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The March of the Women Project Community Day

Wed, 12/09/2018 - 13:10

Sat 24th November 2018, 10am-4pm

At Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6ND

Join us for an exciting day celebrating Surrey’s suffrage connections, including:


  • Dr Elizabeth Crawford – Suffrage Art and Artists
  • Kathy Atherton – The Money behind the Militant Movement: Emmeline and Fred Pethick-Lawrence
  • Tessa Boase – Mrs Lemon, the ‘Dragon’ of Redhill: saviour of the birds & anti-suffrage champion
  • Carol Brown – Noeline Baker and the suffrage campaign in Guildford
  • Surrey Heritage – ‘The March of the Women’ project discoveries


  • LynchPin Theatre – providing Suffrage drama with an extract from their witty new play When the Cat’s Away
  • Surrey Heritage’s ‘The March of the Women’ school’s radio podcast

Click here to download a pdf copy of the event poster.

Plus Suffrage selfies, displays and author book sales (cash and cheques only please, no card payments).

Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the day but please make your own lunch arrangements.

Tickets are free but must be booked in advance. See our website for the full programme and to book tickets https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/culture-and-leisure/history-centre/events

This event has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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A Woman of Mystery!

Fri, 31/08/2018 - 08:00

You really can’t always trust what your ancestors say on the census – or on other documents for that matter.  My father’s maternal grandfather modestly describes himself as a ‘Cotton Spinner’ on the 1901 census when he was actually a partner in a very successful cotton mill employing over 250 people in the Wigan area.   On the other hand, my mother’s paternal grandfather describes himself as a ‘Concert Hall Manager’ on the same census when he was actually a doorman of a public dance hall!

I had always thought the latter a master of re-invention and as someone who did not take to officialdom well (the census wasn’t the only document he treated with a somewhat cavalier attitude) he has been a challenge to research.  However, I think I may have met someone who makes him seem like a rank amateur!!

Once again, I’m delving into the wonderful world of Sidney Francis, the Woking photographer whose collection of photographs have brought so much joy to so many since they were deposited here at the Surrey History Centre!

I am greatly indebted to Richard and Rosemary Christophers who were intrigued by the photograph of one Madame Martinez de las Rivas, of Villa Rivas, Woodham Road, Horsell, in her garden, taken sometime in the 1930s.  They have done the bulk of the research into finding out more about this lady and I have added my ‘twopenn’orth’ for good measure.

Madame Martinez de las Rivas was not born with such a grand name – and nor was her husband!

Reginald Joseph Murray, a young engineering student on the 1911 census, married a Cecilie Gertrude Woods in 1908  Birkenhead.  Sometime later, Murray inherited some of the fortune of Don José Martinez de las Rivas, an industrialist and banker from Bilbao, perhaps his father, and by the time of his death in 1920 Reginald had adopted the Spanish name.  From an article by Pablo Diaz Morlan ‘Capitalismo rentista y decadencia empresarial: la desaparición de la casa Martínez Rivas (1913-1921)’ in Revista de Historia Industrial, año14, no. 29 (2005) – translated automatically on Google, although not always clear – it appears that Don Jose Martinez-de-las-Rivas was a banker and industrialist from Bilbao, who built up quite a business empire before dying in 1913.  He left his fortune of some 1,313,881 pesetas divided among 4 sons from his first marriage and 5 from his second, as well as Reginald Joseph Murray, who as the article suggests may have been an illegitimate son or perhaps a favoured and promising young business colleague

The 1911 census gives us some information; it shows the shows the Murray family living at 3 Devonshire Road, Birkenhead.  Reginald Joseph states that he was born in Kensington and aged 24, making his year of birth around 1887.  According the indexes of births, marriages and deaths, his birth was actually registered in the September quarter of 1885.  Also present on the census is his wife Cecilie Gertrude, age 26 suggesting her year of birth at around 1885.  This is where it starts to get interesting.  Despite long and exhausting searches, we could find no reference to the birth of anyone named Cecilie Gertrude Woods, nor could we find her on any other census returns.  The 1939 register (available on www.ancestry.co.uk and www.findmypast.co.uk) give a date of birth as 24 February 1889.  Now, it’s not unusual for people to lie about their age (particularly , I’m distressed to say, women!) but this is a few years out!  Hmmm.

Also shown on the 1911 census returns is Cecilie’s mother, Fanny Woods aged 46 who states that she has been married for 29 years, had 5 children, 3 of whom survived.  Fanny’s  son Wallace Charles Woods is also listed on the census, aged 29, a housepainter.

At some point after 1913, Reginald starts to style himself Reginald Joseph Martinez de las Rivas, presumably after he received his inheritance.  Sadly he did not enjoy his inheritance for long as according to a piece in The Times dated 25 August 1920, he died on 12th August of that year and was buried (as a Roman Catholic) in Slindon in Sussex.

At the time of Reginald’s death the family appears to have been based on Bournemouth, and his obituary in The Times describes him as the managing director of an engineering works. His estate came to £8845.6.3., a pretty substantial sum and by 1923 Madame Cicilie de las Rivas is being described in The Tatler as “Well known in London society and is a familiar figure at Ascot every year” (Tatler 13 June 1923)

Reginald and Cecilie certainly had one son, John Gordon, and there is another reference in the newspaper report of Reginald’s death to a son named ‘Gillie’ but no more information is forthcoming about him.  There is also a lovely photograph in The Sketch for 22 June 1932 showing a Miss de las Rivas at Ascot, perhaps suggesting that Cecilie and Reginald may have also had a daughter.

