Wallace Collection, London: ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments In Paint’ Exhibition

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©Come Step Back In Time

A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts.” Joshua Reynolds (1784)

  • Engraving from 1873 featuring Joshua Reynolds.

It was a pleasure to receive an invitation to an exclusive Bloggers event at the Wallace Collection, London last Friday. This is the first event of its type organised by the museum and it was a great success. The occasion marked the opening of their new exhibition, ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint’, a free exhibition that continues until 7th June 2015.

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The exhibition explores Joshua Reynolds’s (1723-1792) painting techniques, pictorial compositions and narratives through the display of twenty paintings, archival sources and x-ray images. Paintings Conservator for The Wallace Collection Reynolds Research Project, Alexandra Gent, gave us a comprehensive and fascinating insight into some of the surprise discoveries encountered whilst working on the collection’s Reynolds paintings over the last four years. There are twenty paintings on display in the exhibition, twelve of which are from The Wallace Collection, others are on loan from collections elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the USA.

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With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, TEFAF, the Hertford House Trust, various private donors, and Trusts and drawing on the research expertise of the National Gallery in London and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, the exhibition spans most of Reynolds’s career and includes portraits, ‘fancy’ pictures (young children in a variety of guises) and history painting.

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©Come Step Back In Time

The exhibition has been curated by Dr Lucy Davis, Curator of Old Master Pictures at the Wallace Collection, Professor Mark Hallett, Director of Studies in British Art at the Paul Mellon Centre and Alexandra Gent. Ms Gent explains why this research project has been so fascinating as well as challenging:

One of the things about Reynolds, and the reason it was started as a research project, is that his painting technique is quite notorious amongst conservators as being tricky to deal with….So to have a really good understanding of the way the paintings had been made and constructed and what materials had been used was really important to make informed decisions about which paintings to treat. The paintings as a group hadn’t been restored for a very long time, a few of them had had minor treatments but none of them had really been cleaned since they’d entered the Wallace Collection in the mid-19th century.

Although Reynolds is notorious for using wax, we only found wax in small amounts on paintings. The Portrait of Miss Jane Bowles appears to have a varnish layer on it that is made from wax, and we think that this is original and really interesting to see Reynolds use as a varnish layer.

It’s been a real privilege to work on these paintings, they’re a really wonderful group of paintings by Reynolds.

(‘New Perspectives on Joshua Reynolds’ by Lorna Davies, The Portman, Spring, 2015, pp.18-19)

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©Come Step Back In Time

In 1755, Reynolds had a hundred and twenty sitters, in 1758 he had a hundred and fifty sitters. He charged some of the highest prices by any painter working in London at that time but still the commissions kept on coming. In 1760, he earned between £6,000 and £10,000 per annum, working seven days a week, eight hours a day. (Source: The 17th and 18th Centuries Dictionary of World Biography Vol.4, edited by Frank N. Magill, 2013, p.1161)

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Mrs Abington as Miss Prue from William Congreve’s ‘Love For Love’ (c.1771-1772) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Reynolds often produced multiple versions of his paintings, worked over a length of time, sometimes four years. It was not unusual for him to work on two similar pictures side-by-side. He also encouraged his subjects to perform roles that would reveal an aspect of their personality, actresses he depicted in character such as Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, (c.1771-1772). Mrs Frances Abington (1737-1815) with her coquettish gaze as Miss Prue, the silly, awkward country girl from William Congreve’s (1670-1729) comedy Love For Love (1695).

  • Engraving depicting Mrs Frances Abington c.1785. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

X-ray Image And Infrared Reflectography Use In Painting Conservation

X-ray image: X-rays can penetrate through most parts of a painting but denser materials, such as lead containing pigments and iron tacks, obstruct them. An X-ray image records the areas where the X-rays have been obstructed and these areas appear lighter. These images are useful for revealing paint losses and changes to a painting. However, they can be difficult to interpret because they show all the layers of the painting superimposed.

Infrared reflectography: an imaging method used to ‘see through’ paint layers that are opaque to the human eye. Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light. Infrared radiation passes through the paint until it either reaches something that absorbs it or is reflected back to the camera. An infrared image can often reveal under-drawing.

Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Curation of ‘Experiments in Paint’ is excellent. Reynolds’s portraits are accompanied with detailed background to both painting and sitter. Those works on display that have been subjected to detailed conservation analysis are of particular interest.

Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl. ©Come Step Back In Time

Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773). ©Come Step Back In Time

For example, an X-ray of Reynolds’s slightly unnerving, The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773), revealed that it resembled the version of The Strawberry Girl reproduced in Thomas Watson’s 1774 mezzotint. Reynolds had reworked the figure, lowering the shoulders, painting a fringe of brown hair and developing a more oriental style of turban.

Infrared reflectography of the Wallace Collection’s version of The Strawberry Girl  also revealed under-drawing around the hands and in the folds of the drapery. The use of such under-drawing may indicate that the composition of this painting was transferred from an earlier version of The Strawberry Girl.

An X-ray of Mrs Abington as Miss Prue showed that Reynolds had originally intended her to wear a simple bonnet that would have been more in keeping with her role as Congreve’s Miss Prue. Instead the final painting showed her sporting an updo hairstyle fashionable at the time.

Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

An X-ray of Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1754-1825) painted in 1781, revealed that Reynolds updated the sitter’s hairstyle just before the painting left the studio making it look much fuller, as was popular at the time of the work’s completion. The original hairstyle had been smoother and the curls at the neck are higher, similar to those adopted by the fashionable Waldegrave sisters painted by Reynolds between 1780 and 1781.

According to Alexandra Gent, Reynolds used five different sizes of canvas available to the Georgian painter: head; three-quarter length; half-length; full length and Bishop’s half-length (large enough to fit in his mitre!). A popular pose for Georgian sitters was ‘penseroso’, resting with chin in the hand, signalling to the viewer that the subject was refined and contemplative.

Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in 'penseroso' pose. ©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in ‘penseroso’ pose. Oil on oak panel. Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Even a faded picture from Reynolds will be the finest thing you have.” Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827)

Events & Further Information

There is an extensive programme of educational and cultural events taking place at The Wallace Collection to compliment this new exhibition:

  • 1748, Sir Joshua Reynolds at his easel working on a portrait. He was elected the first President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and knighted in 1769. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • Manchester House, on the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1807. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

  • Fashion Designer, Vivienne Westwood, explaining why she is inspired by The Wallace Collection. Uploaded to You Tube 1.10.2009.

The Wallace Collection – Main Museum

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection, Manchester House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

I first discovered The Wallace Collection, by chance, in 2005 whilst working in Portman Square as a corporate researcher. In order to escape the caged existence of my office and reawaken my senses, I regularly took long walks, exploring the surrounding area. There is so much to see, all just a stone’s throw from the craziness of Oxford Street. Attractive squares and stunning architecture as well as more blue plaques than you can shake a stick at!

The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015.  ©Come Step Back In Time

The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

When I visited the Wallace Collection for the first time, I remember being completely awestruck by the magnificent interior and extensive collection of French eighteenth century painting, furniture and porcelain. The good news is that in the last ten years admission charges have remained the same, absolutely FREE.

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©Come Step Back In Time

  • View of the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1813. Manchester House is on the left. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
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The Wallace Collection is housed in Manchester House, a fine example of Georgian architecture built between 1776 and 1788 for the 4th Duke of Manchester (1737-1788). The original shell of the building was built by Samuel Adams in 1771. It wasn’t until the 4th Duke brought the leasehold in 1788 that substantial structural alterations were made by the architect Joshua Brown.

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©Come Step Back In Time

A few key dates in the history of Manchester House:

  • 1791-95 – house let as the Spanish Embassy;
  • 1797 – 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822) acquires the house’s lease;
  • 1836-51 – house let as the French Embassy;
  • 1800-1870 – 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870) uses the house to store his private art collection;
  • 1871 – the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, Richard (1818-1890), moves back to London from Paris and brings with him a large portion of his private art collection;
  • 1897 – Lady Wallace bequeaths the collection to the British Nation. Lady Wallace (Amélie-Julie-Charlotte Castelnau (1819-97)), married Richard in 1871, she had been his mistress for many years. Upon his death in 1890 he bequeathed to her all his property;
  • the house opens to the public as a Museum on 22nd June, 1900 (closing during both World Wars);
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  • Photographing at the Wallace Collection, London, 1908-1909. From Penrose’s Pictorial Annual 1908-1909, An Illustrated Review of the Graphic Arts, volume 14, edited by William Gamble and published by AW Penrose (London, 1908-1909). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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The Wallace Collection is one of the most significant collections of European fine and decorative arts in the world and the greatest bequest of art ever left to the British Nation. The collection encompasses old master oil paintings from the fourteenth to the late nineteenth century including works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck, princely arms and armour, and one of the finest collections of French eighteenth century art in all media.

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©Come Step Back In Time

  • The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London, 1926-1927. Illustration from Wonderful London, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, Volume I, published by Amalgamated Press, (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time

Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Curious Will of Mrs Margaret Thompson (1777) – The Joy of Snuff!

“Scotch snuff is the grand cordial of human nature”.

Recently, a member of my family passed on to me a copy of Chalfont St Peter Parish Magazine (February, 2015) which included a reproduction of one of the most interesting and amusing examples of an eighteenth Will that I have ever come across. The Will belonged to Mrs Margaret Thompson who died on 2nd April, 1777, at her house in Boyle Street, Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, London.

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©Come Step Back In Time

The Will was discovered in one of the old registers at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. However, there is no record of the burial of Mrs Thompson in the Burial Register of St. James’s, for April, 1777. Upon arrival at the Wallace Collection last Friday, I made straight for their superb collection of eighteenth century snuff boxes. Mrs Thompson was clearly a lady who adored to indulge in the then fashionable trend of snuff-taking!

  • ‘The French Fireside’, eighteenth century, a young lady indulging in some recreational snuff-taking. From The Connoisseur magazine (February 1905). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Margaret Thompson’s will (1777):

I Margaret Thompson, etc, being of a sound mind, etc, do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following, etc.

