Posts Tagged emmeline pankhurst

Suffrage Stories: Murder, Suicide, and Dancing: Or What Might Have Brought Mrs Pankhurst to 62 Nelson Street?

60 (on the right) and 62 Nelson Street, Manchester – The Pankhurst Centre

I hope those acquainted with my website will also be aware of the existence of the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester. If so, you will know that the Centre comprises two houses, 60 and 62 Nelson Street, the only buildings from the original early 19th-century street still standing, surrounded by the ever-expanding complex of Manchester Royal Infirmary. That the adjoining villas, built c 1840, are still there is due only to the fact that it was at number 62 in October 1903 that Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. The buildings were listed Grade 2* in 1974 to save them from demolition.

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and her children, Christabel, Sylvia, Adela, and Harry moved into 62 Nelson Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, in the autumn of 1898. Her husband, Dr Richard Pankhurst, had died in the summer, on 5 July, leaving very little money, and his family was forced to economise by moving from their home, 4 Buckingham Crescent, Daisy Bank Road, Victoria Park, into a property cheaper to rent.

Mrs Pankhurst could have moved to any area of Manchester, so why was 62 Nelson Street chosen as the new family home?

In 1894 Mrs Pankhurst had been elected to the Chorlton Board of Guardians as a Poor Law Guardian, an unpaid position. Now, in the summer of 1898, she had to earn enough to support herself and her family and so on 30 August she resigned and, instead, accepted the offer made by the Board of Guardians of the post of salaried registrar of births, marriages, and deaths for Chorlton-on-Medlock.

Chorlton had been urbanized in the early 19th c, when streets of terraced houses were built to house the workers required to operate the large mills newly erected alongside the River Irwell. It was an area very much less salubrious than Victoria Park, but Nelson Street, off Oxford Road, was more refined than most surrounding streets. It was also a street that was well-known to the two eldest Pankhurst daughters.

I have never seen any mention in Pankhurst biographies and autobiographies of this apparent coincidence, but it was at number 60 that Christabel and, I think, Sylvia, had been regular visitors, students at the dancing school run by Mrs W. Webster and her brother. Although the name of the dance teachers does appear in Sylvia Pankhurst’s The Suffragette Movement, she makes no mention of the school’s address. Sylvia wrote:

‘We learned dancing from the Websters, an old dancing family in Manchester, and Christabel, who hitherto had never cared much or long for anything, roused herself to unexpected efforts to excel everyone in the class’. Sylvia suggests that Christabel, whom her mother intended should be a dancer, had taken lessons for several years before becoming ‘suddenly tired of the project’ around the time she was 16, that is in 1896.

In the years between 1890 and 1896 the dancing academy was run by Mrs W. Webster and her brother. Until his early death in 1890 the dancing master had been William Hilton Webster and the school had then been continued by his widow. She was Ellen Marianne Webster (née Goodman), who had been a cousin to her husband. For reasons that are unclear, her brother, Archie, changed his name from Goodman to Webster, perhaps to capitalize on the ‘Webster’ name, which, as Sylvia suggests, had long been synonymous in Manchester with ‘dance’, as William Hilton Webster’s father had been a dance teacher there from the 1870s. William Webster had moved to 60 Nelson Street in 1884, taking over the premises and goodwill of another dancing master, ‘Monsieur Paris’.

Christabel would have been taught by either or both Ellen and Archie Webster. The lessons offered were not for ballet dancing, but general classes for ballroom dancing and private classes for waltz, skirt,and serpentine dancing. Although I have no evidence, it strikes me that it must have been the latter types of semi-burlesque dance that, according to Sylvia, Mrs Pankhurst hoped Christabel would – as’ a professional devotee of Terpsichore’ – perform in the great cities of the world. A studio photograph of Christabel posed, with pointed foot, holding up with both hands material from her long, flowing dress, is exactly illustrative of a skirt dance. It was taken in Geneva in the summer of 1898 and is reproduced in June Purvis’ biography of Christabel.