The widowed Cecilie came to Woodham Road in Woking about 1927.  By this period she is styling herself ‘Madame’ Martinez de las Rivas and the photograph shows her with Hubert Edmunds, a former Army officer.  From 1936 to 1938 they are at 44 Colbrook Close, Putney, London SW15 and by the time of the 1939 register Cecilie, along with the now divorced John Gordon, and Hubert Edmonds are at Neguri, The Horseshoe, Poole, Dorset.

Cecilie died on 31 April 1951 at a nursing home in Bournemouth, allegedly aged 68, and leaving £3289.5s.4d.  Her entry of burial at Branksome gives her additional surname of Murray and the registration shows her as Murray, De Las Martinez and Martinez-de-las-Rivas, Cecile M G.  John Gordon died in 1973 and Hubert died at Neguri (presumably left to him) on 3 Aug 1973 leaving £15156.

This is rather a saga of misleading dates and names, and I really wanted to get to the bottom of it and see if Cecilie had was born to the good life – or not!

My first clue was found in the indexes to the probate records.  Cecilie’s will is proved under the name of ‘Frances Gertrude Marion Cecile’.  So, Cecilie (or variants) was not her first name – yippee! A clue!!  I went back to the information gleaned on the 1911 census and looked for Frances Wood (rather than Cecilie) on the 1901 census and sure enough,  I found a likely candidate:

1901 Census:  Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Ref:  RG13; Piece: 2540; Folio: 144; Page: 42 Name Relation to Head of Family Age Status Occupation Place of Birth Charles William Wood Head 45 M Plasterer & Shopkeeper Birmingham Fanny Wood Wife 36 M Shrewsbury, Shropshire Frances G M Wood Dau 17 S Shop Assistant Barnes, Surrey Albert W Wood Son 15 Plasterer Shrewsbury, Shropshire Charles W Wood Son 9 Shrewsbury, Shropshire

The clues for me were the places of birth.  Frances states she was born in Barnes and her brother ‘Wallace’ in Shrewsbury.  1901 census shows a Charles W Wood born in Shrewsbury along with an Albert Wood.  We know from Reginald’s obituary that Albert attended the funeral and since the family seem to have been involved in the decorating trade it’s not much of a stretch to suppose that ‘Wallace’ became a house painter!

I was also able to find ‘Cecilie’s” birth.  She was born Frances Gertrude Minnie Wood in the January quarter of 1884 (Richmond Registration District Volume 2A Page 377). Not sure how she got Marion from Minnie!

There is no doubt that Frances/Cecilie enjoyed the ‘Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous’ but did she purposely try and make her background seem a little more exotic?  We shall probably never know – or will we?  Does anyone out there know a little more about Frances/Cecilie?  We’d love to know!

Happy Researching!





PS:  Don’t forget the amazing Sidney Francis exhibition at the Lightbox in Surrey.  It is a wonderful collection and showing until the 7th October.

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From Farnham to Guildford, bishops to kings: a tour of two Surrey castles

Fri, 24/08/2018 - 17:33

The following has been written by a guest blogger; Brandon Robbins, the SCC Heritage Conservation Team’s admin assistant and a big fan of medieval castles. Brandon is leaving us very soon to go to university, where he will no doubt develop and deepen his interest in castles and all manner of other things to do with archaeology and history. We wish you the best of luck, Brandon!

Castles are fascinating. Today the best preserved stand proud as grand monuments, reminding us of the country’s rich heritage, and welcome millions of visitors each year. We can walk along the weathered ramparts, ascend impressive stone towers, and even enjoy a spot of lunch in the same grounds that soldiers endured sometimes-lengthy sieges and fought valiantly to defend.

Castles revolutionised warfare during the medieval period and were constructed to protect towns, cities and trade routes from attackers. However, they were often not just military in nature; many enjoyed a more peaceful existence as private residences for royalty or nobility. This blog post will take a look at the castles at Farnham and Guildford and aspects of the surviving buildings and their histories.

Farnham Castle

A castle based around a motte-and-bailey fortress has been overlooking the historic town of Farnham since the 12th century. It had a long history of being a residence of the Bishops of Winchester, a status that lasted until 1956. The original Farnham Castle probably was built in 1138 by Bishop Henry of Blois, and is believed to have been slighted (i.e. partially demolished) by Henry II in 1155. Built by a Henry; destroyed by a Henry! The foundations of this first phase of the castle were discovered by archaeologists in 1958. By the early 13th century, the castle had been rebuilt and its stone shell keep still stands today.

View of a section of the curtain wall of the shell keep at Farnham Castle (photograph copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

The castle at Farnham was designed to display the power of the Bishops of Winchester, but some of its main 12th and 13th-century elements were built with fortification very much in mind. It had a number of notable features to defend against assault. The castle had tall stone walls that would have made it difficult for attackers to surmount. A deep ditch or moat, now overgrown, surrounds the castle and would have served as a crucial defence mechanism; for example, by limiting the effectiveness of siege machines. The surviving gateway in the shell keep had a number of additional defensive features: a portcullis to prevent attackers from entering (or trapping them inside) and a murder hole in which hot liquid could be poured down from above. Arrow slits in the walls allowed defenders to shoot arrows with almost total protection. Today, only one arrow slit survives.

Part of the moat that surrounds the outer wall of the castle (photograph copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

Farnham Castle’s status and strategic location meant that, on a number of occasions, it had to prepare for conflict. When trouble brewed, weapons and supplies were stockpiled at the castle in preparation for a potential siege, and the castle was garrisoned on a number of occasions! On the 7th March 1217, the Earl of Pembroke and Henry III laid siege to Farnham Castle, after it had been captured and garrisoned by French soldiers under Prince Louis of France the year before. After six days, the French garrison surrendered and the siege was over.