I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stewart, may be put by her, and her along, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body; and this I desire, and more especially as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so pleasant and refreshing to me, as that precious powder; but I strictly charge that no one be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the following manner:

Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be great snuff-takers in the Parish of St James’s, Westminster; and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff-coloured beaver, which I desire to be brought for that purpose, and given to them; Six Maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire that the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a certain quantity of snuff, not exceeding one pound, to whom also I bequeath five guineas on condition of his doing so. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scott snuff on the ground, and to the crowd who possibly may follow me to the burial place – on condition I bequeath her Twenty Pounds. And I also desire that at least two bushels of the said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.

I desire, also, that my funeral shall be at twelve o’clock at noon. And in addition to the various legacies I have left my friends in a former will, I desire that to each person there shall be given a pound of the best Scotch snuff, as it is the grand cordial of human nature.

In the eighteenth century, snuff was a tobacco product favoured by the upper classes, snorted directly from the back of the hand into the nostrils. Smoking pipes containing tobacco was associated with the lower and working classes. Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ on account of her love of the brown stuff. She had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her substantial stock of snuff.

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©Come Step Back In Time

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) is purported to have enjoyed taking snuff so much that she had fifty-two gold snuff boxes in her wedding basket. Joshua Reynolds also indulged in large amounts of snuff, on a regular basis, according to fellow artist Joseph Farington (1747-1821):

January 16th, 1796: Steevens speaking of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ habit of taking snuff in great quantities, said, he not only carried a double box, with two sorts of snuff in it, but regaled himself out of every box that appeared at the table where he sat; and did his neighbour happen to have one, he absolutely fed upon him. When I expected to meet Sir Joshua in company added he always carried an additional allowance.

(The Farington Diary: July 13th, 1793 to August 24th, 1802, Volume 1 by Joseph Farington, p. 184)

  • Part of Shenstone’s poem, The Snuff Box, 1735, (1840). Facsimile of part of The Snuff Box. Illustration from Historical and Literary Curiosities consisting of Facsimilies of Original Documents, by Charles John Smith, (Henry G Bohn, London, 1840). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Votes For Women! Women’s Suffrage In Southampton & Portsmouth, Hampshire

  • Silent newsreel footage shot by British Pathe, early twentieth century, showing different Suffragette events in Britain. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.14.
  • A parasol parade selling The Suffragette newspaper, Brighton, Sussex, April 1914. From left to right: Miss Reid, Mrs Goodier, Miss Gye, Mrs Brandon, Miss Rae, Mrs Bouvier. Brighton and Hove was one of the first Women’s Social and Political Union branches, founded in May 1907. By June 1908 they had a banner ‘beautifully designed and embroidered by members with the arms of Brighton’. Parasol parades were a regular feature of the union’s sales drives to increase its newspaper circulation in the summer months. Umbrellas were used in the rainy season. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

As part of BBC’s Taking Liberties season (programmes about democracy to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta), Professor Amanda Vickery presents a three-part documentary series, Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power. Professor Vickery explores the three hundred year-long campaign by women for political and sex equality in Britain.

  • The Reverend Libby Lane smiles as she stands with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu outside York Minster after she was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport on January 26, 2015 in York, England. The Church of England consecrated its first female bishop during a ceremony at York Minster. The Reverend Libby Lane, who has been the vicar of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in Greater Manchester, was ordained as the new Bishop of Stockport in a two hour service led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Sunday 8th March was International Women’s Day (IWD) an annual event that has been observed since the early 1900s, in America the first event took place on 28th February, 1909. IWD celebrates women’s accomplishments and promotes global equality and this year’s theme is ‘make it happen’ which aims to encourage and recognise women in their professional fields.

Sunday 8th March was also when Britain’s first female bishop, The Revered Libby Lane (48) preached her inaugural sermon as she was installed in her home diocese, Chester Cathedral. The Church of England formally adopted legislation last November to allow women to become bishops. Rev. Lane was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport at York Minster in January.

Early Women’s Suffrage

In 1847, the first leaflet advocating votes for women appeared in Britain. In 1867, civil servant John Stuart Mill (1806-1973), tried, unsuccessfully, to secure votes for women in the Second Reform Act. The 1867 Reform Act: 1) granted the vote to all householders in the boroughs as well as lodgers who paid rent of £10 a year or more; 2) reduced the property threshold in the counties and gave the vote to agricultural landowners and tenants with very small amounts of land.

Mill’s failure to secure women the vote, led to the founding of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. In 1861 (published 1869), Mill wrote one of the earliest essays on sexual equality written by a male author, The Subjection of Women. Although, it is entirely possible that Mill’s wife, Harriet (1807-1858) co-wrote the essay.

In 1868, MP Richard Pankhurst (1834-1898) (husband of Emmeline from 1878 onwards), also tried to push forward votes for women. He drafted the Women’s Disabilities Removal Bill (the first women’s suffrage bill in England) and authored the bill which became the Married Women’s Property Act (1882). The latter gave wives absolute control over their property and earnings. In 1889, the Pankhursts formed the Women’s Franchise League.

A Few Key Miletones Of Women’s Suffrage In Britain

  • Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was appointed Home Secretary in 1910 and was part of Herbert Henry Asquith’s (1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith) (1852-1928) Liberal Government (1908-1916);
  • Conciliation bills were put before the House of Commons in 1910, 1911 and 1912. These bills would extend the right of women to vote in Great Britain and Ireland to around 1,000,500 wealthy, property-owning women;
  • The 1907 Qualification of Women Act enabled women to sit on county or borough councils and boards of guardians;
  • The first female MP was Constance Georgine Markievicz (1868-1927), a socialist and suffragette. In December 1918, she was elected to the British House of Commons but did not take-up her seat;
  • Medical Act 1876 (Russell Gurney Enabling Act) – enabled, for the first time, women to study and graduate in medicine. Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive her medical degree in America (1854) and the first woman on the UK Medical Register. Her sister Emily (1826-1910) was the third woman in America to get a medical degree. English physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was the first woman to qualify in the UK as both a surgeon and a physician.
  • Marriage bars. From the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, married women were prohibited from certain occupations such as administrative roles in the Civil Service. The Sex Disqualification Removal Act, passed in 1919, banned married women from the teaching profession. Lower paid professions were not affected. During World War Two, the laws were relaxed because of the labour shortage.Marriage bars in teaching were removed in 1944;
  • The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) – ‘the Suffragists’, founded in 1897 was a collection of local suffrage societies. This union was led by Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), who believed in constitutional campaigning and non-violent methods of raising awareness of the suffrage cause. However, this softer approach was rather unsuccessful in drawing attention to their aims;
  • The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – ‘the Suffragettes’-  was the leading militant organisation campaigning for Women’s suffrage in Great Britain between 1903 (10th October) and 1917. Founded by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) she ran the organisations with her daughters Christabel (1880-1958) and Sylvia (1882-1960);
  • In 1908, the WSPU adopted the colour scheme of purple (dignity), white (purity) and green (hope). This colour scheme appeared on the organisations banners, flags, rosettes and badges. Non-militant suffragettes adopted red, white and green as their colour scheme;
  • The WSPU, under the editorship of Christabel Pankhurst, published an official publication The Suffragette (1912-1915). At one point it had a circulation of ten thousand copies. Previously, the WSPU published the periodical Votes for Women (1907-1912 and 1914-18, when the United Suffragists ran it);
  • Two suffragettes selling The Suffragette at the Henley Regatta.
  • In a photograph specially taken for the Suffragette paper, a woman sits engrossed in the Suffragette.
  • In the early twentieth century until World War One, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Great Britain;
  • Women in Great Britain over the age of 30, meeting certain property qualifications, were given the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21. New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 when all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections;
  • Social History, Suffragettes, c.1910, The Suffragettes campaign office in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, photographed by local photographer Harold H,Camborn (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Southampton

I have recently been researching suffragettes and suffrage activities in Hampshire, in particular Southampton and Portsmouth. The first suffrage petition in Hampshire was sponsored by the Southampton MP, Russell Gurney (1804-1878), dated 13th May, 1869. The following year the town’s very first suffrage society was established. Founding members of the Southampton executive committee were: Rev. Edmund Kell, Mrs Edward Dixon, Miss Hart, Mrs Jemima Jane Sawyer. Mrs Sawyer was the society’s secretary and lived at Thanet House, Bevois (now Lodge Road).

On 27th February, 1871, Russell Gurney presented another women’s suffrage petition which recorded three hundred and seventy-four of the town’s residents supporting the petition. During the same year the first suffrage meeting was held in the town on the 8th April, a lecture by Millicent Fawcett was attended by two thousand people. Further suffrage meetings took place in 1873, 1876, 1878 and 1882 when crowds had increased sufficiently to hold  the meeting at Southampton’s Philharmonic Hall.

Between 1882 and 1902, there was very little suffrage activity in Southampton. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, pp. 163-170) Southampton had branches of both the NUWSS and WSPU but they were small in comparison to over parts of the country or indeed the county, for example Portsmouth.

The NUWSS was established in Southampton in 1905. They held meetings at the Bungalow Café (157, Above Bar, destroyed in World War Two by enemy bombing). During the 1910 election the society opened a shop at 3, Above Bar and in March the Actresses’ Franchise League staged three short suffrage plays, Cicely Hamilton’s Pot and Kettle , and How the Vote Was Won and The Apple by Inez Bensusan. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, p. 163)

Militant activities in Southampton did not begin in earnest until 1912 when:

 …some local suffragettes resort to what was by then the frequent militant practice of destroying letters by thrusting burning rags or pouring corrosive fluid into pillar-boxes. As early as 1907, however, the militants had begun to seize every opportunity of interrupting and trying to disrupt any meetings which members of the Government came down to address; as when in November a band of them had to be ejected from one at which Augustine Birrell the Secretary for Ireland was the principal speaker.

It was during the years 1911-1913, however, that militancy rose to its height in the country, and though the repercussions of this in Southampton were less violent than elsewhere, meetings addressed there by leading members of that wing were frequently marked by much heckling and rowdy interruptions. Throughout 1911, the question of women’s suffrage was kept prominently before the town by a succession of speakers from both wings.

