Posts Tagged fabian society
When I gave a keynote talk -‘ Surrounded by Suffrage: Situating Shaw, Wells and the LSE in Suffrage Sites’ – at the joint H.G. Wells Society/Shaw Society’/ LSE Language Centre conference at LSE on 23 September 2017 the constraints of time meant that I was unable to include all that I would have liked to have said about this stained glass panel. I am, therefore, taking the opportunity my blog affords of relaying a little more of my research into this most interesting artefact.
The panel may be construed as a political allegory on the early years of the Fabian Society. Its artist was Caroline Townshend (1878-1944).
Received opinion has it that it was Bernard Shaw who designed the panel and I can find no original evidence one way or the other to back or disprove the claim. Received opinion – such as the article about the window on the LSE website – also has it that Caroline Townshend was commissioned to make it by GBS. However, I have discovered an item in the London Daily News, 8 November 1911, that explicitly states ‘The political allegory in stained glass which Miss Caroline Townshend, the well-known artist, has just completed for Mrs G.B. Shaw, conveys a good deal of humour and not a little kindly satire’.
It would hardly be surprising if it were Mrs Charlotte Shaw who had commissioned the work. The artist, Caroline Townshend, was not only a fellow Fabian but her own first cousin. Charlotte’s father, Horace Payne-Townshend, was half-brother to Caroline’s father, Chambrey Corker Townshend. Horace, as the first born, had inherited the greater part of the Townshend estate – allowing his daughters to be brought up in considerable comfort – while the family of Chambrey Townshend were very much less financially secure.
Both these fathers seem to have been rather ineffectual characters, married to very much more assertive wives. However, while Horace’s wife, Charlotte’s mother, was a frivolous termagant, Caroline’s mother, Emily Townshend, was much- admired, intellectually curious, and socially conscious. As Emily Gibson she had been one of the Girton Pioneers – one of the five first students at the college at Hitchen that later became Girton. One of her fellow Pioneers was Isabella Townshend, whose brother, Chambrey, Emily married in 1873. She had left Hitchin the year before without completing her degree course.
My researches (see here) indicate that Isabella Townshend had left Hitchen at the same time and then set up as an interior decorator with a Mrs Hartley Brown (whom I’ve so far been unable to identify). Emily Faithfull, when discussing new trade opportunities that were opening for women, mentioned in Three Visits to America (1884) that ‘Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend, soon after entering into partnership, were appropriately employed in decorating Merton College, and devised with much success some new stuffs for the chairs and sofas for the use of Cambridge girl graduates.’ (‘Merton College’ was an early manifestation of what became Newnham.)
Another of Chambrey Townshend’s sisters, Anne, was involved from 1888, when she was its first secretary, until 1910 with the Ladies’ Residential Chambers Company (the founders of which included Agnes Garrett and Millicent Fawcett – for more on the LRC see here). She had trained as a nurse, been a matron at the Hospital for Hip Disease in Childhood before by 1882 moving into philanthropic administration as secretary of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYs).
These interesting women were cousins to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, the future Mrs GBS, although there is nothing about them in her biography by Janet Dunbar or, as far as I can discover, in any of the many biographies of Bernard Shaw. Charlotte fervently lamented the sterility of her early life and one wonders if she knew anything of the enterprises undertaken by her cousins. If she had, one imagines she would have rather envied them.
In the 1870s Isabella and Chambrey Townshend moved in artistic socialist circles, as close friends of Walter and Lucy Crane. Chambrey was an architect of whom his wife later wrote ‘Chambrey Townshend had little push and no business ability to back up his remarkable artistic abilities.’ He worked as an assistant for George Edmund Street but never set up his own practice. Emily eventually decided that the family could live cheaper abroad and this they did – in France and Switzerland – from 1886 until 1893.
Caroline was born in 1878, the fourth of Emily and Chambrey’s five children. After the family’s return from Europe she was for a time a pupil at Wycombe Abbey School before, by 1901, becoming a pupil to the leading stained-glass artist, Christopher Whall.
Charlotte Shaw was twenty years older than Caroline Townshend and had been brought up in very much more financially secure circumstances – yet she, Caroline, and Emily came to share the same social and political philosophy. Whether or not there had been earlier contact it is certain that in the early years of the 20th century their paths most certainly did cross – all being early members of the Fabian Society. Even so, the names of Emily and Caroline Townshend do not occur in Shaw’s published letters, although the LSE archives holds a few photographs showing Caroline’s sister, Rachel, on holiday in Wales with Charlotte Shaw (see, for instance, here).