The last surviving arrow slit at Farnham Castle (photograph copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

Although fortification was still very much the foremost consideration in the design of later medieval additions to Farnham Castle, aesthetic influences were perhaps of greater importance than in the 12th and 13th centuries – as suggested by the brickwork designs in the late 15th-century tower known as Fox’s Tower. The castle was fought over during the English Civil War, because it was situated in a strategically important location guarding routes to munitions production/supply lines and stood between King Charles I and his Royalist supporters in Kent. It began the war in Parliamentarian hands, only to be captured and held by Royalist soldiers for a short while in 1642, before a Parliamentarian force stormed and retook the castle. Attempted raids on the castle by Royalist troops in 1643 and 1645 were unsuccessful. Following the end of the Civil War, an Act of Parliament was issued in July 1648 ordering Farnham Castle to be slighted, marking the end of the its defensive purpose.

Guildford Castle

A motte-and-bailey castle at Guildford was likely built soon after the Norman invasion of 1066, when William the Conqueror ordered castles to be constructed to help protect his newly-captured territory from rebellions. Guildford was the most important town in Surrey at the time; the castle not only overlooks the town, but dominates it and the surrounding landscape. It is reasonably certain that a wooden tower surrounded by a palisade would have originally existed on top of the motte, but by the middle of the 12th century the surviving stone great tower had been built there. The great tower would have had two floors, with an entrance on the first floor for status and to aid in defence.

Guildford Castle in the 12th and 13th century lived a double life: as a royal residence, and as the headquarters for the sheriff and county gaol of Surrey (and also Sussex). We have records of kings at Guildford from the 1120s onwards. It was extended to make space for a series of buildings used regularly by members of the royal family during the reigns of Henry II (1154-89) and Henry III (1216-1272), which led to it being referred to as a palace. As a result, the great tower came to be used as a holding place for prisoners awaiting trial. The graffiti in the former chapel in the great tower is believed to have been made by some of the aforementioned prisoners, probably during the 14th century.

The former chapel in the great tower of Guildford Castle, where prisoners would have been held. Note the graffiti on the walls (photograph copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

In the final third of the 13th century, Guildford Castle, like most royal castles at the time, fell increasingly out of favour with its royal owners. A survey of the castle in 1379 reported that all its buildings were in a state of severe disrepair, with some having already collapsed. The great tower remained in use as the county gaol and possibly became a private residence during the 16th century. During the 17th century the tower was de-roofed and the grounds sold off. What can be seen today in the Castle Gardens are the remains of the great tower, King’s great chamber and other palace buildings of the late 12th and 13th century. One can still climb up the tower’s spiral staircase and enjoy the fantastic views it has to offer.

Views from atop Guildford castle tower (photographs copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)


There are both similarities and differences between Guildford and Farnham Castles. They both occupy sites of strategic significance and began life at motte-and-bailey castles. Farnham Castle was demolished by the same king (Henry II) that initiated Guildford Castle’s transformation into a palace through the construction of a complex of new buildings. A century and a half later, most of those palace buildings were in a ruinous state, whereas Farnham Castle remained intact and was enhanced significantly by a series of new additions. Because of its longer active life as a castle, Farnham faced more conflict than Guildford. A visit to both is highly recommended.

SCC Built Heritage Assistant, Christopher Reynolds, waving from the steps up to the gateway into Farnham Castle keep (photograph copyright Brandon Robbins / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

Sources used:

Rob Poulton, A Medieval Royal Complex at Guildford: Excavations at the Castle and Palace (Surrey Archaeological Society, 2005)

Guildford Borough Council, ‘History of Guildford Castle’ https://www.guildford.gov.uk/guildfordcastlehistory

CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk ‘Farnham Castle’ http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk/south_east/farnham_castle.html

Britain Express, ‘Farnham Castle Keep’ https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1835

More information on the castles is available via Exploring Surrey’s Past: the main Historic Environment Record entry for Farnham Castle is SHER 1682, and for Guildford Castle SHER 1664. Should you have any questions on the castles or the historic environment of the surrounding areas, please contact the Surrey HER team via email at her@surreycc.gov.uk.

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A Crim in the Family!

Fri, 17/08/2018 - 09:27

My boss (History Centre Manager, Julian Pooley) has always said we should have a large sign over the reading-room door which reads ‘if you don’t want to know, don’t look’. He has a point. I recently had to conduct some research for someone whose ancestor had changed her name and wanted to know why. We were all shocked to find that her ancestor’s husband had attacked a vicar and robbed the poor box before getting drunk, assaulting his wife and afterwards falling in the Thames where he drowned! Rather an ignominious end and possibly something which prompted a change of name by his widow!

It’s ironic that for our ancestors who kept their heads down, worked diligently, paid their bills and generally got on with their lives, we can sometimes find very few records. However, if they broke the law, there are often copious amounts of information to be found.

One rather surprising source that I was exploring the other day were the returns of prisoners for the Quarter Sessions Court for the period during the First World War (SHC Ref QS3/4/26). What a surprising amount of information these records contain.

If one was unfortunate enough to be hauled in front of the Quarter Sessions Court, your name was listed on a calendar of prisoners. These also include similar lists for the Surrey Assize Courts. The assizes were for more series cases, and records for the Assizes can be found in the National Archives in Kew (TNA). However, some of the later lists of those prisoners attending the courts have survived among the county Quarter Sessions records and make fascinating reading.
Most of the Quarter Sessions courts are filled with petty misdemeanours but the assize records are more serious. One fascinating aspect is that they often show details of the crime, the name of both the accused and the victim and if found guilty, which prison the unfortunate was sent to. They can also provide other clues as well.