(A History of Southampton 1700-1914, Vol III: Setbacks and Recoveries 1868-1914 (1975) by A. Temple Patterson, p. 137)

Emmeline Pankhurst’s Visit To Southampton In 1911

Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton on Saturday 4th February, 1911 and addressed a large audience at the Palace Theatre. She spoke for an hour without any interruption from the floor. Various speakers who supported the suffrage movement came down to Southampton for this event including: Mrs Philip Snowden, the Countess of Selborne, H. N. Brailsford, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence whose wife Emmeline was a leading, militant suffragette who together with her husband started the publication Votes for Women in 1907. In 1914, Flora McKinnon ‘General’ Drummond (1878-1949), a prominent leader of the WSPU, also addressed a large crowd in Southampton.


  • Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867-1954), co-editor of Votes for Women, and business manager and Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union, c1909. Before her involvement with the movement Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence had spent five years as a social reformer. In 1905 she founded the Esperance Girls’ Club and Social Settlement, and two years later the Maison Esperance, a cooperative dressmaking business which, unusually for the time, paid the workers a minimum wage of fifteen shillings a week for an eight-hour day, and gave them an annual holiday. She proved to be a remarkable fund-raiser and treasurer for the suffragettes, raising the equivalent of £3 million in five years. Arrested four times and serving over four months in prison, her last conviction (like her husband) was in 1912 for conspiracy to incite violence. She served only five weeks of her nine-month sentence and was released early, severely debilitated after her hunger strike and force-feeding. On their expulsion from the WSPU she and her husband continued to edit Votes for Women (thereafter the official newspaper of the WSPU would be The Suffragette.) They also founded the Votes for Women Fellowship, a new moderate militant organisation. Emmeline’s many publications include: The Need for Women MPs; Women as Persons or Property?; and The Meaning of the Woman’s Movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Southampton’s first woman mayor, Lucia Marion Foster Welch (nee Brown, c.1864-1940) was also a supporter of women’s suffrage and member of both the WSPU and the NUWSS. However, she did not condone the WSPU’s militant activities. Welch married twice, first to Philip Braham in 1884, with whom she had three children, and to Robert William Foster Welch in 1904.

Mrs Welch first came to Southampton in 1903 and was elected Conservative councillor for the city’s Newton area in 1918.When Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton in 1911, Welch invited friends and supporters of the WSPU to tea at her house, 61 Oxford Street, in order that they could meet the suffragette leader. Welch regularly provided hospitality for the NUWSS meetings.

  • 7th March 1913: A suffragette adding to messages written by others on a pavement in Kensington. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

I reviewed press coverage relating to Mrs Pankhurst’s Southampton visit in 1911 and include some extracts below from the Liberal supporting Southampton Times:

Mrs Pankhurst’s Visit: The Suffragettes have been busily engaged this week in advertising today’s meeting at the Palace Theatre. Handbills have been distributed in great quantities, and on Thursday the pavements were “chalked”. Yesterday members of the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union drove about the town in a motor car gaily decorated in the purple, white, and green colours of the Union, with placards announcing that Mrs Pankhurst’s meeting was at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Votes for Women: The Women’s Social and Political Union held a very successful ‘at home’ last week in Southampton. The speaker was the Hon. Mrs Haverfield (hon. organiser for Paddington), Miss C. A. L. Marsh (organiser for Portsmouth and Southampton) opened with a short speech explaining the demand of the Union for votes for women on the same terms as men. Mrs Haverfield then dealt with the position of women in the industrial world, and explained the need of the vote to protect their interests. The speaker also pointed out that the laws were made without women being consulted at all, and she claimed that as legislation affected so much the lives of women and children, the women should be allowed to express their views through the ballot box. Several new members were made and collection was taken in aid of the local funds.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 4.2.1911)

Mrs Pankhurst’s visit: “The Privileges of Sex”. There was a large gathering at the Palace Theatre on Saturday afternoon when Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the “Votes for Women” movement, delivered an address on the auspices of the local branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The chair was occupied by Miss Marsh, the local organising secretary, who remarked that as so many people had an entirely wrong idea of what the suffragettes were fighting for, it would be as well if the aims were explained.

Briefly, they were asking that what qualified a man for the vote should also qualify a woman. As women were called upon to pay taxes, and were expected to obey the laws of the country, it was only fair that they should have a chance of saying how their money should be spent, and what laws should be made. Unfortunately, they could not get Government  to do a thing merely because its justice was proved. Had that been possible, the women would have had the vote long ago (applause).

Mrs Pankhurst, who was speaking for nearly an hour, received a very attentive hearing. If there were no striking outbursts of applause, she had the sympathy of her audience to the end, and there was an entire absence of interruptions. She explained the objects of the Union at length, and desired to disabuse the minds of those who believed that, because women had been driven to extremities by the continuous refusal of their demands, they were making extreme claims. She urged that their claims were not only very moderate, but that they were also absolutely just.

Women had been fighting for fifty years against “the terrible privilege of sex”. She admitted that some small advance had been made in the position of women, such as was talked of by those who opposed the extension of the franchise. There were advantages of education, and an advance was made under the Married Women’s Property Act. These, said their opponents, were secured without women having the vote but people who used arguments of that sort did not know that those improvements were the by-products of the work of the Suffrage Societies of those days.

If women had the vote, not one tithe of the energy which had been spent to secure those reformers would have been necessary. Parliamentary candidates were very considerate towards the people who had votes, and it was the need of the vote that urged some to fight. It was the weakest who had the hardest struggle in life, and the least they could do was to set women free to develop the power of self- protection and self-development by giving them the status of citizenship. (applause)

At the conclusions of her speech, Mrs Pankhurst was presented with a handsome bouquet by Miss Kennedy, who, with Miss Cumberland, represented Southampton on the last deputation to the Prime Minister. The Chairman expressed the hope that if it was necessary to send another deputation to the Prime Minister, a greater number of Southampton ladies would volunteer for militant action.

It was also announced that next month a visit would be paid to the town by Mr Hugh Franklin, who, to quote Miss Marsh’s words, “has just served six weeks” (imprisonment) because he wished to show Mr Churchill that the members of the Men’s Political Union were very much disgusted by the way in which the government treated the women at the recent deputation.

Questions were invited and the first point was, has women’s suffrage proved a success in those countries where it exists? Absolutely, replied Mrs Pankhurst. Has anything been gained by militant methods? was the next question and Mrs Pankhurst said that one result has been that the question had been put is such a position that politicians could not ignore it. The Commons now discussed the matter seriously.

Asked what prospect there was of the Government doing anything for women, Mrs Pankhurst said the prospect was very good, if the women of the country would keep the representatives “up to the mark”. The two local members were friends of the movement but they had done nothing for it.

Another question was: if the object of the Union is to obtain the vote on the same qualification as men, how do you propose to obviate the over-representation of property in parliament? The reply was that of the million and a quarter women who would obtain the vote under the proposed Conciliation Bill, over eighty per cent, were earning their own living and therefore the power of property would not be strengthened.

Another lad asked what good could accrue  to the thousands of factory girls if the vote was only given to propertied women, and Mrs Pankhurst said that the limited franchise for men had proved to be a good thing, and she did not see why a limited franchise should not do a great deal of good in improving the positions of women.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express (11.2.1911))

  • English suffragette Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960) stands on a platform to paint the front of the Women’s Social Defence League premises in Bow Road, East London, 11th October 1912. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Educational Reform For Women

Feminist, educational reformer and suffragist, Sarah Emily Davies (1830-1921) was born in Carlton Crescent, Southampton. The fourth child of the Rev. John Davies, D.D. rector of Gateshead who was working in Southampton as a locum vicar at the time of Emily’s birth. Although she had no formal education, Emily met John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) through her brother and as such was drawn into educational circles. When her father died she and her mother moved to London where she set about achieving her aim of higher education for women. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.22) Emily lived to cast her vote in the 1918 general election, aged 88, she died several years later in 1921.

  • ‘Food Values in our Restaurants’, 1917. The effect of university education for women on everyday life. A waitress, late of Girton College, Cambridge, is able to advise a surprised diner on the nutrition he will derive from his meal. Cartoon from Punch. (London, 14th February 1917). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

In 1869, Emily Davies co-founded Girton College, Cambridge University, along with Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) and Lady Henrietta Maria Stanley Alderley (1807-1895). Originally, the college was located in Hitchin in Hertfordshire before later moving to Girton, near Cambridge. Newnham, Cambridge first admitted women in 1871, Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1879, and the Royal Holloway College, London in 1886.

  • Female students at the Royal Holloway College in Egham, Greater London, c.1887. Originally a women-only college, it became part of the University of London in 1900 and began to admit male students in 1945. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 13th June 1908: Suffragettes who are students at Royal Holloway College march to the Albert Hall for a protest meeting. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

In 1878, University of London (founded by Royal Charter on 28th November, 1836), was the first university in Britain to admit women to its degrees. In 1880, four women passed the BA examination and in 1881 two women obtained a BSc. By 1895, over ten per cent of the graduates were women and by 1900 the proportion had increased to thirty per cent. (Source: University of London)

  • c.1900: Female undergraduates at work in the laboratory at Girton College, Cambridge University.  (Photo by Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images)

Florence Exten-Hann, a young socialist and feminist clerk from Southampton as well as WSPU member was one of the suffragettes known for her early morning pavement chalking activities. She joined the women’s section of the Shopworkers’ Union. Her father had been a member of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) which was active between 1881 and 1911. SDF was Britain’s first, organised, socialist political party.

She was also a member of the Clarion Cycling Club (CCC) formed in 1895 which had its roots in socialism (Clarion was the name of Robert Blatchford’s socialist newspaper). The CCC encouraged working class people to enjoy the freedom of a bicycle. By the early 1900s there were over eight thousand members of the CCC in Britain and it still exists today (National Clarion CC) with other one thousand six hundred members in over thirty sections.

  • England / Social History, Colour illustration, Suffragettes, Three women confront the Minister in their fight for votes outside the Houses of Parliament, c.1910 (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Primrose League

Another Southampton resident who played an important role in the political emancipation of women was Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885). In between his many globe-trotting adventures, Burnaby resided in Carlton Crescent. Burnaby along with Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), Sir Henry Drummond Wolff (1830-1908), Sir John Eldon Gorst (1835-1916) and Percy Mitford established the Primrose League in 1883 following their first meeting at the Carlton Club, London.

Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s (1804-1881) favourite flower was the primrose. This group of Disraeli admirers, led by Lord Churchill, set-up the Primrose League to promote Conservative aims and values. The League sought to encourage members of the working classes to be interested in Conservative politics by simplifying its manifesto in order to reach this target group.

  • Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villiers (1849 – 1945), Countess of Jersey, addresses a meeting of the Ladies’ Grand Council of the Primrose League at Princes Hall, Piccadilly, London, 1894. The Primrose League was founded in 1883 to promote Conservative principles in Britain. It was disbanded in 2004. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Foundation of the Primrose League was an important milestone in the history of women’s suffrage. The League was the first political organisation to give women the same status and responsibilities as men. Women could join in the various social events and community activities giving them an invaluable insight into political campaigning including canvassing at election time and supervision of voter registration.

A separate Ladies Branch and Grand Council were formed. The founder of the Ladies Grand Council was Lady Borthwick (later Lady Glenesk) and the first meeting of the committee took place at her house in Piccadilly in March, 1885. Lady Borthwick’s husband was owner of the Morning Post which merged with The Daily Telegraph in 1937.

However, in 1889, the organisation forbade members to take part in suffrage activities or to support the franchise for women. After women finally obtained the vote in 1918, membership dwindled. The Primrose League was wound-up in December 2004.

  • The arrest of suffragettes, left to right, Flora Drummond, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, with James Jarvis reading the warrant at Clement’s Inn, London on 13th October, 1908. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Janie Terrero

One of Southampton’s militant suffragettes, Janie Terrero (1858-1944), lived at Fir Tree Lodge, Bannister Road from 1898 with her husband Manuel until they moved to Rockstone House, Pinner, Middlesex in 1913. Mrs Terrero become Hon. Secretary of the Pinner WSPU. Mrs Terrero had support from her husband who was himself a member of the Men’s Political  Union. Whilst living in Southampton Janie Terrero held drawing-room meetings for the society in 1905 and 1907.

In March 1912, Mrs Terrero took part in a series of window-smashing demonstrations in London to coincide with the reading of the Conciliation Bill in Parliament. The women damaged shop windows, using hammers or stones, in the West End, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea. Over two hundred women were arrested, including Terrero who was sentenced to four months in Holloway prison . Whilst incarcerated, she wrote her thoughts on the experience:

I was in close confinement for twelve days, was in two hunger strikes and was forcibly fed in April and again in June. To those who intend to be actively militant, I want to say this; you cannot imagine how strong you feel in prison. The Government may take your liberty from you and lock you up, but they cannot imprison your spirit. The only one thing the Government really fears is the hunger strike. They fear it not because of our pain and suffering, but because it damages their majorities. How strong that weapon made us feel. If they had only dared, they would have put us in a lethal chamber. Some people wonder at the courage of our women, but I believe physical courage is a common attribute, and I do not see why women should possess it in a lesser degree than men.

(Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief)

Whilst in Holloway Prison, Terrero worked a handkerchief, bordered with purple, white and green, containing sixty-six embroidered signatures and two sets of initials of suffragettes who joined demonstrations in London, March, 1912. The handkerchief was probably embroidered during the women’s limited exercise periods. Most of the women who signed the handkerchief had taken part in the March demonstrations (Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief). The handkerchief is part of the Priest House’s collection, West Hoathly, West Sussex.

  • May 1921: British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst on her release from prison. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
  • ‘The Cat and Mouse Act’, 1914. Suffragette poster which graphically depicts the workings of the Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, known by the WSPU as the Cat and Mouse Act. During 1913 and 1914 the force-feeding of suffragettes on hunger-strike stopped. Instead, the weakened campaigners were released from prison on a special license but were liable to be re-arrested to complete their sentence when their health improved. The large, bloody-toothed cat represents the police, the prison authorities and the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, who was responsible for the Act. The ‘mouse’ is a small and injured suffragette. Intended to wear down the morale and resolve of the suffragettes, the Cat and Mouse Act failed in both theory and practice: when suffragettes were released they were nursed in suffragette nursing homes and then went into hiding, from where many of them continued to commit yet more militant ‘outrages’. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
  • Suffragettes on a ‘poster parade’ selling the Suffragette, 31st July, 1914. The women carry newspaper satchels and flags, and wear sandwich boards advertising their newspaper the Suffragette. The cover of the issue they are selling shows a suffragette being force-fed. Suffragettes were regarded by many as a public enemy, therefore it is to their credit that they parade their allegiances so openly. This was the last full week that they were able to campaign before the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Portsmouth

Although Southampton had a vibrant suffrage scene, a few miles down the road in Portsmouth, activities reached new political heights. The Southampton branch of the NUWSS worked in association with the Portsmouth Women’s Suffrage Society (1911-14), inviting local members of the WSPU to their meetings. On Portsmouth Socialist Network’s website, there is a timeline of the women’s fight in Portsmouth, click here.

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS seems to have been best organised. It even had its own headquarters by November 1913 at 2, Kent Road, Southsea. Fundraising was accomplished through jumble sales, sales of work and collections made at public meetings and in the streets. A young lad, Lancelot Surry, recalled a memorable cake and candy sale organised by the WSPU to which his mother sent a cake iced in purple, green and white. Sadly, no-one would buy it, so it was raffled.(Source: Hampshire Times, 7.11.1913 & Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp.20-21)

Portsmouth is a naval town with a reputation for strong-minded, independent women used to surviving whilst their husbands were away at sea. During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, a large majority of the town’s women were employed in the dress, corset and tailoring trades, other popular professions included domestic service, public administration and teaching. The middle and working classes of Portsmouth found a strong collective voice in the women’s suffrage movement.  (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

The different strands of the movement for women’s suffrage came together in Portsmouth. Women had played a significant role in the economic life of the town throughout the nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1901, as dress-makers, seamstresses and staymakers, they accounted for between 21 per cent and 33 per cent of the town’s industrial employment. There was of course a large available female labour force: the wives of dockyard workers, naval men and soldiers and foreign service.

When there were so many important questions before the country, a large proportion of which materially affected women’s interests. A wealthy woman who owned houses and land, who employed servants and work people was yet debarred, merely because of her sex, from having any say by way of a vote, in the political questions which were so vital to her interests.

(Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp. 4 & 6)

The first recorded act of militancy in Portsmouth in support of women’s suffrage was reported in June 1913 when Frederick Blessley, a ‘well-known speaker on behalf of “the cause” ‘ was charged with smashing a pane of glass worth 12s. 0d. in the Town Hall. The arson campaign continued throughout the summer, with only a brief respite during the holiday months of July and August. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.17)

  • Songsheet of ‘The March of the Women’, 1911. Songsheet in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white, showing women and children marching with the banner of the Women’s Social and Political Union, demanding votes for women. This anthem was written by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) in 1911 and was dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading campaigner in the suffragette movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Nora and Margaret O’Shea were two Portsmouth sisters who belonged to the local branch of the NUWSS. Margaret wrote the women’s suffrage song ‘Forward, Ever Forward’. The sisters’ interests were not confined to the suffrage campaign. They also devoted themselves to the welfare of animals, vegetarianism and the study of herbal remedies. Their hair, universally admired by their followers, owed its magnificence to the fact that they washed it in a solution of sage and other herbs grown in their garden. (Source:Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p. 8)

Forward, brave and dauntless

Daughters of this earth.

Let your dormant talents

Spring to glorious birth.


Children, toiling sisters,

Cry, and never rest;

Answer! We shall help you

Coming to our best.


Forward, fighting evils,

Deborahs, awake!

Up! And help your sisters

Victims at life’s stake.

(Margaret O’Shea’s women’s suffrage song, ‘Forward, Ever Forward’)

Not all of Portmouth’s women were supportive of the suffrage movement. The inaugural meeting of the Portsmouth branch of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was held at Sandringham Hall on 9th February, 1909. The  granddaughter of the town’s most famous novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Mary Angela Dickens (1862-1948) was one of its founding members. Mary spoke in Dublin about the suffrage activities and commented that:

What was called the irresponsible vote – the vote of the man who does not know and does not care – was already sufficiently large. Woman, if she devotes her time to domestic work – what time had she for the study of Imperial politics?

(‘Opponents of the Cause’, The Irish Times, 17.10.2012)

…the whole of the Suffragist propaganda was based on the ignoring and defying of the fundamental differences fixed by Nature herself between the existence of men and women… for the nation women’s suffrage would mean a huge, increased, irresponsible vote, ultimate petticoat government, and a weakening of that respect for law and order which was the very bulwark of the State.

(Mary Angela Dickens quoted in The Hampshire Times, 27.1.1909)

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS in the person of their chairman, Mrs Julia Hawksley, challenged Miss Dickens to take part in an open debate upon the subject of women’s suffrage. The debate never took place since the Anti-Suffragists finally declined the invitation. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

In 1918, forty-five thousand women in Portsmouth were entitled to vote and the town was the first in which women were called to vote. On the 18th November that year, Kate Edmund was elected Councillor in the town, by a majority of over six hundred votes.

  • Helena Bonham Carter takes part in filming of Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a movie has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015 (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
  • Actors (L-R) Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter take part in filming of the movie Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a feature film has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Snapshot of 1965 Britain

Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham about the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill's funeral. On location at Hever Castle, Kent. January 2015. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January.

Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham on location at Hever Castle, Kent. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January, 2015. (16 mins 10 secs in).

I was recently interviewed by BBC Inside Out  (26.1.15 – 16 mins 10 secs in) for a segment to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) death. Inside Out explored what Kent meant to Churchill as well as how he affected the lives of local people who worked for and met him. Churchill brought Chartwell, Westerham, Kent in 1922, the house became his lifelong family home.

Filmed on location at Hever Castle, Kent, I spoke to presenter Natalie Graham about society in 1965 Britain as well as Churchill’s painting legacy. We also discussed his friendship with John Jacob Astor V (1886-1971), 1st Baron Astor of Hever, a fellow politician, neighbour and owner of Hever Castle, one of the many Kent locations Churchill depicted in his art. Churchill encouraged Astor to paint, even giving him an easel as a gift. The easel, along with a paint-box and some of Astor’s artworks are on public display at Hever.

Occasionally with media interviews, one’s content is cut to the core and context of contribution gets lost in the editing suite. This article puts forward some of the fascinating points discussed during my original interview which sadly did not make it into the final edit.  These omitted observations provide us with a fascinating glimpse into what society was like in Britain 50 years ago. Churchill’s death marked the end of the old guard and a turning point in the social history of modern Britain.

