Posts Tagged isleworth
On 7 August 2014 ITV published an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette. Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and was a tie-in with an ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.
Back in 2014, as a lead-up to publication, I sharee with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.
Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. John has a room along Claverton Street, at number 11.
‘Thursday July 9th 1914
Hard at writing from 10 to 1. John came in and we went out together to lunch at Victoria. Then I went off to Hounslow by train and canvassed all up and down both sides of the High Street and all over the place, and at 6 o’clock at Parke Davis Dye works as the people came out.
Then a train back to Hounslow and train to Victoria and bus. In at 7.30. J. was watching at his window and saw me get out of the bus and came in with me and waited until 9 – when he was very good and went off and got supper by himself. I was so dead beat I felt I could not turn out again so ate some bread and cheese and fell into bed.’
Kate’s canvassing in Hounslow was for the purpose of drumming up attendance of a ‘Votes for Women’ meeting she is to hold tomorrow in the Broadway.
As WSPU militancy became even more intense the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage held to its principle of campaigning in a democratic manner. This may now be thought boring – failing to provide news fodder for the press then and for bloggers now – but it was non-militant political lobbying that in the end won women the vote.
In the few days previous to 9 July 1914 WSPU supporters had, besides continuing with their campaign of arson, concentrated their attention increasingly on the King and the Church. A portrait of the King by Sir John Lavery had been damaged in the Royal Scottish Academy and a few days earlier when the King had visited Nottingham a well-known suffragette had been arrested carrying a suitcase containing bomb-making equipment. On 1 July there had been a disturbance during the enthronement of the new Bishop of Bristol and on 5 July Mrs Dacre Fox had interrupted the Bishop of London during a Westminster Abbey service – asking him to prevent forcible feeding. She was a prisoner on the run, who had been released from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act, and was promptly re-arrested outside the Abbey.
Kate must surely have a taken a bus to the Parke Davis dye works, which was quite a way down the Staines Road. [The site at 581 Staines Road, long ago rebuilt by Parke Davis, is now used by the Home Office as an immigration centre.] Kate was well used to standing at factory gates handing out handbills – hoping to entice the workers to her meetings. We shall see tomorrow how successful her canvass had been.
On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette. Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.
As a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.
Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing.
Kate is back in Claverton Street, after a weekend in Worthing. Although she is a keen reader of newspapers, by the end of the first week of July she has made no comment on the events in Sarajevo.
‘Tuesday July 7th 1914
Writing. John in at 11.30 and out together at 1 and to Slaters for lunch. I can’t keep him out so it doesn’t seem any use trying. He is as absolutely devoted as ever – seems to care for nothing or nobody but me – it’s extraordinary and had now been going on eleven years with undiminished fervour. Poor dear I wish I could make him happy.
After lunch we proceeded to get to Isleworth but quite lost ourselves as we went by train from Victoria to Spring Grove then walked a long way to the Main Road and then had to take a bus. Then I had to visit the Police about the meeting and get a lorry which took about 2 hours and found Mr Rix had got the wrong information – that there is no Green but the meeting must be held in the Upper Square and the thousand hand bills will have to be altered. John says that organising is far harder work than the Stage.
Back by train to Hammersmith – tube to Knightsbridge and to the office at 4.45. ..I left with John at 6 o’clock.
We rushed home and changed, then a bus to Charing Cross, a sandwich and to the Criterion Theatre to see ‘A Scrap of Paper’. We were both bored, it wan’t particularly interesting as a revival – not played well and the play is rotten. Nancy Price was poor. I feel sure I saw Mrs Kendal in it. I seemed to remember how she did certain bits, with what art – she was wonderful. I think we were both tired and aching for a meal.
We went to the Corner House and had supper and just caught the last Pimlico bus. In at 12.15. John had Dress Circle seats given him – so we were very luxuriously treated. I was tired by the end of things.’
The beauty of Kate’s diary – from the point of view of studying the work of a suffrage organiser – is that it doesn’t cover up all the tediousness involved in running a ‘Votes for Women’ campaign. Kate does not gloss over the mishaps that – like here at Isleworth- will require someone to alter by hand a 1000 printed handbills. Amongst the collection of ephemera that she left I have similar flyers – with additions or alterations made in her own handwriting. This is not the view of the suffrage campaign that you will glean from reading published accounts – such as in the suffrage newspapers. This is real life. See also Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.
‘A Scrap of Paper’ , a ‘comic drama’ adapted from a French play by the Victorian playwright John Palgrave Simpson, had first been staged in 1861. Mrs (Madge) Kendal, a renowned Victorian actress and theatre manager, had indeed, back in the 1880s/90s, played in ‘A Scrap of Paper’ and Kate was certainly correct in remembering having seen such a production.
‘Slaters’ and the ‘Corner House’ were both chains of restaurants for diners of modest means. The Corner House restaurants were part of the chain run by Lyons that opened in 1909. It was doubtless in the one in Coventry Street, a quick dash across the road from the Criterion Theatre, that Kate and John had for their longed-for supper this evening.