proximity to the WSPU office in Clement’s Inn. In 1912 the WSPU  moved to Lincoln’s Inn House in Kingsway, making the Teacup Inn probably the nearest place of refreshment. I am pretty certain that Mrs Hansell was a member of the WSPU; in 1909 someone of that name advertised in Votes for Women a cottage to let in Henley, but I have not been able to find conclusive evidence. Unfortunately I cannot trace her on the 1911 census – perhaps this is an indication that she was taking part in the boycott, but it may just be that her name has been mistranscribed. After the 1912 Peth-Pank split, the Teacup Inn advertised at least once in the Pankhurst paper, The Suffragette – in June 1914 – stressing: ‘Kitchens open for inspection’.

Across Portugal Street, the Tea Cup Inn faced the London Opera House (now the site of the Peacock Theatre).  This theatre had opened in November 1911 and, again, handily situated for the WSPU office, was the scene of many suffrage meetings. One can imagine that the Tea Cup Inn may well have benefited from the thirsts engendered by a rousing rally.

Mrs Hansell continued running the Tea Cup Inn until her death in 1923. Her estate amounted to £2098 – which might suggest that, as her husband had left so little, she had made some money from her business. It would be good to think so.

More ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ posts to come….

Here is the link to Woman’s Hour (4 Sept) podcast that includes the item on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ (starts c 27 mins).

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The Suffragette 1911 Census Boycott: Where and What Was the Aldwych Skating Rink?

Roller skating was one of Edwardian Britain’s ‘crazes’ – to be enjoyed, as this comic card shows us, by all the family. One could, of course, as I did as a child in the 1950s, roller skate in the streets, but in the years before the First World War entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on the craze ventured to erect roller skating rinks in towns the length and breadth of Britain.

While I am sure that many individual suffragettes and suffragists enjoyed a spin around their local rink, there was one episode of suffragette history that centred on a specific London roller skating rink. For on census night 1911 – 2 April – it was at the Aldwych Skating Rink that the militant suffrage societies – the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League, together with related societies such as the Tax Resistance League – urged their supporters to muster. Here, out of their homes, they would escape detailed enumeration.

When interviewed in the 1970s by Sir Brian Harrison (Women’s Library  8 SUF/B/024)Marie Lawson, an important figure in the Women’s Freedom League, remembered that ‘We formed immediately a census resistance group – women who said ‘we don’t count; we won’t be counted’ – that they would stay out somehow – out of a house or roof during the period when you had to be recorded. Our group took the Aldwych skating rink for the night – we hired it. Nobody was supposed to be sleeping there. We had roller skates and we spent the night on roller skates and there was no-one to declare us and when we went away in the morning we were very weary, very tired with our roller skating but we felt we had done the government out of so many names on the census resistance. It wasn’t very useful really but it was something to do. We used to grab at every little thing, you know, that we could make a protest about. It was advertising really.’

So it was that, after a late-evening rally in Trafalgar Square,  the suffragettes promenaded down the Strand to the Aldwych where it was estimated by the Census Office that 500 women and 70 men gathered at the Skating Rink. Although the numbers were recorded, the identity of most of that 570 is lost – only those whose names are mentioned in the Votes for Women report (7 April 1911) can be placed there with certainty. These included Mrs Pankhurst, Ethel Smyth and, among members of the Actresses’ Franchise League who provided the entertainment,  Decima Moore and her sister, Ada, Adeline Bourne, Winifred Mayo, Inez Bensusan, Rosa Leo, Sidney Keith, Miss Laing and Natalia de Meix. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was also there. She certainly did her bit to disrupt the census, being enumerated in three separate places- once in her Clement’s Inn flat, once in her Surrey country cottage and, again, here at the Aldwych. By way of contrast, no trace of a census paper for Christabel Pankhurst has been found – but she was there in the Skating Rink, bringing the entertainments to a rousing conclusion at 3.30 am.