Let’s take the case of one Susan Hatcher (the names have been changed to protect the innocent!) aged 21 who was tried in March 1916 for stealing 2 dresses and other articles, the property of Carole Evans. She was also charged with receiving and stealing 2 watches and other articles the property of Margaret Turner. Firstly, the entry shows that she was tried at Oxted Petty Sessions, which gives us a pretty good idea of where she was at the time. Secondly, they list previous convictions at Exmouth Petty Sessions in 1915 and Ottery St Mary Petty Sessions in in the same year. This suggests to me that she had also been living in Devon for a period of time. Her case was remanded but later in May 1916 she received 9 months hard labour in Royal Holloway for both the Surrey and Devon convictions.

More seasoned criminals had many, many previous convictions listed. Herbert Court, a clerk aged 71 was tried on 16 May 1916 and had a string of convictions dating back to 1903! These included forgery and stealing a variety of jewellery – mainly in London and Berkshire. He received 3 years in Wandsworth Prison. Incidentally, surviving prison records can usually be found at the TNA.

However, I think the record (literally!) goes to Herbert Hinds who had 17 previous convictions ranging from fraud and theft to false pretences and 5 aliases! His offences ranged from Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, Hampshire and Manchester before returning once again to Surrey (Kingston to be precise!).

If you are planning on researching your criminal ancestors, don’t be surprised to find they can be pretty elusive (due to aliases, etc). As I mentioned before, surviving Assize Court records and prison records are usually to be found at the National Archives in Kew whilst the Quarter Session Court records and Magistrates or Petty Sessions Court records are usually held at county record offices. Police court records are often more elusive and their survival is not great. However, I have found that where a case comes up before the police court (and newspapers are a great source for this) anything requiring a fine or custodial sentence was often referred to either Magistrates or Quarter Sessions Courts.  You can also find a selection of criminal records on both Ancestry.com and Find My Past!

So next time you are visiting your favourite record office (which is, of course, Surrey History Centre!) why not take time out from your research to seek out some low company and explore the darker side of our ancestors lives!

Happy researching!






PS: Anyone interested in Irish Family History research can find a wonderful new resource at http://maps.openstreetmap.ie/. This is an invaluable tool for working out which townland your ancestors might have lived in and help you navigate your way around the surviving Irish land records. The Irish Geneaography website gives a short ‘how to’ guide but it is really a question of simply exploring the site. Enjoy!

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When The Cat’s Away

Thu, 16/08/2018 - 09:59

Claire Parker

Guest blog: Claire Parker, writer, actor, director, LynchPin Productions Theatre Company


In the research for my previous play “Rotten Perfect” set in the 1890s and based on the backstage story of Ellen Terry the actress, I absorbed a lot about her family and friends of that era. The Shavians were already embracing more enlightened politics including the equality of the sexes and though Ellen Terry was lauded by the public as the ideal Victorian lady, she was very much her own woman, unfettered by many of the usual female constraints. Which leads me to her daughter Edy Craig, raised in the glow of her mother’s emancipation, and instrumental in the forming of The Actresses’ Franchise League – The research starting point for my new comedy-drama “When The Cat’s Away”.

It’s 1914. Windows are smashed. Women are on the run. The militant campaign for the Vote is at its peak. A former suffragette returns to the quiet village of her youth, but when her friend, charismatic leader of the Actresses’ Franchise League, swoops in, a plan is hatched to spread the ‘advanced views’ of the ladies. The village – and the lives of its women and men – will be forever changed.

I was repeatedly delighted to trace these women back to local, all too familiar, villages in Surrey, now transforming before my eyes into a passionate backdrop for these courageous stories. I knew, then, that my play had to take place in a quiet rural village. I also knew that I wanted to firstly entertain and share their extraordinary wit and artistic flair whilst being careful not to make light of the rough treatment inflicted upon them in their quest for justice. I hope to have captured a moment in time when women, denied their voice, have to weigh up the cost of making bold decisions for the greater good and deal with the consequences, all the while seeking much needed approval from the community.

Props used in ‘When the Cat’s Away’

Among influential Surrey campaigners was Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Her Surrey home at Holmwood Common was a weekend base for the suffragette leaders including Emmeline Pankhurst, and where strategy was discussed as well as tactical campaigns.

It was said of Leith Hill, that if the trees could speak, many a plot would have been foiled. Secret meetings and stone-throwing practice took place in the woodlands there.

The Actresses’ Franchise League were not openly militant as a group, however individuals that were connected with them, such as Kitty Marion, who early on campaigned against theatre manager’s casting couch tactics, became very militant. As did Lillian Lenton, a dancer, activist, avid hunger-striker and nimble master of escapes from the authorities (once released from prison under The Cat and Mouse Act and under House Arrest until fit enough to be sent back), quite likely helped by the Actresses Franchise League who provided costumes and props to help with escapes. The police were never far away, watching and waiting to take the women back to prison. The stories of these elaborate escapes alone bring hilarious scenes of chaos, speeding disguised ladies and keystone cops. A campaigner’s release under the Cat and Mouse Act forms part of the plot of When The Cat’s Away.

Surrey campaigner Marion Wallace Dunlop was a pioneering campaigner for the WSPU. In 1909 she was arrested for stencilling words from the Bill of Rights inside the Houses of Parliament. She was sentenced to prison in Holloway, and while there she protested that she should be treated as a political prisoner. When this was refused she hit upon the form of protest that was in many ways to define the militant suffragettes – she was the first to go on hunger strike. The authorities released her after 90 hours of fasting. Hunger striking became policy for WSPU campaigners and later led to this so-called ‘Cat and Mouse Act’.