Widowed Ellen Webster had four young children, two boys and two girls, and in 1893 remarried, her second husband being Charles Joseph Rourke, a cotton waste merchant. It was presumably during the next couple of years or so that Christabel and, perhaps, Sylvia were attending classes. They may still have been doing so when, in October 1895, 60 Nelson Street hit the headlines in newspapers around the country. Ellen Webster had committed suicide, murdering the elder of her sons at the same time. She had poisoned herself and both sons, but the younger recovered. Her daughters were at a boarding school in Sale, Cheshire, and although she had sent a servant to bring them home, apparently with the idea of killing them as well, their arrival was delayed, and they were saved. The inquest returned a verdict of murder and suicide, due to temporary insanity. The funeral of poor Ellen Webster and her son was held at St Aloysius Church, Ardwick, where she had been married a couple of years earlier.

Thus, in 1898, when Emmeline Pankhurst was looking for a house to rent, she would have been well acquainted with Nelson Street, not only as the address of the dancing school that her daughters had attended but as the site of a very recent Manchester tragedy.   

Concert at Schiller Anstalt Institute, 1895 (courtesy of Manchester Central Library Collection)

Besides the dancing school Nelson Street contained another cultural centre at number 66 – the Schiller Anstalt Institute – a centre for the large Manchester German community. The Institute was housed in a building that had been converted from domestic use in 1886 and now offered a concert hall and gymnasium, holding a regular programme of lectures and musical activities [For more information about the Institute see here.] The Institute did not close until 1911 and it may well be that, as it was so close by, members of the Pankhurst family did occasionally attend an event there.

Between number 62 Nelson Street and the Schiller Anstalt Institute, number 64 was a large, detached house, once the home of a mayor of Manchester, but now, known as Nelson House, run as a private nursing home. This may explain why, when, previously, number 62 had been advertised for rent it was deemed ‘suitable for a medical man’.

Number 62 was described as offering ‘Three entertaining rooms, five bedrooms, dressing room, bath, w.c. and well-appointed domestic offices’, large enough for Emmeline to devote one room (presumably one of the ‘entertaining rooms’), as her registry office. The bedrooms were under pressure on the night of the 1901 census, for sleeping in the house were Emmeline and her four children, together with her two brothers, Walter and Herbert Goulden, the latter’s son, and the family’s two servants, the cook, Ellen Coyle (of whom Sylvia speaks very fondly) and Mary Leaver, the housemaid. I imagine that the Pankhurst children were made to share rooms, but presumably that was unusual and, now ranging in age from 20 to 11, they normally had a little more space to themselves. It’s difficult to imagine Christabel and Sylvia being happy to share, but doubtless on occasion they were forced to.

The situation only eased in the autumn 1904. Mrs Pankhurst placed an advertisement in the Daily News, ’Wanted, for art student. One or two Rooms, furnished or unfurnished. Near South Kensington Museum. Terms Moderate.’ The reply address was ‘Pankhurst, 62 Nelson Street, Manchester.’ Sylvia was off to London, to study at the Royal College of Art, freeing up a bed in the family home.

In October 1907 advertisements for 62 Nelson Street once more appeared in the press, in the Manchester Courier, indicating that the house was again to let. Emmeline Pankhurst, who had formed the Women’s Social and Political Union in the kitchen just four years earlier, had already left for London to join her daughters, Sylvia and Christabel, who had brought the fight for the vote to the capital.

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Lockdown Research: Who Unfurled The Manchester ‘First In The Fight’ WSPU Banner?

Manchester WSPU Banner,, c. 1908

A reader of this blog has asked me to confirm who was the ‘Mrs Rachel Scott’ who unfurled the ‘First in the Fight’ Manchester WSPU banner in 1908.

You will remember that I wrote here about the discovery of the banner and the subsequent appeal that resulted in it being acquired by the People’s History Museum in Manchester. In that piece I wrote that I suspected that the woman given the honour of unfurling the banner was the Mrs Rachel Scott who had been the WSPU’s first honorary secretary, rather than Rachel Scott, wife of C.P. Scott of the Manchester Guardian. And, of course, the merest further investigation showed that it was indeed Mrs ‘Secretary’ Scott who had unfurled the banner – not least because Mrs C.P. Scott had died three years earlier, in 1905.

But my enquirer was still interested in finding out something of Mrs Rachel Scott, the ‘unfurler’….so I have done a little delving. For, although her name has often been mentioned in studies of the early days of the WSPU, she has not, as far as I can see, hitherto been credited with a real life.