  • ‘Churchill’s Funeral: World In Remembrance’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

On 30th January, 1965,  Sir Winston Churchill’s  State Funeral took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Churchill was the only commoner of the twentieth century to be given a State Funeral. Fifty years ago, many thousands of people, from banker to hippie, lined the city streets on a freezing cold Saturday. Millions more watched the event at home on their black and white television.  Viewing this event as a grainy image would have only added to the general atmosphere of sombre reflection displayed by the viewing public.

In January 1965, there were 17.3 million televisions in private domestic households in Britain (Source: BARB), the same year approximately 16 million licences were issued. Television ownership had significantly increased since the previous televised civic event, the Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June, 1953. In that year, 13 million television licences had been issued.

  • A family watch television in their sitting-room. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was estimated that 350 million people worldwide watched the live broadcast of Churchill’s funeral. In the United States, although there was live television coverage, it had no sound. Viewers had to wait for the videotape to be flown back to New York where it was immediately transmitted to the public in full.

Twenty-four hours before the funeral, London appeared rather subdued, although underground trains were still running, there were no visible signs of an impending civic event. Unlike today where barriers are erected, roads cordoned off and a heavy police presence is the norm. In January, 1965, everything continued as normal with only a few exceptions, flags were flown at half-mast and lights in Piccadilly Circus were turned out after the funeral, a similar gesture to when Churchill’s death had first been announced a week before.

  • The window of Boots the Chemist in Piccadilly Circus, London, with the London Pavilion opposite, 20th April 1965. (Photo by Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images)

After the service, Churchill’s coffin was taken by barge (the Havengore) along the Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier then onto Waterloo Station. The coffin continued its journey by train to Churchill’s final resting place, the Parish Church at Bladon, Oxfordshire. The interment was a private, family, affair.

  • Churchill Funeral Train Memo. Pg 1, 1965. (Photo by National Railway Museum/SSPL/Getty Images)
  • People watch from their garden at Winston Churchill’s funeral train. 1965. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

The carriage that transported Churchill to Oxfordshire was a 1931, Southern Railway luggage van (n. 2464). It is now on display in the National Railway Museum, York to mark this 50th Anniversary. What interests me most about this carriage is, like Churchill, it had a long service history. During World War Two it transported vegetables and newspapers across the country. At the end of its life, this humble work horse was redeployed to perform one more public duty, perhaps the most important in its history, to deliver Churchill to his final destination on life’s journey.

  • Churchill’s coffin being loaded onto a train at Waterloo Station, London, before travelling to Blenheim Palace and Bladon after his State Funeral, London, 30th January 1965. The train was pulled by a Battle-of-Britain-Class locomotive named ‘Winston Churchill’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 28th January 1965: Two members of the Womens Voluntary Service serving free cups of tea to the crowds of people queuing to see Churchill lying in state at Westminster Hall in London. The sign reads: ‘You’ve got a long wait. Free Tea! Or give what you can’. (Photo by Philip Townsend/Express/Getty Images)

My stepfather, who was working in Westminster at the time, paid respects to Churchill at Westminster Hall during his lying in state period. Dad told me that he and his work colleagues were expected to visit Westminster Hall, it was their civic duty, despite the tedium of queuing for hours on end, “at least we were given free tea whilst we waited!”, he remarked.

Many thousands of people also made the pilgrimage to London to pay their respects to a man who was so instrumental in freeing Europe from Nazi tyranny. In sixties Britain, a new generation of young people were now able to enjoy the benefits of living in a free and liberal society thanks to the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents during World War Two.

  • Photograph taken during the British Transport Films production ‘London’s Millions’, made in 1965. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

My mother, a baby boomer, came of age in 1965. She remembers her family, neighbours and friends all watching the funeral on a black and white Bush television that had been purchased for the occasion. A number of the shops in her home town closed their shutters and a few shopkeepers put black crepe ribbons around their windows. Some employers also gave their staff the morning off of work to watch the funeral.

My mother in 'swinging London' c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother in ‘swinging London’ c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother recalls several older members of her parents’ generation wearing a black armband as a mark of respect, a tradition that had pretty much fallen out of favour with the public since George VI’s death in 1952 when this practice was commonplace.

My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

Like so many who watched Churchill’s funeral on that wintry day in 1965, my mother particularly remembers the image of cranes along the Thames lowering their arms as the coffin, on board the Havengore, passed by. Although, this scene was orchestrated and paid for by the state rather than being a spontaneous heartfelt gesture from the ‘working man’. The dock workers who operated the cranes were actually paid to perform this manoeuvre. Some refused to do it as a point of political and personal principle.

  • ‘A Year In Our Time’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

Churchill’s death marked the end of the old order and everything it represented, particularly Victorian conservatism. 1965 was the year that modern Britain began. Educational reforms gathered pace, new secondary modern comprehensives were created to provide a fairer system of learning for all. In hindsight, some educationalists acknowledge that the comprehensive system didn’t really work, it simply created a greater social divide within the secondary sector.

Labour MP Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) became Home Secretary in 1965. Jenkins immediately began to push forward with new legislation such as the abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion.

The contraceptive pill first came to Britain from the United States in 1961 but until 1964 it was only available to married women for the sole purpose of regulating menstrual problems. In 1964/65 right through until the early 1970s ‘the pill’ revolutionised women’s (and men’s!) sexual freedom thanks to restrictions being lifted on the medical conditions for which the pill could be prescribed. Women could now take charge of their family planning, putting childbearing ‘on hold’ in order to pursue careers and educational opportunities if they should so wish. It wasn’t until 1974 that, controversially, ‘the pill’ became available to all women, for free, at family planning clinics.

  • ‘The Pill’, 1965. A photograph showing a factory line of women packing boxes containing the contraceptive pill, taken by Chris Barham in 1965 for the Daily Herald newspaper. 8 million birth control pills were produced weekly at G.D. Searle’s High Wycombe pharmaceutical firm. This particular brand has the trade name ‘Ovulen’. The contraceptive pill was first distributed in Europe in 1961- recommended solely for regulating menstrual disorders in married women. By the late 1960s, however, ‘the Pill’ had come to symbolise social change, sexual liberation and women’s fight for equal rights. This photograph has been selected from the Daily Herald Archive, a collection of over three million photographs. The archive holds work of international, national and local importance by both staff and agency photographers. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
  • November 1965: Chelsea fashion designer and make-up manufacturer Mary Quant. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
  • 28th September 1965: US actress Raquel Welch in London, in front of a poster promoting her latest film ‘One Million Years BC’. (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)

  • ‘Matchbox Cars’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • The Beatles go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs, London, 1965. Film by British Pathe. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014.

In popular and consumer culture, 1965 was a landmark year. The Beatles film Help! debuted in London and The Sound of Music , directed by Robert Wise, was released. Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt from her shop Bazaar on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. Sony marketed their ‘CV-2000′, the first home video tape recorder. Children’s toy ‘Spirograph’, developed by British engineer, Denys Fisher (1918-2002), was first sold.

  • Sony CV-2000 half-inch reel-to-reel videotape recorder. In 1965, Sony launched a domestic videorecorder, the CV2000, which would record a 30 minute monochrome 405-line tv programme on a reel of tape. It was very expensive (several thousand pounds in today’s terms) and complicated to use so it never caught on for home use. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images).
  • Pattern drawn by a member of the Science Museum Workshop staff using a Spirograph, a popular graphic toy that can be used to draw combinations of curves. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • 1965: A high street supermarket with shelves laden with tinned food. (Photo by Jackson/Central Press/Getty Image.

The 1960s was when supermarkets first appeared on British high streets. Customer self-service replacing shopkeepers in taupe overcoats (a la Arkwright) who individually selected and wrapped your purchases for you.  Asda opened its first supermarket in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1965. Some might say that the supermarket concept, which began in this decade, altered the retail landscape of our high streets forever.

  • New range of central heating boilers, 1965. In a studio photograph, a model adjusts her new Autostat 502 model central heating boiler from the Victory range of gas-fired domestic heating boilers. (Photo by Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images)
  • c.1965: A housewife places a plate on the ledge between the kitchen and the dining room while her husband sits at a table in the dining room, England. The woman stands behind a stove. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Popular restaurant group PizzaExpress, founded by Peter Boizot, opened its first restaurant in London’s Wardour Street in 1965. Boizot was inspired by a trip to Italy and brought back to London a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily. Also this year, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened an outlet in Preston’s Fishergate, the first American fast food chain to open in Britain.

  • Standing outside the fish and chip shop in two items from the Lee Cecil ‘Jetsetters’ collection are Jackie Bowyer, left, and Judy Gomm, right. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • The scene outside Wandsworth prison the day after Ronald Biggs, one of the Great Train Robbers, escaped with three other prisoners. Biggs made his escape by jumping through a hole in the roof of the furniture van shown here, onto mattresses, and then out of the back of the van into a waiting car. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images).

On 7th January, 1965, identical twin brothers, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (1933-1995 & 2000) are arrested on suspicion of running a protection racket in London. On 8th July, Great Train Robber, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Biggs (1929-2013), escaped from Wandsworth Prison having only served 15 months of his 30 year sentence. Biggs scaled the prison wall with a rope ladder and dropped down into a waiting removal van. He fled to Brussels by boat, then on to Paris where he had plastic surgery and obtained new identity papers. The following year Biggs arrived in Australia where he lived until 1970 when he fled once more, this time to Brazil, a country which did not have an extradition treaty with Britain. He didn’t return to Britain until 2001 where he was re-arrested and imprisoned but released on compassionate grounds, 6th August, 2009.

  • A search is carried out on Saddleworth Moor for missing children Keith Bennett (top right), Pauline Reade (bottom left) and John Kilbride (bottom right), October 1965. All three were the victims of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Moors murderers, Ian Brady (1938- ) and Myra Hindley (1942-2002) carried out their gruesome crimes between July, 1963 and October, 1965. Their victims were five children aged between 10 and 17 – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The pair were arrested on the morning of 7th October, 1965.  Their trial was held over 14 days beginning on 19th April 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.

On 8th November, 1965, The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment for murder in England, Scotland and Wales, for five years in the first instance, replacing it with a mandatory sentence for life imprisonment. When sentencing Brady and Hindley in 1966, the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment, the public were outraged.