Marion lived in the Surrey village of Peaslake, and here was also a group of suffragettes and supporters among them Hilda Brackenbury and her daughters Marie and Georgina, who provided a safe house for the campaigners recuperating from prison. The WSPU leader Mrs Pankhurst stayed there following release from one of her sentences. Jenny Overton and Joan Mant’s book, A Suffragette Nest, details suffrage life in Peaslake in these years and provided an insight for the background to the plot of the new play. Mrs Pethick-Lawrence was to move to Peaslake, too, in 1921. So it’s fitting that the first performance of the play is at Peaslake Village Hall in September.

Suffragist banner, designed and worked by Gertrude Jekyll. Courtesy of Godalming Museum

Marion Wallace Dunlop was a gifted artist who had studied at the Slade and exhibited at the Royal Academy. She helped to organize a series of spectacular processions, such as the Women’s Coronation Procession of July 1911, where tens of thousands of women marched to demand the vote and featured hundreds dressed all in white to symbolise the prisoners, and various tableaux including a parade of women dressed as famous women of the past. The suffrage campaign was one of the first social movements to use all the arts for its campaigning, from banners (such as Gertrude Jekyll’s design for the Godalming suffragists), and the symbolic purple, white and green colour scheme (devised for the suffragettes by Pethick-Lawrence) to original songs and literature. I was inspired by this creative activity and by the almost-forgotten plays written and produced by the Actresses’ Franchise League. Hundreds were performed around the country and were imaginative and often very witty dramas that helped to popularise the arguments for the Vote, as well as equal rights. One of the most performed was “A Pageant of Great Women”, a production of which forms the central plot in the new play – which threatens to wake up and divide the sleepy country community.

It feels apt that (Godalming-based) LynchPin Productions Theatre Company brings this story to local venues in Surrey, a centre for suffrage activism, in the same resourceful yet buoyant and spirited manner that Edy and the Actresses Franchise League did over 100 years ago.

“When the Cat’s Away” weaves together drama, history, love and music, immersing you in the creative spirit of the suffragettes. It tours Surrey in September: Peaslake Village Hall 20 Sept; Wilfrid Noyce Centre, Godalming 21 Sept; Mill Studio at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford 28 Sept; Bramley Village Hall 29 Sept.

Visit www.lynchpinptc.co.uk/mainstage for more information. For village hall tickets (£14 plus booking fee) visit: www.brownpapertickets.com (and search for When The Cats Away).

“That Ragtime Suffragette, Oh she’s no household pet!”

Cat and Mouse illustration by Kate Charlesworth, from ‘Sally Heathcote: Suffragette’ by Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Cape 2014

LynchPin Productions Theatre Company will perform a short piece inspired by local campaigners at the Project Finale Community Day on Saturday 24th November at Surrey History Centre. Keep an eye on https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/culture-and-leisure/history-centre/events for more details coming soon.

Surrey History Centre is currently hosting a pop-up exhibition created by Aurora Metro Arts and Media in the foyer which celebrates some of the women, who through their use of the arts, crafts, music and theatre, campaigned for women’s suffrage 100 years ago. Find out more about the Actresses’ Franchise League, Edy Craig, Kitty Marion, Lilian Lenton and many more in this exhibition curated by suffrage historians Irene Cockroft and Susan Croft. Entry is FREE and open to the public Thursday 2 August – Saturday 1 September during normal opening hours (closed bank holiday weekend Saturday 25 August). Further information can be found here.

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What’s new at Guildford Museum? ‘Our History, Our Identity’

Wed, 15/08/2018 - 11:10

By Dajana Topczewski, Engagement Officer at Guildford Museum

Last year, Guildford Museum gathered memories and stories of Guildford’s past and present during the Your Stories, Your Museum – funded by Arts Council England project.

Our History, Our Identity Project logo

This year, we want to build on this work and reach more people. In particular, we are keen to explore the connections, conversations and stories we can discover in areas outside central Guildford. This new project, titled ‘Our History, Our Identity‘ will enable us to discover more about Guildford borough’s rural history and identity. We hope to do this by meeting and partnering with other organisations, such as: museums, village halls, societies, local groups and individuals.

Guildford Museum team would like to visit as many parishes as possible and to meet local people and uncover what matters to them when it comes down to history, stories and local identity. This could be at a local fete, village hall, sports day or art exhibition – your parish doesn’t have to have a museum! We will have with us, touring the borough, a selection of objects from our collection that relate to the area that we are visiting. Allowing local residents and visitors to look at, touch and connect with the past! At the end of the project, Guildford Museum will be hosting an exhibition (planned for February/March 2019) highlighting the places, objects, stories and identities of all the parishes that have asked us to visit.

Guildford Museum team at Ripley Farmers Market ©Guildford Museum

So far we have visited Wanborough Barn and Ripley Farmers Market. It was truly amazing to speak to visitors as well as village residents about their local area – what matters to them and what makes it special. Some comments received are personal, or relate to famous people that used to live in the area, whilst other relate to the history of the village or the surrounding areas. We cannot wait to continue our quest and uncover more about what is imbedded in the local communities and what makes them so charming and interesting to live in, work or visit!

Comment card from Ripley Farmers Market – ‘Ripley has a great continuous story going back to the 13th Century through Newark Abbey and Woking Palace to the Coaching Inn 17/18/19th Centuries, then the cycling boom; still has many historic houses. I live in one!’

Comment card from Wanborough Barn – ‘We have just moved to Wanborough and love the local history, thanks.’

Mammoth tooth and Iron Age hammer axe
© Guildford Museum

We are keen to learn more about you, discover your local area and its hidden treasures. May we join you during an event, market or fete or village get together? If you would like to participate in this project and your organisation is based in Guildford borough, please let us know by contacting our Engagement Officer on heritageservices@guildford.gov.uk.