I can report that she was born Rachel Lovett in Chorlton, Lancashire, in 1863, one of the many (at least 9) children of Thomas Lovett and his wife, Elizabeth. Her father was a labourer in the oilcloth industry and in 1871 the family was living next to the Marsden oilcloth factory at Canal Side, Newton Heath. Rachel’s older sisters became weavers or winders as soon as, aged 14, they left school. However, the 1881 census shows that Rachel had escaped this fate and, aged 17, was working as a pupil teacher. She presumably continued teaching until her marriage in 1890 to Henry (Harry) Charles David Scott, the son of a schoolmaster. Harry was at this time described as a ‘cashier’ but by 1901, when the family, now with four children, was living at 5 Duncan Street, Broughton, he was ‘managing director of an engineering firm’. In fact, he worked for the Manchester firm of Royles for most of his life, becoming chairman of the board of directors. At the turn of the 20th century he was a strong supporter of The Clarion, the socialist newspaper, and was a member of the Independent Labour party, paying the rent of the Party’s Manchester meeting room.

For we know it was through the Manchester ILP that Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst encountered Rachel Scott, who was one of the women she invited to the meeting at her house in Nelson Street, Manchester, on 10 October 1903, at which the Women’s Social and Political Union was founded. Mrs Scott was appointed the WSPU’s first secretary and had a letter published in the 30 October 1903 issue of The Clarion alerting fellow Socialists to the existence of this new organisation and appealing ‘to all women Socialists to join in this movement to press upon party and community the urgent need of giving to women the vote, that they may take their share of the vote for social emancipation’.

Rachel Scott maintained her involvement with the Manchester WSPU for some years, noted as present at various meetings and demonstrations, for instance appearing on Platform 12 at the WSPU Hyde Park demonstration of Sunday 21 June 1908 (described in Votes for Women, 18 June 1908, as ‘well-known as a capable speaker and hard worker in the Manchester district’) and, of course, was singled out to present the banner to the Manchester WSPU on 20 June 1908, the day before the Hyde Park meeting. The banner hadn’t been ready in time to be unfurled with others in the Queen’s Hall in London.

Rachel Scott was on the platform at a meeting in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on 19 January 1909 when Christabel Pankhurst received a rapturous welcome but I get the impression that after this she rather fades from view, perhaps less interested as it became clear that the WSPU was no longer a supporter of the socialist movement with which, in 1909, she was still actively involved. Certainly, she did not boycott the 1911 census and was at home (‘Arrandale’, Crofts Bank Road, Urmston) on census night with her husband and by now five children. Her eldest son was a ‘student of chemistry’, another was an ‘engineering apprentice’, and a third was a clerk. The other two children were still at school.

One of Rachel’s sisters was living with the family in 1911, as she appears to have done all their married life. Another of Rachel’s sisters died that year but had previously worked as a superintendent in the ‘Imbecile Wards’ of the Crumpsall (Manchester) Workhouse. Yet another sister had for a time been employed as a nurse in the same workhouse. Presumably both positions had been an improvement on the sisters’ earliest employment in the cotton industry. Doubtless both from her own experience and that of her sisters Rachel Scott was well apprised of the state of the poor and afflicted and had hoped that the WSPU would be a means of improving their lot. She may have become disillusioned.

Rachel Scott died in 1925. Of her sons, one was killed during the First World War, one became an analytical chemist, another an engineer designer, and the fourth emigrated to Australia. Her daughter married, but died in 1935. Harry, still a director of Royles, was appointed a magistrate in 1931 and died in 1937.

Copyright All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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Collecting Suffrage: Photograph Of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst c 1907

This photograph of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst probably dates from c 1907, taken at her desk in Clement’s Inn, headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

The photograph comes from the collection of Isabel Seymour, who was an early WSPU supporter working in the WSPU office.

The photograph is mounted and is 15 x 20 cm (6″ x 8″) and is in good condition for its age. SOLD

Do email me if interested in buying. elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com

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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: The WSPU Car

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeling Pethick-Lawrence and Annie Kenney photographed in the WSPU car

Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Annie Kenney photographed with the WSPU car

Most of the previous items that I have described in the daily ‘Countdown to the Release of the Film “Suffragette”‘ posts over the past month have already been sold – but for this final week I shall describe items that are currently for sale.

