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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 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 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.  See the LSE Library website for the  announcement of the LSE’s plans for the Women’s Library and for the brochure setting out details of its bid. The introduction to the latter includes a photograph of the plaque (left) and 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.

Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

Extraordinary as it seems, photographs of the exterior of 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn seem all but non-existent.  The photograph on the left shows, I think, one corner of the Clement’s Inn range; it was taken in 1912 while police trying to establish the whereabouts of Christabel Pankhurst, for whom they had an arrest warrant. Apart from this I have managed to track down, in the Westminster Archives, only three small photographs of 1 & 2 Clement’s Inn. They form part of a collection taken in 1977 of the Royal Courts of Justice. Very helpfully the photographer  turned his camera, from his position in the RCJ,  across Clement’s Inn Passage to take a distant view of the surviving Clement’s Inn buildings, and followed that with two close-up photographs of the  entrances to the buildings. The collection of photographs is accompanied by a hand-drawn map showing the precise position of each photograph so that there is now no doubt in my mind as to the layout of the Clement’s Inn blocks, now replaced by the LSE Towers.

The photographs show 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  RCJ 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, courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

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’.

In Emmeline Pethick Lawrence’s apartment in Clement’s Inn. From the left, Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Nellie Martel, Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Despard. Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

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. See here to view the Women’s Library copy of the photograph.

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.

Inspector Jarvis making his arrest. Photograph marked for a rather idiosyncratic cropping. Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

Other WSPU offices were photographed on other occasions – the Women’s Library holds pictures, among others, of Mrs Pethick Lawrence’s secretary’s office, the General Office and of the WSPU Information Bureau at work. In the latter picture Emily Wilding Davison is the woman seated on the left and the young woman, with white collar and cuffs, standing at the back is Cicely Hale. All these photographs can be viewed on the Women’s Library Special Collections catalogue and from them one can glean an idea of the physical surroundings in which the campaign was orchestrated – the furniture, the fireplaces, the typewriters, the bowls of flowers, the posters and the maps on the walls.

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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