  • 23rd December 1965: Blue Peter presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton with the programme’s dog, Honey. Blue Peter is a BBC children’s TV programme. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

  • ‘Pop Goes The Fashion’ (1965) British Pathe film. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.2014.
  • People/ Fashion, Couple walk hand in hand, the lady wearing white striped jacket and navy blue skirt, and the man a smart suit, Trafalgar Square, London, 1965 (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Entertainment, Personalities, London, 29th June 1965, Five hopeful young women about to start rehearsals for West End roles in ‘Passion Flower Hotel’, L-R: Karin Fernald, Jean Muir, Jane Birkin, Francesca Annis and Pauline Collins (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • 14th February 1965: Pop singer, pirate radio station operator and would-be member of parliament, Screaming Lord Sutch (David Sutch) dancing at the Black Cat Club in Woolwich. (Photo by Pace/Getty Images)
  • 7th October 1965: Actress Britt Ekland sitting on the Mini her husband Peter Sellers (1925 – 1980) bought for her birthday, at the Radford Motor Company showroom, Hammersmith, London. (Photo by David Cairns/Express/Getty Images)

  • ‘Diane Westbury is Miss Great Britain’ (1965) film by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • ‘Avengers Fashion Show in 1965 – “Dressed To Kill”‘ by British Pathe. Uploaded by Vintage Fashions Channel, You Tube, 9.9.2011.

On Yer Bike! Cycling Tips From 1897


It will be seen that matters cycling occupy an important place in The Rambler. The cycle may be described as the key to the country. Certainly there is no way of learning and knowing the country equal to cycling. In fact without cycling we are absolutely at a loss to understand how the great majority of the dwellers in large cities in this Kingdom could see anything of the country except occasional flying glimpses of it from the train.

However, if a prominent position is given to cycling let it be distinctly understood that the paper will not be filled with cycle puffs and cycling advertisements, nor with accounts of runs by clubs of whom no one ever heard, nor with lengthy reports of the rulings of the various cycling associations.

Everything in The Rambler relating to cycling will be treated of only by experts. For example, in the first number will be found contributions by F. T. Bidlake, M. A. Holbein, and many other well-known writers. We need only mention that the paper will be edited by Mr Charles P. Sisley, the best cycling Editor of the day, and our readers will understand that any statements regarding cycling may be depended upon, as nothing will be allowed to appear on the subject which has not passed his very critical cycling eye.

(The Rambler magazine, Vol 1. No. 1, 22nd May, 1897)

Recently I got the urge to purge my vintage magazines and ephemera.  Sorting my collection always takes twice as long as it really should, I stop to read all the advertisements, articles and classifieds just in case there is a great story hiding in the column inches. I came across a rather dog-eared but nonetheless charming copy of The Rambler from 22nd May, 1897, Vol 1 No. 1, first edition. A penny weekly magazine devoted to outdoor life and articles about cycling in the countryside feature heavily.

By the 1890s cycling had become extremely popular in Britain, particularly with women, as it offered them an escape from house and husband. This was also the age of suffragism, socialism and the civil rights movement. Many female campaigners used bicycles as their preferred mode of transport. The bicycle represented, freedom, mobility and independence.

  • Cycling, c1890. French illustration of a lady in ‘Rational’ cycling dress of knickerbockers and gaiters, giving her small daughter a ride on the saddle of her bicycle. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

The Rambler, 1897.


In my edition of The Rambler, all illustrations depict the female cyclist wearing long skirts, conservatively dressed, modesty preserved. However, in the 1890s, cycling for some women provided an opportunity to make a political statement via their mode of dress. In 1881, The Rational Dress Society was formed, spearheaded by Lady Florence Harberton (1843-1911), Mary Eliza Haweis (1848-1898) and Constance Wilde (1859-1898) (wife of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)). The Society’s mission statement read:

The Rational Dress Society protests against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly-fitting corsets; of high-heeled shoes; of heavily-weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible; and of all tie down cloaks or other garments impeding on the movements of the arms. It protests against crinolines or crinolettes of any kind as ugly and deforming….[It] requires all to be dressed healthily, comfortably, and beautifully, to seek what conduces to birth, comfort and beauty in our dress as a duty to ourselves and each other.

 In 1892 free-spirited traveller and advocate of the outdoors, Miss Lillias Campbell Davidson, established the Lady Cyclists’ Association. Davidson was well-placed to head-up this new organisation and in 1896, her Handbook for Lady Cyclists was published. Previously she had written Hints for Lady Travellers (1889) in which she recommended the following dress code for ladies embarking upon cycling tours:

Wear as few petticoats as possible; dark woollen stockings in winter, and cotton in summer; shoes, never boots; and have your gown made neatly and plainly of flannel without loose ends or drapery to catch in your [bicycle]… Grey is the best colour, or heather mixture tweed, which does not show dust or mud stains, and yet cannot lose its colour under a hot sun.


The Rambler, 1897.

Below are a few of my favourite quotes from The Rambler:

And she smiled sweetly: “How frightful I must look!” exclaimed the young woman cyclist who had fallen into a muddy excavation in the street. “You look,” exclaimed the panting but infatuated youth who had lifted her out, “like 150 pounds of extracted honey!”.

Queen Victoria and cycling: of the ladies in the Royal household Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Albany was perhaps the first to start the fashion of cycling, for in 1884 the Queen presented her with a valuable little tricycle, and displayed much interest in the course of instruction, which took place in the grounds. It is stated that Her Majesty, herself unable to resist the temptation, mounted in private and took a turn round her beautiful domain at Osborne.

A small but important matter: When having the bell attached to the handle-bars of a machine, be careful in seeing that it is within easy reach of your thumb without moving either hand from the grips. The bell should be rung without a moment’s hesitation if danger has to be avoided, and very frequently a second or two lost in reaching it, if near the centre of the bars, means a bad smash. A small bell again is not much good. It is better to purchase, within reasonable limits of course, a bell the clang of which can be heard without difficulty, instead of a tinkling little affair, the sound of which is drowned by the noise of ordinary traffic.

Formidable enemies of cyclists: The most formidable stinging insect in Britain is the hornet. Its attack is really extremely painful, but it is not very often encountered. Wasps are really more of a nuisance than hornets, for though less virulent they are more abundant, and will sometimes sting without provocation, being apparently subject to fits of bad temper.

Learn to ride with your mouth shut and breathe through your nose. To ride a long journey quickly and with comfort, eat beef steak and bread, taking no drink at the time. When very thirsty drink only hot tea, and take bread or toast with it. A good thirst quencher is to put the wrists in cold water.

Stock ties and collars are most invariably

Stock ties and collars are almost invariable with shirts for cycling. Two examples are here portrayed, the one showing the stock in bow form, while the other is simply crossed and caught with a pin. The latter is considered the better style. Many women are advocating skirt straps as shown below. These are of elastic, the loop passing beneath the instep, a method very distinctly advantageous in a high wind. The most useful chatelaine contains scissors, pin case, tablets, pencil and knife. A strap for these is now often found in lieu of a chain. A chronometer is now frequently affixed to the handle-bar. Smart park shoes for riding have Cromwellian flaps. (The Rambler, 1897)

Happy New Year 2015 & Historical Pinboard 1915


  • Greetings card from 1915. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

Happy New Year readers, welcome to 2015!  I’ve no idea what this year holds but as with everything in life, best ‘roll with the punches’. I have never been a fan of making New Year’s resolutions but am rather partial to writing endless lists. One such list I have compiled contains historical anniversaries coming-up over the next twelve months, there are quite a few of them, here’s my top selection:

  • January 24th (50th) death of Sir Winston Churchill;
  • April 25th (100th) start of the Gallipoli Campaign in World War One which ended on 9th January, 1916;
  • May 7th (250th) launch of the HMS Victory, (100th) sinking of the RMS Lusitania, (70th) 8th V.E. Day, (75th) 27th-4th June – Dunkirk invasions;
  • June 2nd (175th) birth of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), 16th (100th) foundation of the British Women’s Institute, 18th (200th) Battle of Waterloo, 15th (800th) Magna Carta issued;
  • July 10th-31st October (75th) Battle of Britain;
  • September 6th (100th) first Women’s Institute meeting held in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales;
  • October 12th (100th) British nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915) is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium, 15th (600th) Battle of Agincourt.

  • Battle of Britain Memorial, unveiled in 1993, situated on the white cliffs near Capel-le-Ferne between Dover and Folkestone, Kent.

  • Engraving (1873) featuring King John (1166-1216) signing The Magna Carta (1215).

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some newspaper reports from a hundred years ago:

A New Year is dawning – a year of great possibilities, great responsibilities, and, we believe, great achievements. The year of 1914 has marked an epoch in the history of the world, and as it recedes into the shadows of the past our thoughts go back to its early days, before the German war of aggression darkened the peaceful lands of Europe.

At the beginning of January, 1914, the British public, which dearly loves deeds of adventure, was thrilled by the news that Sir E. Shackleton had decided to lead another expedition to the South Polar regions, and in November tidings were received that the party had reached Sydney on its journey southwards.

Scarcely a year has passed, and Great Britain is engaged in the greatest venture she has ever undertaken – a venture which has stirred the imagination, the sympathy, and the loyalty of Britons all over the world. As the bells welcome in the New Year the sons of the great World Empire are fighting with the Allies in France and Belgium; against the Germans in Africa; and Volunteers are devoting themselves to strenuous exercise in the Dominions and in the training camps of England, preparing  themselves for active service in the early spring. 

  • August 1915: Posters at Marylebone Station advertising war loans. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Day by day tales of unflinching courage, resourcefulness, and heroism reach us from the theatre of war. The news of the great air and sea battle of Cuxhaven, which came filtering through on Sunday night, outvied for sheer daring, skill, and ingenuity the most romantic story of adventure penned by novelists of any age. And while Great Britain can produce men like these she is able fearlessly to bring to a successful conclusion tasks, however difficult, with which she may be confronted in the immediate future.