All three women are wearing motor scarves to protect their hats. I think the car is ‘W.S. 95′ [ie Women’s Suffrage’], an Austin, painted and upholstered in the colours, with white wheels and a green body lined with a narrow purple stripe

This is the car that the WSPU presented to Mrs Pethick Lawrence on her release from prison in April 1909.The cloth-capped driver is Mr Rapley from Holmwood, Surrey, where the Pethick Lawrences had their country house.

The card was published by Sandle Bros and the type face used for the caption is the same as that for the ‘Rush the House of Commons’ postcards that date from October 1909 – so I would deduce that this card was published around the same time.

The card is for sale – £120. To buy email me: elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com

Suffragette Film Poster 2Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’:Mrs Pankhurst In Her Clement’s Inn Office

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and Mrs Mabel Tuke photographed in Mrs Pankhurst's office in Clements Inn

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and Mrs Mabel Tuke photographed in Mrs Pankhurst’s office in Clements Inn – probably in 1910/11.

Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Tuke are sitting at a paper-laden desk. Mabel Tuke was honorary secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Very pretty – as we can see – her nickname was ‘Pansy’.

This photograph gives us an opportunity to deconstruct the surroundings. What pictures did Mrs P. have on the walls? Well there is a poster for a Suffrage Fair and above that a portrait sketch that looks very like that of Christabel Pankhurst by Richard Mathews that is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

There is at least one photograph and one sculptured bust of a child – probably by Desiderio da Settignano. And a small vase of flowers on the mantlepiece. A wonderful picture.

The publisher of the card was H. Sergeant, 159 Ladbroke Grove – who took many photographs for the WSPU.

 

Suffragette Film Poster 2

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All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

 

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Where And What Was ‘The Votes For Women Fellowship’?

Red Lion Court. The site (on the left) of the offices of the Votes for Women Fellowship

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In previous posts I described how the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices in Clement’s Inn and to have its campaign publicised in the weekly paper owned and edited by Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence – Votes for Women – which was printed close by at the St Clement’s Press  In October 1912 the Pethick-Lawrences, who had been recuperating abroad after enduring a term of hunger-striking imprisonment, returned to England to be told by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst that they, as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence herself put it, had ‘no further use for them’. In her autobiography Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence records that she never saw or heard from Emmeline Pankhurst again.

During the Pethick-Lawrences’ absence Mrs Pankhurst had moved the WSPU from Clement’s Inn to Lincoln’s Inn House on Kingsway (about which I will write in a later post). In fact I rather think, from studying the relevant rate book, that the WSPU may actually have been evicted from Clement’s Inn. After their expulsion from the WSPU the Pethick-Lawrences took back their paper, Votes for Women, and continued to publish it, on their own account, from a new office. Again, it may have been that after their imprisonment they were no longer welcome to the Clement’s Inn  management company.

For whatever reason, the Pethick-Lawrences moved a little to the east of Clement’s Inn and set up office in 4-7 Red Lion Court, one of the quaint passages off the north side of Fleet Street. Despite the redevelopment that has swept away their office, the narrow court is still atmospheric. The office was close to Votes for Women‘s new printer in Whitefriars Street, off the south side of Fleet Street. The first issue of Votes for Women published from this address was that of 25 October 1912.

In addition, in Red Lion Court, on 1 November 1912, the Pethick-Lawrences made their paper the centre of another suffrage society, the Votes for Women Fellowship. This group, made up of former members of the WSPU who were no longer in sympathy with the Pankhursts’ tactics, aimed to promote the paper and its policies rather than stand as a new militant organisation. In Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s words the Fellowship was ‘giving full expression to the awakened militant spirit of womanhood, that they should associated themselves in various plans for carrying the message far and wide, until in every town and village of this land women realise that they are a living part of a spiritually militant sisterhood that is at war under the triple banner of liberty, compassion, and purity against every form of evil dominance. (Votes for Women, 8 November 1912). The Fellowship’s emblem was of a lady with a lamp and its motto was ‘To spread the Light’.