So, if the Shaws were thinking of commissioning a stained glass panel, they knew they had an artist in the family who could accomplish it. Or, could it have been the other way round? Perhaps having a stained-glass artist in the family was too good an opportunity to miss. Perhaps Charlotte Shaw thought she must put her cousin’s talent to use. Did she discuss with GBS how this might be achieved? And did he then sketch out that political allegory? There are so many mysteries surrounding the panel. What was the purpose behind the commission? Where had they intended to place it? In their London apartment at 10 Adelphi Terrace –or at their country home Ayot St Lawrence – or in the Fabian Office? Whatever the intention, the panel was still in Caroline Townshend’s possession at the time of her death in 1944. It seems very odd that it should have been discussed in the press in 1911 – and yet wasn’t claimed by one or other of the Shaws. Was Caroline paid for it?
Caroline also retained the original design for the panel – the cartoon – which in 1954 was given by Joan Howson, her artistic and life partner (they traded as Townshend and Howson) to Wimbledon’s William Morris House in memory of Emily and Caroline Townshend. Emily Townshend had lived in Wimbledon and, with Caroline, was a shareholder in Wimbledon Labour Halls Co-operative Society Limited – also known as William Morris House.
Information on the William Morris House website (see here) states that the Fabian Society panel was made at the William Morris Works at Merton. I think this is probably mistaken. Emily and Caroline Townshend had in 1931 given WMH two Burne-Jones windows. These had been given by Burne-Jones to Chambrey Townshend and would have been made at the William Morris Works, but Caroline Townshend’s panel was almost certainly made at the Glass House, Lettice Street, Fulham, where she had a studio from c 1910 until the 1920s.
The Glass House had been set up in 1906 by a stained glass craftswoman, Mary Lowndes, to provide facilities for other stained glass artists and had proved most successful in attracting young women to the craft. Mary Lowndes was one of the founders of the Artists’ Suffrage League but I’ve found no clear evidence that Caroline Townshend was a member. The ASL records (held in the Women’s Library@LSE) are scanty but, as Mary Lowndes’ involvement with preparations for suffrage events was at times overwhelming, Caroline Townshend must have been only too well aware of all that activity and it would seem likely that, even if she were not a formal member, she would have lent a hand on occasion. Anyway, if she wasn’t an active suffrage supporter, her mother and sister certainly were. In 1907, Emily Townshend, then aged 57, spent two weeks in Holloway after being involved in a suffragette protest and in 1909 was followed by Rachel, who spent two months in prison. Caroline was living at home during this time and could not but help be swept up in the drama. So, by the time Caroline Townshend received the Fabian commission in 1910, she was surrounded by suffrage talk and activity at home and at work.
Of the kneeling female figures that on the far right is Caroline Townshend and two of the other figures demonstrate a strong connection between Fabianism and suffrage. The figure third from the right is Mary Hankinson, who was a very active suffragette – and from 1905 until 1948 a member of the Fabian Society. A teacher of physical education, she was hired in 1907 to give instruction in Swedish drill and country dancing at the first Fabian Summer School – funded by Charlotte Shaw – and from then until 1938 she was general manager of all Fabian summer schools. She was also a member of the Women’s Freedom League, one of the militant suffrage societies, and was president of the Gymnastic Teachers’ Suffrage Society. Her brother was Unitarian chaplain to Holloway prison and was used by Christabel Pankhurst as a conduit of information to and from suffragette prisoners. The suffrage collection he amassed includes a copy of Saint Joan presented to Mary Hankinson by Shaw, who wrote in it a very Shavian inscription ‘To Mary Hankinson, the only woman I know who does not believe she was a model for Joan, but also the only woman who actually was.’
On the stained glass panel between Mary Hankinson and Charlotte Townshend is the figure of Mabel Atkinson, who was a postgraduate student at LSE, a member of the executive committee of the Fabian Society from 1909 until 1915 and chairman of the Suffrage Section of the Fabian Women’s Group when it was formed in 1911. She was involved with Mary Hankinson in the development of the Summer School and was also a donor to and speaker for the WSPU.
In passing it’s worth noting a little remarked fact – that Charlotte Shaw was one of the WSPU’s most generous benefactors: for instance in March 1908 she gave them £100 and on 21 June took part in a spectacular WSPU procession – walking with the Fabians under the Society’s banner, which was carried by Maud Pember Reeves. Shaw watched from the pavement as she passed.
You can read more here about the iconography of the Fabian stained glass panel and of its rather idiosyncratic history between 1944 and 2006, when it finally came to rest in the care of LSE. There it has most appropriately been installed in the Shaw Library, a room that commemorates not GBS, but Charlotte Shaw, who was a most generous benefactor to the LSE.
Charlotte Shaw was a very interesting woman – who evaded the limelight. At the Shaw/Wells/LSE conference we were treated to an excerpt from ‘Mrs Shaw Herself’ – a one-woman show – with musical accompaniment- about her. I thoroughly enjoyed this and thought I must let you all know that there will be a full perfomance next Saturday (30 Sept 2017) in St Lawrence Church in Ayot St Lawrence, the village where she and GBS made their home.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
Other WSPU offices were photographed on other occasions. Here is Mrs Pankhurst’s. Note the pictures, posters, flowers, and mantlepiece items.
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’.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.