Therefore, with high hopes, unbounded enthusiasm, and never-faltering optimism, she greets the New Year of 1915. British commerce is satisfactory in spite of the depression caused by the war, and British goods are in ever increasing demand all over the world. The great British Fleet is patrolling the seas, and merchant ships pass to and fro to neutral countries carrying their freight to distant parts. German and Austrian goods, which were stocked in quantities by many English shops, have now been largely superseded by British, bearing a label “British Made”. For quality, finish, and general workmanship they cannot be equalled.

(Preston Leader, 13.2.1915)

  • Soldiers reading the Suffragette newspaper, April 1915. That week’s editorial by Christabel Pankhurst expressed intensely anti-German sentiments typical of the time. The front cover image is a reproduction of a French cartoon of Joan of Arc (St Joan) in full military armour, hovering as an angel above Rheims Cathedral, which had been badly damaged in September 1914. The headline screams: ‘That which the fire and Sword of the Germans Can Never Destroy’. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Votes for women announced at the beginning of 1915. We may claim that our efforts to keep the suffrage flag flying in spite of the war have met with a gratifying and stimulating measure of success. In several instances we have through the columns of the paper and by means of meetings, deputations & etc  been able to draw public attention to serious abuses which have made the lot of women in wartime harder even than in peace; but never for a moment have we lost sight of our single goal; the enfranchisement of women.

The Woman’s Right-To-Serve Demonstration: A Great Procession. The demonstration, on July 17, of thousands of women from all classes-aristocrats, professionals, workers in many forms of art and industry, women who rejoice in demonstrating, and women whom nothing but clear conviction and a strong sense of duty would draw from their quiet homes into the glare of publicity – which was organised to demand as a right that women should be allowed to take their share in munition and other war work, was a success in every detail, except the weather, which was deplorable.

….it was picturesque, enthusiastic and impressive, and drew a concourse of many thousands, some of whom may have “come to scoff”, and when the story of the World War comes to be written, the patriotic part played by women of the Empire, of France, of Belgium, of Italy, of Russia, will be chronicled, and this great demonstration of women craving to work for the war will find honourable place.

(The Illustrated London News, 24.7.1915)

  • A lithographic comical postcard promoting an anti-suffrage sentiment concerning women’s rights, published in New York City (1915). The husband washes clothes and watches the baby and cat at home. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

  • Suffragette Rally, Trafalgar Square, London, ‘Suffragettes Help The War Effort’ (1915). British Pathe – Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

Undoing the Dardanelles blunder: The withdrawal of the British troops from two of the three points held on the Gallipoli Peninsula may be taken as a sign that the Government has at least realized the stupendous blunder is committed in venturing upon this expedition, the earlier phases of which Mr Churchill described as a ‘gamble.’ A gamble it has proved in the lives of the most heroic of our race. The casualties at the Dardanelles numbered up to November 9 no fewer than 106,000 officers and men. In addition, sickness on this front accounted for 90,000 down to October. A loss of nearly 200,000 men was thus incurred without any adequate result.

Not only did the Government despatch to the Dardanelles forces which, judiciously utilized at other points, might have achieved the greatest results; not only did it divert to the Near East munitions at a time when we were perilously short of high-explosive shells. It also deceived the nation as to the position and prospects after its strokes had signally failed through initial mismanagement or the inadequacy of the army employed. The public has not forgotten the optimistic assurances of Mr Churchill, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Kitchener.

Mr Lloyd George’s speech last evening really contains the gravest indictment that has as yet been drawn against the Government. Here is a confession that when the Germans were in May making 250,000 high-explosive shells a day the British production was only 2,500. Even now he implies that, despite great efforts, we have not equalled the German output. Shall we ever overtake it? Only if the nation works its hardest. The fatal words of the war, he said, were ‘too late’. These words have dogged the Allies’  every step.

(Daily Mail, 21.12.1915)

Rye, East Sussex: Hideout For Smugglers & Haven For Writers

  • Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex.
Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).

Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).

Through the ages – sackings and burnings, invader and pirates, smugglers and highwaymen, Kings and Queens, statesmen and reformers, and, in more recent years, threats of invasion, bombs and incendiaries, to say nothing of “doodle bugs.”

And yet through it all Rye seems to stand quite imperturbable and seemingly unconcerned with the passage of time, for we read that in 1263 the Friar of the Sack were allowed “to dwell in peace and quietude… in the Town of Rye,” and we can stand in the same street to-day and feel the same sense of “peace and quietude” and realize that nothing seems to have altered in the last 700 years. The peculiar appeal of Rye is that inasmuch as other towns take you back to the past, Rye brings the past ages right into the present day.

(Handbook and Guide: Rye, Winchelsea & Northiam by L.A. Vidler and W. MacLean Homan, 1950)

I spent my childhood in East Sussex, it is a picturesque county with a fascinating history dating back to the 5th Century AD when South Saxons settled there following the Romans’ departure.  The ancient town of Rye, close to the East Sussex coastline, was once contained in the Manors of Rameslie and Brede. I visited Rye many times with my family and is a town that remains close to my heart.


In my collection of vintage publications there is a 1950 copy of the Rye & District Holiday Guide. It is a joy to dip in and out of this little book, a slice of nostalgia from post-war Britain. For a majority of Britons, 1950 was not a time of prosperity, food rationing was still in place and petrol rationing did not end until 26th May that year. During the early 1950s, many Britons chose to spend their holidays or days out close to home. Guidebooks, such as this one, became an invaluable resource. It was not until the end of the decade that one in three British families owned a car and venturing outside of one’s locality became the norm.

Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

The guidebook is jam-packed full of advertisements promoting local tourist attractions as well as establishments offering that ever popular British staple, afternoon tea. In the back section there is a comprehensive accommodation list, some of the descriptions given are so charming, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourites with you:

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District  Holiday Guide (1950).

The Mill, Iden-by-Rye. An old Millhouse all on one floor, rooms of good size and comfortably furnished. On Bus route 2 miles from Rye and situated in country surroundings. Our own farm produce. Sandwiches willingly packed. Inclusive terms. 

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Monastery Guest House, High Street, Rye. Principal rooms overlooking secluded garden flanked by the original old Monastery Chapel wall (1379). Spend a restful holiday in a happy atmosphere with comfort, courtesy and consideration.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Thornton House, Northiam (near Rye). Ideal for country holidays. Good food, a happy atmosphere and every consideration. Bus and London coaches pass the gate. Inclusive terms from 4  1/2 guineas weekly.

Robin Hill is a Guest House unusual – antiquity with fine old oak beams and timbered rooms with cosy chimney corners, yet possessing every modern convenience.

Rye as a touring centre is ideal for walkers, cyclists and motorists. Rolling wooded country North and West of the town, the sea to the South, and the wonderful Romney Marshes to the East. Good roads radiate in all directions with country lanes and paths in profusion.

Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Rye together with its surrounding area, has long been a mecca for literary types.  Playwright John Fletcher (1579-1625) was born in Rye in 1579 at the Old Vicarage House and at which his father, the Rev. Richard Fletcher, then resided as minister and preacher during the vicariate of Rev. Richard Connope, an absentee; as he would not resign in Mr Fletcher’s favour, the latter left Rye when his famous son was two years old. John Fletcher’s birthplace was pulled down in 1699 and a new house re-erected in 1701.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

  • Henry James poses outside Lamb House c.1900. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images).

Lamb House (National Trust), Rye was home to American novelist Henry James (1843-1916) from 1897 until his death. James wrote The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904) in house’s garden room (destroyed by a bomb in World War Two). Lamb House featured as Mr Longdon’s home in The Awkward Age (1899).

  • E. (Edward) F. (Frederic) Benson, c.1915. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

E. F. Benson (1867-1940) moved to Rye in 1919 and lived at Lamb House. He wrote six novels and two short stories in the popular ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series. These quintessentially English novels depict life in a 1930s provincial market town. Four novels are set in Tilling, a fictional location based upon Rye. Lamb House became the model for Mapp’s, as well as for a little while, Lucia’s home, ‘Mallards’. Benson was Mayor of the Borough of Rye from 1934 and accorded Honorary Freedom of the Borough on March 22nd, 1938.

The main protagonists of Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books are two sharp-tongued, well-healed ladies, Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas (Lucia) who both jostle for pole position in Tilling society. Newcomer to Tilling, Lucia, sets out to topple the town’s resident queen bee, Mapp. There are plenty of jolly japes and cutting remarks along the way too.

A new adaptation of Mapp and Lucia aired on BBC One, Christmas 2014. A three-parter written by Steve Pemberton (who also plays flamboyant Georgie Pillson, Lucia’s sidekick) and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence (Desperate Romantics, Anglo Saxon Attitudes, Little Dorrit).

  • ‘On location with Mapp and Lucia’, behind the scenes with the BBC cast and crew in Rye. Uploaded to You Tube (17.12.14) by National Trust Charity.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

In 1773, theologian John Wesley (1703-1791) visited Rye, East Sussex, and wrote in his diary: ‘I found the people willing to hear the good word at Rye but they will not part with the accursed thing, smuggling.’ During the eighteenth century, Rye and nearby Romney Marshes were awash with smuggling activities. Bandits would smuggle goods such as brandy and tobacco in at night by boat from France to avoid high import taxes.

  • Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), English actor and novelist, early 20th century. Thorndike was the brother of Dame Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

One of the most notorious gangs of smugglers was the Hawkhurst Gang who frequented The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye. Actor and author Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), born in Rochester, Kent, wrote a series of books, known as the Dr Syn series, based upon eighteenth century smuggling activities on the Romney Marshes. The main protagonist is the swashbuckling Rev. Dr Christopher Syn who leads a rebel band against the King’s press gangs.

Books in the Dr Syn series are:

  • Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh (1915)
  • Doctor Syn on the High Seas (1935)
  • Doctor Syn Returns (1935)
  • Further Adventures of Doctor Syn (1936)
  • Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn (1938)
  • Amazing Quest of Doctor Syn (1939)
  • Shadow of Doctor Syn (1944)

  • Clip from The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh , a television adaptation of Thorndike’s concluding Dr Syn novel (but written first). This television series aired in three parts in 1963. Uploaded to You Tube 23.4.11.
Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).

Illustration from Rye & District History Guide (1950).

A Very Merry Georgian Christmas – Chawton House Library, Hampshire

  • A short ‘stills’ film I made showcasing the Georgian Christmas event at Chawton House Library, Hampshire (13.12.14).