Without the backing of the WSPU, Votes for Women had a greatly diminished circulation and in 1914 the Pethick-Lawrences gave the paper to the newly-founded United Suffragists. Although there was an overlap of membership, it would be a mistake to construe the United Suffragists as a direct descendant of the Votes for Women Fellowship. Despite being for most of the time in dire financial straits, Votes for Women continued to be published throughout the First World War only ceasing publication in February 1918 when the vote was (partially) won.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: St Clement’s Press

St Clement’s Press, c. 1959, courtesy of LSE Library

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In the last ‘Suffrage Story’ I described why and how, from the autumn of 1906, the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices at Clement’s Inn, a few hundred yards from the London School of Economics which, since 1902, had taken up residence in premises in Clare Market and Houghton Street.

In the previous post I also mentioned that Frederick Pethick Lawrence had had some experience as a newspaper proprietor and editor. It was, therefore,  natural that he and his wife, Emmeline, should consider it useful for the suffrage society with which they were now so closely associated to have its own proselytizing organ. This would both broadcast the aims and actions of the WSPU  and serve as a point of focus for its swiftly expanding membership.

The first issue of ‘Votes for Women’

The first issue of Votes for Women, as the new paper was unequivocally named, appeared on 16 October  1907. It was financed and edited by Emmeline and Frederick Pethick Lawrence and published from the WSPU office at 4 Clement’s Inn.

The Pethick Lawrences had not had to look far for a printer for their new paper. Housed in ‘Newspaper Buildings’, at the junction of Clare Market and Portugal Street, opposite the end of Clement’s Inn Passage (now St Clement’s Lane), the late-19th-century bulk of  St Clement’s Press towered over the maze of narrow streets bounded by the Strand and the swathe of  Kingsway, still a raw building site.  The Press had begun business in 1889 and was to be printer to a variety of other organisations sympathetic to the suffrage cause – from 1909, for instance, responsible for the Anti-Vivisectionist Review.

Votes for Women was published monthly until April 1908, after which it took on a larger format and became a weekly. This increase in frequency and size was a direct reflection of the WSPU’s great success in attracting members and creating interest in its campaign. By early 1910 Votes for Women had a weekly print run of c. 30,000 copies.

Grace Chappelow, a WSPU member from Essex, selling ‘Votes for Women’. Courtesy of Chelmsford Museum

The paper was sold in newsagents but also by members of the WSPU who were prepared to stand in the gutter (to stand on the pavement counted as obstruction) and sell it to passers by.  St Clement’s not only printed Votes for Women but also a variety of posters to advertise the paper – such as this one, held in the Women’s Library collection.

This arrangement continued for three and a half years until March 1912. At the beginning of that month WSPU members embarked on a dramatic window-smashing campaign, attacking shops and offices in London’s West End. As a result Emmeline Pankhurst and Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence were all arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.  Christabel Pankhurst escaped from Clement’s Inn and fled to Paris. The first issue of Votes for Women to be issued after the arrests – the number for 8 March –  appeared with blanks in the text. There was a note on the front page:”The Editors who are responsible for “Votes for Women” in the absence of Mr and Mrs Pethick Lawrence beg to inform their readers that the blank spaces in this week’s issue do not represent lack of interesting matter for publication, but mark the suppression by the printers of articles, comments, and historical facts considered by them to be of an inflammatory nature.’

Whether it was because the temporary editors considered it impossible to continue working with a printer who felt unable to print all the material supplied, or whether  it was that St Clement’s Press declined to be associated with a publication that might bring them into direct conflict with the law – for whatever reason the 15 March 1912 and subsequent issues of Votes for Women were no longer printed by the St Clement’s Press but by Walbrook & Co of 14 & 15 Whitefriars Street, off Fleet Street.

After the Pethick Lawrences were ousted from the WSPU in the autumn of 1912 they retained ownership of Votes for Women, still printed by Walbrook,  making the paper the focus of their new organisation, the Votes for Women Fellowship.  I will discuss this organisation in a subsequent post.

The Economists’ Bookshop, viewed from Kingsway

The site of the St Clement’s Press is now occupied by Waterstone’s Economists’ Bookshop, very much an LSE institution.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Where And What Was Clements Inn?