Here is Decima Moore photographed that night inside the Skating Rink. I am pretty certain that she is captured doing her party piece -Laurence Housman’s  ‘Women This and Women That’. In the photograph we can see, behind the audience and the NWSPU ‘No Vote No Census’ banner, the walls of the skating rink – rather bare as one might expect. ‘What kind of structure was it?’, I wondered and, moreover, ‘where was it?’  ‘Aldwych’ was a rather vague address.

I discovered that the Aldwych Skating Rink was first listed in the rate books in 1911, provisionally numbered 10 Aldwych. The Kingsway/Aldwych area that to us today looks so solidly Edwardian was, in 1911, still in a state of flux.

Looking up Kingsway from the Aldwych, 1905

Kingsway had been driven through – it was formally opened in 1905 – and the curve of the Aldwych formed, but it was not until well into the 1920s that all the plots were  sold and developed. Thus, from the rate book, I could see that no 10 Aldwych was surrounded by vacant lots enclosed in advertising hoardings, the hoarding company paying a rent for their advertisements.

But I was still unclear as to precisely where no 10 was. However, the rate book came to the rescue, recording that on one side of no 10 the lot was owned by the London County Council and was ‘used for advertising station on frontage line from Houghton Street to roller skating rink. On its other side –provisionally numbered no 8 – was an advertising station north-east on the frontage line east of the roller skating rink. So this seemed to establish that the skating rink was on the north-east curve of Aldwych, to the east of Houghton Street. Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters, virtually abutted the rear of the plot. What more suitable venue to book for such an evening than this, probably the nearest large hall?

The owner of the skating rink was Edward Johnson Wilson who had formed his company, ‘Rinkeries’, in 1909. In 1911 the company also ran ‘ideal skating palaces’ on the Holloway Road, as well as in Exeter, Plymouth and St Leonards.  Like many other roller-skating rink companies, whose liquidations, as recorded in the London Gazette, are a sad testament to so many lost hopes, ‘Rinkeries’ does not appear to have been very successful; Edward Wilson was doubtless glad of the windfall of a night’s rent from the WSPU.

But I still did not know what the skating rink looked like. It is difficult now to conjure up the appearance of that Aldwych curve before the arrival of the imperial solidity of the buildings we see today. From looking at contemporary photographs of Kingsway, dominated by empty plots and high advertising hoardings, I could imagine that the area must have felt strange and impermanent. The old higgledy-piggledy rookery streets around Holywell Street and Houghton Street – that many of the suffragettes would have remembered – had been swept away, but the new order had not yet arrived. In this aerial photograph, probably taken c 1918 after the completion of Australia House (in the centre foreground), the Aldwych Skating Rink would have been – and perhaps still was – one of the low buildings in the bottom right of the picture.

But in 1911 the southern side of the road had not been developed at all. With few buildings to throw out light, the area was doubtless rather dark. What kind of building was it that the suffragettes waited outside that night – surrounded by, in effect, a building site – while posses of hooligans attempted to storm the rink’s doors?

I have not been able to locate a photograph, but, as luck would have it, I found the answer in the ‘Rinkeries’ file in the National Archives – its presence there a consequence of the company’s eventual liquidation. There, as a heading to ‘Rinkeries’ notepaper, was an engraving of the Aldwych Skating Rink. I could now see that it comprised four linked, gabled structures –chalet-type – single storey. The effect, for all the panache of many flying union flags, was somewhat temporary – as it was no doubt in reality. What a contrast to its successors.

During the First World War the Aldwych Skating Rink was used as a clearing house for Belgian refugees. This  watercolour, in the Imperial War Museum collection, shows the building after it was hit in a Zeppelin raid on 13 October 1915.  The church in the background is St Clement Danes. The Rink must have been swept away by the end of the war, to make way for the monumental buildings that still occupy the central section of that Aldwych curve. It takes an effort to reimagine its former appearance – but to do so helps us to enter the 1911 worldview of the census evaders.

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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