Have a look at our website to see the full list of past and future events https://www.guildford.gov.uk/ohoi

Twitter: @Gfdheritage
Facebook: @VisitGuildford – Guildford’s Heritage

Guildford Borough Council logo

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What’s in a Name?

Fri, 27/07/2018 - 00:02

Until comparatively recently, the correct spelling of names has seemed, by and large, to be an option.  There are all sorts of theories as to why the spellings of names should vary so much, including:

Literacy – if you can’t read or write you have to rely on someone else to copy your name down for you, and they will spell it the way they think best, which leads on to …

Accents – if a person with a strong accent is speaking to someone not from that area, it opens up the opportunities for some fairly interesting name variations.  Imagine an ‘Oxbridge’ vicar speaking to a local from Cornwall or Northumberland!

Preference – if you call yourself Clarke with an ‘e’ you may find that someone in authority simply overwrites you as a Clark without – purely because he or she doesn’t like that variation

Indifference – I think the preoccupation with the ‘correct’ spellings of names might be a fairly modern one.  Up until comparatively recently, quite literate people have spelled the names differently.  I have a seen a legal ‘pro-forma’ document in the History Centre which had spaces for the land-owner to write his name in four times, and he uses three different spellings – all in the one document!

Purpose – my maiden name was Tombe – not a great name to be saddled with as a child – but until I had started to delve into my family history, I had no idea that it was spelled Tomb – like the grave – until the early 1800s, when the cosmetic ‘e’ was added.  It doesn’t take rocket science to appreciate why it might have been changed but it does help to illustrate the point that we can call ourselves whatever we like, and spell it whichever way we like.  Of course, now we would need to legally change our name to use it on official documents but our ancestors didn’t really feel the need to bother with the technical niceties and changed the spellings of their names to fit both whims and purpose.

Anyone who has discovered a criminal in the family (and don’t worry, most of us have one of these tucked away somewhere in the family tree) may discover that the person adopted several aliases or variations on his name.  Many people who had emigrated from northern European during the latter part of the nineteenth century, changed or anglicized their names during the First World War to hide their ‘Germanic’ origins – including, of course, the royal family whose name changed in 1917 from the catchy Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the slightly less Teutonic Windsor!

Prejudice has also played an unhealthy part in name changing with many Jewish families preferring to adopt more anglicized names in order to obscure their Jewish background.  Thus Koplens becomes Copeland, Goldschmidt becomes Goldsmith and Davidovich morphs into Davidson.

First names can be a challenge too!  It is not unknown for people to be registered with one name and baptised with another!  Up until recently, many Roman Catholic priests would not put the name Mary as a middle name but insist a child was baptised with it as the first name.  This has led to many people being surprised to learn that the relative they had always known as Auntie Josephine was, in fact, Mary Josephine.

Diminutives can be a problem too; Fanny from Frances; Meg from Margaret and Dolly from Dorothy.  Molly can be a diminutive of Mary and Bert can be Albert, Herbert, Ethelbert, Wilbert – the list is endless.

This all goes to show that we must be flexible when we are searching for names and take into account all the many factors which can influence how our ancestors styled themselves.  Keep an open mind and be curious about names which you think might be one of yours.  Also, if you do have a crim in the family, newspapers often print their aliases (very useful) and don’t forget, if anyone made the decision to change their name by Deed Poll, this will be published in the London Gazette and possibly the Times (both available online).

I have to admit, in my line of work, you do see some cracking names – some of which you really couldn’t make up!  Researching my Northern Irish Ancestry, I discovered the wonderfully named Clotworthy McTrustry living in Henry Street in Ballymena.  The Clotworthy name goes right back to the 17th century in this part of the world, although I think it better suited as surname than a given name!

Similarly, on 13 July 1599 Parnell Snot of Charlwood was buried (SHC Ref P17/1/1).  I wonder what Mr & Mrs Snot were thinking when they decided that the best name for their son and heir would be Parnell, and how well it would attach to their surname?

The surname Christmas is a reasonably well known name in Surrey and, of course, it is inevitable that we would find a Mary Christmas being baptised in Chobham on 5 July 1674 (SHC Ref CHOB/1/1) and possibly many other places.

Reproduced by kind permission of www.ancestry.com

Finally, what about the wonderfully named Surrey couple who married in 1743 in Shalford?  He was named Luke Sex and she was named Sarah Eager (SHC Ref SHD/1/3).  I wonder if there was a Best Man’s Speech at the wedding??!!

Happy Researching!




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Preserving the History and Heritage of Mosques in Britain

Tue, 24/07/2018 - 14:52
Conference at the Shah Jahan Mosque,
Woking, 13 October 2018

The Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive and Shah Jahan mosque would like to invite you to attend the first ever conference to address the importance of documenting the history and heritage of mosques and their people in Britain. This unique conference takes place at the Shah Jahan; Britain’s first purpose-built mosque and the first mosque to be awarded Grade I listing.

The day-long activities will support mosques and madrasahs to bring personal history and heritage into their learning spaces and use these ideas to engage with the Muslim community and wider society. As well as, addressing the importance of preserving the history and heritage of mosques in Britain.

The programme will include presentations, workshops and practical advice on how mosques can begin to start documenting their mosques history and heritage and how it can be used to promote their mosque and engage with the different sections of the local and wider community.