Although Chawton House, Hampshire, is not a Georgian property (it was built between c.1583 and c.1665), it is still the perfect setting to step back in time and experience Christmas during the long eighteenth century.

©Come Step Back In Time

Chawton House Library, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Georgian period started in 1714 and ended in 1830. In 1797, Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) third eldest brother, Edward Austen Knight (1768-1852), took control of the Chawton estate after inheriting it from his childless relatives, Catherine and Thomas Knight.

Jane Austen's home, Chawton, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time

Jane Austen’s home, Chawton, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time

Edward’s new situation, as a gentleman of considerable wealth, enabled him to take care of his mother and two unmarried sisters (Jane and Cassandra). In 1809, he moved the three of them into Chawton Cottage, located only a short walk from his estate in the nearby village. Whilst living in Chawton, Jane had four of her novels published:

Edward did not live at Chawton House but instead spent most of his time at his other estate, Godmersham, Kent, letting out his property at Chawton to gentlemen tenants. His brother Frank also borrowed the house at one time. Jane’s mother and her sister are both buried at St. Nicholas Church, situated in the grounds of Chawton House. Jane died in 1817 in Winchester and is buried in the north aisle of the Cathedral nave.

Jane Austen's mother and sister are buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church on the Chawton estate. ©Come Step Back In Time

Jane Austen’s mother and sister are buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church on the Chawton estate. ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

During the eighteenth century, the Knight Family kept a handwritten cook book (Knight Family Cookbook), not uncommon for a household of Chawton’s size. However, what is unique is that the Knight’s cookbook has survived in good condition. The cook book was compiled on behalf Thomas Knight for his sister, when he died, the manuscript passed to Edward.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

When I recently attended  ‘A Georgian Christmas at Chawton House Library’, facsimile copies of the handwritten The Knight Family Cookbook  were available to view. A hardback version of the cook book (un-transcribed) has just been published by Chawton House Press. Eminent food historian, Dr Annie Gray, gave a fascinating talk exploring the Georgians’ dining habits.

The Georgian period as a whole has got an awful lot going for it. The clothing is fabulous, the attitudes are interesting, the Enlightenment is in full swing and people are questioning philosophical, medical and culinary viewpoints, left, right and centre. As for the food, especially the feasting food, you cannot beat it. I would say that the flavours, tastes and textures of Georgian cooking are probably the best. Some of the combinations are just knockouts.

(Dr Annie Gray, extract from Chawton House Library website)

Food historian Dr Annie Gray dressed as a Georgian Housekeeper from c.1770/80. ©Come Step Back In Time

Food historian Dr Annie Gray dressed as a Georgian Housekeeper from c.1770/80. ©Come Step Back In Time

Dr Gray also treated us to food samples recreated from recipes she had transcribed from The Knight Family Cookbook. A delicious spread of sweet treats, cinnamon cakes, ginger cakes, mincemeat pies (with cow tongue!) and Twelfth Cake. There is an excellent interview with Dr Gray about the allure of Georgian festive fare on the Chawton House Library blog. Click here.


In Georgian England, Christmas lasted much longer than it does today. It began on 6th December (St. Nicholas’ Day) and ended with Twelfth Night  (6th January, feast of the Epiphany). This month long season became a time of balls, dinner parties, dancing, playing parlour games, singing carols and, of course, feasting.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The upper echelons of society engaged in acts of philanthropy not only towards the poor but also their own servants. On St. Stephen’s Day (26th December), Christmas boxes filled with cake, money and clothing were donated, the modern name, ‘Boxing Day’, originates from this tradition. Dr Gray explained that festivities among the poorer sections of society were rather bawdy, drunken affairs. They would consume lots of boiled meats and puddings, that had been cooked in the household cauldron, normally used for washing laundry!

Christmas dinner table laid a la francaise in the Oak Room at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

Christmas dinner table laid à la française (where all dishes were served at the same time) in the Oak Room at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

During the Georgian era, dining was an exciting experience. According to Dr Gray:

No children were present at the dining table, mealtimes were very much an adult affair. It was a ‘choose your own dining adventure’, the most exciting method of dining. The table would be laid à la française [all dishes served at the same time] with between five and twenty dishes for each course. The second course usually consisted of roast meats (game, beef, sirloin and game) from the landowner’s own estate. Another Georgian delicacy was brawn, made from a stewed pig’s head.

Plum pudding [plumb pudden] was treated like modern-day chutney. It goes very well with beef. Georgian plum puddings had a stiffer structure than we are now used to, it held its shape and could be sliced. If you fry slices of Georgian plum pudding, pair with slices of beef and cover in gravy it is delicious. Mincepies were not all sweet like they are now, one third of the filling was actual meat, for example calf or cow tongue.

Service à la française dated back to the Middle Ages and continued until the nineteenth century when it was gradually replaced by service à la russe, a succession of courses, each one cleared away before the next, we still use this style today. The rules of Georgian dining table etiquette were very strict:

When dinner is announced the mistress request the lady first in rank, to shew the way to the rest.., she then asks the second in precedence to follow, and after all the ladies are passed, she brings up the rear herself…The master of the house does the same with the gentlemen…The mistress of the table sits at the upper end (with) those of superior rank next to her, right and left, those next in rank following, then the gentlemen, and master at the lower end….

Soup is generally the first thing served, and should be stirred from the bottom….Where there are several dishes at table, the mistress of the house carves that which is before her, and desires her husband, or person at the bottom of the table, to carve the joint or bird before him…

Eating quick or very slow at meals is characteristic of the vulgar; the first infers poverty, that you have not had a meal for sometime; the last … that you dislike your entertainment. So again eating your soup with your nose in the plate, is vulgar, it has the appearance of being used to hard work, and having, of course, an unsteady hand….Smelling to the meat whilst on the fork, before you put it in your mouth…To be well received you must always be circumspect at table, where it is exceedingly rude to scratch any part of your body, to spit, to blow your nose (if you can’t avoid it turn your head), to lean elbows on the table, etc.., etc.., to leave the table before grace is said.

(The Honours of the Table, or Rules for Behaviour during meals by John Trusler (1791))

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Greenery featured heavily at Christmas in the Georgian house and represented the strength of life through cold winter months. Greenery included, holly, evergreen, kissing boughs of holly, ivy and rosemary, foliage was dressed with spices, apples, oranges, candles, and ribbons, all of which would be put-up on Christmas Eve. Kissing boughs would only be hung in the servants’ quarter.

Servants' Gallery at Chawton House Library decorated with greenery. ©Come Step Back In Time

Servants’ Gallery at Chawton House Library decorated with greenery and mistletoe. ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Yule logs were the centrepiece of Georgian Christmas decorations. The largest log on the estate would be chosen, one big enough to burn throughout Christmas Day. The log was so large it stick out of the fire hearth into the room and was wrapped in hazel twigs. A small piece of the log would be kept to light the following year’s Yule log.

Smaller version of the traditional Yule log at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

Smaller version of the traditional Yule log at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

Twelfth Night was an extremely important feasting opportunity in the Georgian calendar. Wassail and Twelfth Cake were traditionally consumed on this day. Hidden inside a Twelfth Cake would be a dried pea or bean, whoever found these pulses would be King or Queen of the household for the day, even if the finder happened to be a servant!  Twelfth Cake went out of fashion in the Victorian era and replaced by the Christmas Cake. It is still tradition in France to eat a flaky cake known as a galette des rois (kings’ tart) on Twelfth Night (see image below).

Recipe for Georgian Twelfth Cake

Twelfth Cake cut into squares, made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

Twelfth Cake cut into squares, made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

(From The Knight Family Cookbook (Both recipes below transcribed by Dr Annie Gray)

‘I have already halved the amounts in the original recipe, which calls for a cake tin half a yard.’

Ingredients: 5pt. flour, 1/2 lb sugar, 1/4 oz mace, 1 1/2 nutmegs, pinch cloves, cinnamon, 4 lb currants, 1 lb raisins, 7 1/2 fl. oz. cream, 1 1/4 lb butter (melted into the cream), scant pint of warm water, with a tsp of sugar in it and 6 tsp dried yeast, 10 very small eggs (pullet’s eggs are ideal. Otherwise use 6 medium eggs). Half a jack of brandy (a jack is 2  1/2 fl oz), 1/2 lb peel.

Method: Mix all of the dry ingredients, and then mix separately the cream, melted butter and water/yeast mixture. Leave the liquid for about 30 minutes to activate the yeast (the liquid should be no more than blood-warm). Whisk the eggs. Now add all of the liquid and eggs to the dry mix and mix very well. Don’t use a standard mixer unless it is a catering model, or it will blow up! Use your hand (even using a wooden spoon is unwise, as you’ll get blisters). Layer about a third of the mix into your cake tin, then put in a layer of half the peel. Top with another third of the mix, and then the rest of the peel, and the rest of the mix. Slash the top with sharp knife. Tie several layers of brown paper around the tin and stand it on a few more. If the cake browns too quickly, you’ll need to stick a couple of layers on top as well. Cook in a moderate oven for an undisclosed amount of time.

Cinnamon Cakes

Cinnamon Cakes made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

Cinnamon Cakes made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

Ingredients: 3/4 lb caster sugar, 1/2 oz ground cinnamon, a nutmeg (ground or 2 tsp ready ground), 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 an egg white, 1/2 tsp rosewater, 2-3 tbsp. water (in reserve in case the pastry is too dry), 1 1/2lb flour.

Method: Mix the sugar, spice and butter and leave to rest for up to an hour. Break up the mix, which should form a loose but dry ball and gently mix in the eggs. Add the flour gradually, mixing until you have a malleable dough, which can be rolled out and cut into biscuits with a cutter (or wine glass, as the original recipe suggests). Prick each with a fork a few times. You may need to add the water if your dough is too dry and crumbly. Half of the amount here makes around 50 biscuits.

Parlour Game – Hunt the Slipper

(Text by team at Chawton House Library)

All players, except one, sit in a circle. In the middle of the circle the remaining person sits. It is their task to Hunt the Slipper. The players in the circle pass the slipper between them and behind their backs very quickly and everyone mimics the action of passing the slipper so that the person in the middle of the circle is unable to find it easily.

The Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Mum and I in the Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

Mum and I in the Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. ©Come Step Back In Time

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. ©Come Step Back In Time