To mark the very welcome co-operation that now exists between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In previous posts I have described the Tea Cup Inn, which was in Portugal Street in the building which, for the time being at least, houses the LSE Chaplaincy, and the Aldwych Skating Rink, in which the WSPU organized its grand 1911 census boycott meeting. In the latter post I remarked that, all but abutting onto the back of the Skating Rink, were the offices of the WSPU at 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn.

A commemorative plaque, placed on a building now occupied by LSE. marks the site, citing the words of Christabel Pankhurst:  ”Clement’s Inn, our headquarters, was a hive seething with activity… As department was added to department, Clement’s Inn seemed always to have one more room to offer.’ [9 February 1907]

But what was ‘Clements Inn’?

The history of the late-19th-century Clement’s Inn buildings are surprisingly sketchy – although I daresay that archival research would uncover more detail. In its original incarnation Clement’s Inn had been one of the original Inns of Chancery, but its purpose and its buildings were swept away sometime during the second half of the 19th century. The exact date of its removal is vague; Pevsner merely puts it between 1868 and 1891, presumably meaning that it was demolished in stages. Suffice it to say that towards the end of the 19th century – probably in the 1880s – large blocks designed for both office and residential use were built on the site of the old Inn.  They stretched in a line, just west of the Royal Courts of Justice – and on the west side of Clements Inn Passage –  north from the Strand up to Clare Market. These blocks were given the name ‘Clement’s Inn’ and  housed a medley of solicitors, architects, chartered accountants, surveyors, publishers and even, at 5 & 6 the Uruguayan Legation and Consulate. The southern-most blocks were numbered ‘1 & 2 Clement’s Inn’ and were still standing in 1977. By then the more northerly blocks  – 3 & 4 – had already been demolished.

Clement’s Inn c 1970 (Courtesy LSE Library)

Extraordinary as it seems, photographs of the exterior of 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn seem all but non-existent, the one above one of very few I’ve been able to track down.

The photograph shows the Clement’s Inn buildings to have been rather imposing –  five storeys high, rising in places to seven. They were built of brick – presumably once red, doubtless very quickly blackened in the London atmosphere, with facings of stone around the windows and doors. Detailing was gothic, doubtless a nod to the adjacent  Royal College of Justice buildings. The ‘look’ was not unlike that of nearby Old Square, Lincolns Inn, where in later years Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, who are specifically noted on the WSPU plaque, had a flat.

Frederick Pethick Lawrence, photographed at a time when he was living and working in Clement’s Inn

For it was entirely due to the Pethick Lawrences that the WSPU office came to be sited at 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn. Frederick Pethick Lawrence first appears on the London electoral register at  3 & 4 Clement’s Inn in 1904. He and Emmeline – they had married in 1901 -were living in what is termed in the rate book as ‘a residential suite’ – to differentiate this type of apartment from the offices that were also available for rent. The apartments were serviced; the Clement’s Inn  building included a servants’ hall, servants’ dormitories and a kitchen in which meals were cooked for delivery to the tenants. This, I would imagine, was a style of living that entirely suited the Pethick Lawrences whose many interests surely precluded any time for domesticity.

The Pethick Lawrences had presumably chosen Clement’s Inn as their London address – they did also have a house in Surrey – because it was close to the office, at 19 St Bride Street,  of The Echo, a newspaper bought by Frederick Pethick Lawrence c 1902. It had been a Liberal paper – with a bias towards the Liberal Unionist section of the party- but, under Pethick Lawrence was re-directed towards the Labour movement, with Ramsay MacDonald among its contributors. However The Echo ran at a loss and in 1905 Pethick Lawrence closed it and  in May launched a new monthly publication, the Labour Record and Review. Pethick Lawrence was also the publisher of the Reformers’ Yearbook (called, before 1905, the Labour Annual and Reformers’ Yearbook). In the 1905 edition of the Yearbook, printed from information supplied in 1904, the ‘Directory of Useful Addresses’ lists the ‘Women’s Union’ , the secretary of which is Mrs Rachel Scott of Woodbine, Flixton, Manchester.  This was the recently formed Women’s Social and Political Union. Its founders, Mrs E. Pankhurst and Miss C Pankhurst, of  62 Nelson St, Manchester, are also listed as ‘Useful’.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence

In her autobiography Emmeline Pethick Lawrence records that it was from her roof garden in Clement’s Inn that in January 1906 she saw the general election results ‘as they were thrown by a lantern-slide on the elevated-whitened board in the Strand’. This new technology was displaying a Liberal landslide. But it was, however, the success of Keir Hardie and the Labour Party that particularly pleased the Pethick Lawrences.  A month later Hardie introduced Emmeline Pethic -Lawrence to Emmeline Pankhurst as ‘a practical and useful colleague who could develop in London the new society she had founded in Manchester’ – the WSPU.