What should I expect if I attend:
• Meet staff and members from the Shah Jahan mosque already using history and heritage lessons with school visitors, madrassah classes and heritage open days including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) initiative ‘Visit My Mosque.’
• Presentations from mosque teachers, academics, archivists and Everyday Muslim on the importance of learning about Muslim heritage in Britain and their positive impacts.
• Hear the stories of Muslims who lay down the roots of Muslim organisations in Britain, translators of the Quran and of Muslim soldiers fighting in the British army in WWI and WWII.
• Leave with practical ideas for classroom lessons, school visits and heritage days.
• Take away a practical guide on how to use Muslim heritage in your mosque’s learning and engagement strategies. Also, useful advice on record-keeping and archive procedures to maintain and preserve mosque documents.

If you are able to attend, please follow the link to book your free places: https://t.co/wAhSXrLXV2 (Eventbrite).

To find out more about the Everyday Muslim initiative see http://www.everydaymuslim.org/

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Vive la France et le Surrey!

Fri, 20/07/2018 - 16:39

The Heritage Conservation Team’s wall chart for the men’s football World Cup may now be in the recycling bin, but the home country of the new world champions, France, continues to be enjoying a bit of a moment right now. It celebrated Bastille Day last weekend, and the Tour de France cycle race is currently making its way through the Alps. So, what better time for the Surrey Historic Environment Record (SHER) to jump aboard the French bandwagon and tell you about some of the historic sites and archaeological finds that connect the county with the land beyond the English Channel?

Our focus will be on pre-20th Century places and objects, as they may be less familiar to readers. Plus, as you would expect, France has a long and exceedingly rich history. Allons-y!

Swords and Samian Ware

From the latter part of the first millennium BCE, during the Iron Age, much of its present extent fell within Gaul (yes, of Asterix and Obelix fame). At this time, at least the eastern half of France was a region characterised by use of the material culture known as La Tène – named after the Swiss lakeside site where a big assemblage of distinctive Iron Age metalwork was found. The SHER contains the find-spots of a considerable number of La Tène-style artefacts, although it is necessary to bear in mind that not all of them would have been imported from the Continent, but instead represent items manufactured using styles and/or techniques that may have originated in parts of modern-day France. Probably the standout example is a La Tène I-type sword, found in the course of gravel extraction from Charlton Pit in Shepperton (SHER 2849), which is now in the collection of Chertsey Museum.

Fast forward to the Roman period, and imports from the other side of La Manche are much more securely attested in the Roman period. Red glossed Samian Ware pottery was produced on an industrial scale across large parts of Gaul, and some of this was transported north over land and water to Britain. As a result, sherds of this type of pottery are common on Roman-period archaeological sites in Surrey, and sometimes complete Samian vessels are found; for instance, a dish from the Thames at Lower Halliford (SHER 554) and a cup at Burpham near Guildford (SHER 2814).

Franks and Normans

France takes its name from the Franks, a confederation of tribes who began life in the Lower and Middle Rhine regions (equivalent to parts of modern-day Germany and The Netherlands) but later expanded into northern Gaul, forming small post-Roman kingdoms which by the end of the 5th Century CE had come to be dominated by a dynasty called the Merovingians. The SHER includes a record for a diminutive Merovingian Frankish gold coin struck in Metz in the final quarter of the 6th Century that was found in a garden in Brockham (SHER 73). Very little is known about how and why the coin got from Metz to Brockham. Coins don’t appear to have been used in what we would consider to be financial transactions at this time, so it is possible it had more symbolic significance. In recent years, a similar coin, barely a centimetre (half an inch) in diameter, was found by a metal detectorist in Titsey and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (KENT-33C0D2):

Merovingian gold coin found in Titsey parish. Image used on a CC BY 2.0 licence, copyright of Surrey County Council and The Portable Antiquities Scheme/The Trustees of the British Museum

A recent academic study of archaeological finds from Southern England of likely Frankish origin highlighted a number found in Surrey, including weaponry – apparently one or more spearhead – from the Anglo-Saxon-period cemetery known as Guildown at the east end of the Hog’s Back (SHER 1629). This site may well have another “French” association; as the burial place of a large number of the group of Norman troops who accompanied Aetheling Alfred, brother of the future King Edward the Confessor, to England from exile across the Channel in 1036. After sailing from Boulogne or Wissant on the French coast, they were intercepted at Guildford on their way to Winchester, and, according to some narratives written after the event, many were killed, wounded or enslaved there. When the Guildown cemetery was excavated in 1929-30, a large number seemingly hastily-dug graves containing the bodies of individuals who had met violent deaths were found, which gave rise to the (probably incorrect) idea that these were the remains of Alfred’s foot soldiers. Leaving aside the archaeology, it is noteworthy that what took place at Guildford remained, according to some Norman writers of the time, a source of upset thirty years later, to the point where it was used as a justification for the scale of slaughter at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Medieval French incursions and imports

The year 1066 and the profoundly important events that took place in it will be familiar to most, but the same probably cannot be said for a somewhat less successful French invasion of England in 1216. Louis, Dauphin of France (i.e. the heir to the French crown), was offered the English throne by barons who were fed up with King John, despite the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 – at Runnymede in Surrey, it should be added (SHER 789). Louis landed in Kent in late May 1216 and things soon turned into a race to Winchester between his forces and those of King John to Winchester. While John headed west through Sussex, Louis took a more northerly route, which took him through Surrey. According to accounts written soon after the events they describe, including the Annals of Waverley Abbey (SHER 1732), the French forces were able to take control of Reigate Castle on Tuesday, 18th June 1216 (SHER 1039), then Guildford Castle the next day (SHER 1664) and Farnham two days after that (SHER 1682). Unfortunately for Louis, the barons turned against him in the wake of John’s death in 1216. The French occupation of Farnham Castle at least was lifted in March 1217, and, following a number of military defeats, Louis ended up signing a treated that gave him a large sum of money in return for him agreeing that he had never had a legitimate claim to becoming the next King of England. (We won’t say anything else about the castles as they will be the subject of our next blog post!)

