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Project links suffragettes and historical sites

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HerStories project, University of Lincoln, Historic England, relisted buildings, suffragette links, deeds not words,Recording the suffragette history connected to listed buildings.

100 years on from the first women in the country being granted the right to vote, women’s history is still under-represented in national records.

But through its HerStories project, Historic England has been working with researchers from the University of Lincoln to address this imbalance and has officially recognised suffragette stories that are told in bricks and mortar and post boxes.

The suffragettes were predominantly members of the radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), set up by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. They followed a different course of action – with action being the operative word – to the suffragists, led by Millicent Fawcett, who lobbied MPs peacefully for women’s right to the vote.

The WSPU motto was “Deeds, not Words” and the suffragettes heckled politicians, tried to storm parliament, were attacked and sexually assaulted during battles with the police, chained themselves to railings, smashed windows, set fire to post boxes and empty buildings – and when imprisoned went on hunger strike; the government responded to that by force-feeding them.

The result of Historic England’s labours is The List – 41 places that have been relisted this year for their involvement in the suffragettes’ campaign.

Among them are Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, where the militant suffrage campaign began, and Epsom racecourse, where the renowned suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was trampled by the King’s horse when she ran on to the racecourse during the Derby and subsequently died.

Also officially recognised on The List are the sites of more unusual suffragette protests, from the school in Birmingham which so charmed a pair of suffragettes they left a note on a blackboard saying they couldn’t bear to set it on fire, to St George’s Hall in Liverpool where a suffragette hid in an organ loft for 24 hours so she could noisily disturb a speech by a local MP the next day.

And Westminster Abbey where ‘prayers for prisoners’ were used to disrupt services, the Bristol hall where suffragettes hired professional boxers to stop medical students from interrupting Mrs Pankhurst’s speeches, and the hall in Sheffield where Churchill was interrupted repeatedly during dinner by suffragette telegrams.

These places are already listed buildings but until now there has been no record of their suffragette history on the National Heritage List for England.

But each site has an important story to tell in the fight for women’s rights.

The List:

North West

Free Trade Hall, Manchester
Manchester Art Gallery
St George’s Hall, Liverpool
Sefton Park Palm House, Liverpool
Walton Prison (now known as HMP Liverpool), Liverpool
Wellington Column, Liverpool
The Church of St Anne, Aigburth Road, Liverpool
Spinners’ Hall, Bolton

West Midlands

Grand Hotel, Birmingham
Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Old Grammar School, Kings Norton, Birmingham

North East

Former Post Office, St Nicholas Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

Yorkshire

55 Cookridge Street (now O2 Academy), Leeds
Cutlers’ Hall, Sheffield

East Midlands

Lenton Vicarage, 35 Church Street, Nottingham

East of England

St Edmund’s Church, Hunstanton, Norfolk
Lytton Mausoleum, Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire

South East

Westminster Abbey, London
Bow Street Court, London
Caxton Hall, London
Kew Gardens, London
1 Pembroke Cottages, Kensington, London
The Tower of London
The Royal Albert Hall, London
Dorset Hall, Merton, London
St Stephen’s Hall, Houses of Parliament, London
The Royal Academy, London
Post box on Highbury Grove, Islington, London
Post box outside 23 Hampstead High Street, London
Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, London
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London
Aylesbury Prison, Aylesbury
The Dome, Brighton
Pinfold Manor, Walton on the Hill
The Prince’s Stand, Epsom Race Course, Surrey

South West

Victoria Rooms, Bristol
Colston Hall, Bristol
Smeaton’s Tower, Plymouth Hoe
Eagle House and the Old Maltings, Bathford

And Emmeline Pankhurst’s tomb in Brompton Cemetery, designed by female sculptor Julian Phelps Allan, has been upgraded to Grade II* listed both to reflect Pankhurst’s pivotal role in the suffragette movement but also to recognise the monument’s elegance and sculptural beauty.

Julian Phelps Allan served in the army in both world wars, leaving with the rank of colonel. She was initally called Eva Dorothy Allan but changed her name for the more androgynous Julian around 1929, probably to be taken more seriously as a sculptor.

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