Later that year the embryonic London campaign, which had been spearheaded by Annie Kenney and which for several months had held its business meetings around kitchen tables in various hospitable London homes, was given office premises by Frederick Pethick Lawrence in 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn. In the relevant rate book the WSPU is shown as taking up its tenancy at Michaelmas (29 September) 1906 in rooms 68,69 and 70.

This apartment was separate from number 119 shared jointly by the Pethick Lawrences; Frederick had given Emmeline the luxury of ‘a room of her own’.

Early WSPU meeting, Clement’s Inn, 1907 (courtesy of LSE Library)

When, in July 1906, Christabel Pankhurst came to London, after gaining her first-class law degree in Manchester, she lived with the Pethick Lawrences – perhaps in Emmeline’s separate apartment. The rate books show that over the years the Pethick Lawrences occupied several different sets of rooms, the quantities and configuration varying from year to year.

When, in October 1908, warrants were issued for the arrest of Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst after the WSPU had urged Londoners to ‘Rush the House of Commons’, the pair were photographed hiding from the police on Emmeline Pethick Lawrence’s roof terrace.

Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst photographed on Clement’s Inn roof terrace, 1908 (courtesy of LSE Library)

After ensuring that their evasion had been captured on camera, they then went downstairs and were photographed in the course of being arrested by Inspector Jarvis.

Arrested by Inspector Jarvis, 1908

Other WSPU offices were photographed on other occasions. Here is Mrs Pankhurst’s. Note the pictures, posters, flowers, and mantlepiece items.

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and Mrs Mabel Tuke photographed in Mrs Pankhurst’s office in Clements Inn

This ‘seething hive of activity’ is pictured in at least one contemporary novel. For in Ann Veronica, published in 1909, H.G. Wells furnishes the offices of the Woman’s Bond of Freedom – the  suffrage society that sweeps his heroine off her feet and into prison – with  ‘notice boards bearing clusters of newspaper slips, three or four posters of monster meetings..and a series of announcements in purple copying ink, and in one corner …a pile of banners’. Wells had no need to rely on photographs for his information; during the years when the WSPU was working from Clement’s Inn, it was doing so in close physical proximity to the Fabian Society, of which Wells was a leading member and which had been responsible for the founding of the LSE.  Knowing from the rate book that the WSPU’s basement office was next door to that of the Fabian Society, it requires little stretch of the imagination to envisage Wells finding a reason to combine a visit to one with a brief sortie into the other, the result being good  ‘copy’ for his novel.

It would be surprising if there had not been some tension between the two offices – the one campaigning for votes for some, not all, women while the other backed the cause of adult suffrage. For although, when they agreed to support the WSPU, the Pethick Lawrences were still committed to the Labour cause,  as the women’s suffrage campaign developed its tactics changed and the association with Labour was considered by the Pankhursts no longer to be advantageous.  Despite this, there were many connections between the WSPU, the Labour Party and the Fabian Society. For instance, Beatrice Sanders, working from an office in Clement’s Inn as  financial secretary to the WSPU, was the wife of William Sanders, a Fabian Society lecturer, LCC alderman and Labour parliamentary candidate. Mrs Sanders was herself a member of the Fabian Women’s Group.  However, William Sanders was one of what Wells termed the  ‘Old Gang’ that ranged itself against him when he attempted to reform the Fabian Society and, in retaliation, probably took Sanders as his prototype for ‘Alderman Dunstable’ in Ann Veronica. Wells certainly found plenty to mock in the WSPU and its activities and, unsurprisingly, although Ann Veronica was listed among ‘Books Received’ in the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, it never received the accolade of a review.

A very powerful propaganda tool for the WSPU, Votes for Women was brought to life each week in a building even closer to Houghton Street than Clement’s Inn and will be the subject of the next of my ‘Suffrage Stories’.

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