The gatehouse of Reigate Castle; not actually medieval in date, but perhaps not completely dissimilar in appearance to the one that greeted Dauphin Louis in 1216. Copyright Rob Briggs.

Incidentally, we know from later documentary sources that Farnham was again on high alert against French attack in 1336, when raids in other parts of the Diocese of Winchester led to the fortification, if only temporarily, of Farnham church (SHER 1436).

The remnants of the keep of Farnham Castle, seen on a snowy day in March 2018. Copyright Rob Briggs.

Small finds tell a somewhat different story to the military-political threat posed by France during the Middle Ages, one of imports and exchange. One SHER entry covers a number of medieval objects found by a metal detectorist at Bletchingley (SHER 4357). Among these was a seal die identified as being made in Northern France around the year 1300; it bears the Latin inscription S’MAGRI ROB’TI DE BOCAGE (perhaps meaning “the seal of Master Robert of Bocage”) along with a tree, leading to the suggestion that its owner was a carpenter by trade!

Dr Simon Maslin, the new Portable Antiquities Scheme/Surrey County Council Finds Liaison Officer for Surrey, has pointed us in the direction of some other late medieval French objects from Surrey recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The bulk of these are jettons, metal tokens that were used in a variety of contexts between the 13th and 17th centuries (we have a few on the SHER already, e.g. SHER 15376). They were made in huge numbers in France as it existed in the 15th Century (perhaps the main place of issue for jettons found in Surrey was Tournai, now in Belgium). But there’s also this beautiful early 16th-Century gold coin, known as an Ecu d’or, found in the Farnham area (SUR-B24207):

Gold “Ecu d’or” coin of King Francis I of France, minted 1530-47 and found in Farnham parish. Image used on a CC BY 2.0 licence, copyright of Surrey County Council and The Portable Antiquities Scheme/The Trustees of the British Museum

Graves of the great and the good

One of the most tangible embodiments of Surrey’s historic links with France are the graves of French people buried in the county. Near to the war memorial in Alfold churchyard is a marble slab reputed to mark the grave of Jean Carre, who died May 1572 (SHER 3365). Carre was among the last French immigrant glassmakers who worked in one of the glasshouses (i.e. glass-making sites) that once existed in this corner of Surrey, perhaps applying his expert skills at the glass furnace in Sidney Wood identified as being of ‘French type’ (SHER 706). At the other end of the social spectrum, King Louis Phillipe I of France spent his final years in exile at Claremont in Esher (SHER 7165). Following his death in 1850, he was interred in what was then the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo in Weybridge (SHER 7273), but his body was exhumed in 1876 and taken to France for reburial in the Royal Chapel of Dreux.

A fitting way to end this post is with the most prominent resting-place of a French person in Surrey. Atop Box Hill is the (first) grave of French-born Major Peter Labelliere, who died in 1800 (SHER 15478). His funeral and burial was a major event in the Dorking area, not least because of his reputation as an eccentric, one that would endure long after his death. He was buried upside down in accordance with his stated wishes because, as he is reported to have argued, “As the world is turned upside down on Judgment Day … only he, would be correct way up”! Unfortunately for Major Labelliere, what he had not reckoned on was the strength of feeling in some quarters regarding his being buried in unconsecrated ground. As a result, his remains were subsequently dug up and transferred to a new, more acceptable resting-place. A memorial stone still marks the site of his first grave.

Le fin.


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Uncovering the stories of Extraordinary Women

Thu, 19/07/2018 - 10:17

Sarah Holloway

Guest blog: Sarah Holloway, project volunteer and Operations Officer at Heritage Open Days


In the past three weeks I’ve gone slightly cross-eyed at tiny newsprint, rediscovered the marvel of an ever sharp pilot pencil, and struggled to suppress both tears and squeals of joy at new discoveries in the quiet focus of Surrey History Centre’s ink free sanctum.  I’ve been volunteering for The March of The Women project, dusting off old research skills to investigate a woman who became more extraordinary the more I read.

Marching in Helena’s footsteps, for her memory and for all the other extraordinary people who have fought (and continue to fight) for a fairer world at the recent Procession in London

I first heard about the project when I met Rosie at the launch of the Vote100 programme. In a year of fantastic initiatives uncovering women’s history I was excited to get involved with one quite local to me; one shining a light on some of the many supporting characters involved in the struggle for the vote, beyond the leading lights of Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett. Not to detract from the great work of these women but to add detail to the record.  After introductions over an all-important cup of tea, and a tour of the beautiful purpose built History Centre, I settled in to researching Mrs Helena Auerbach, a leading Surrey suffragist.

Helena’s Story

Amongst the miles of shelving in the Strong Room is an unremarkable looking album of newspaper clippings (SHC ref 3266), not in any date order, and often not referenced with their original source publication, but a collection that has given us a fascinating glimpse into Helena’s work. This is her scrapbook recording her activities in the fight for the vote and more. We already knew that she was a founder of the Reigate, Redhill, and District branch of the NUWSS and treasurer of the NUWSS itself but it wasn’t until fellow volunteer Barbara translated some articles from foreign papers that the global reach of her work began to shine through. There are reports of meetings in France, Germany and South Africa where Helena was a key speaker at Suffrage meetings, and a good one, delivering ‘rousing’ speeches with great wit.  ‘Referring to the growth of the cause all over the world, the Chairman [Helena] said she thought the South Pole was the only resting place for the opponents to Women’s Suffrage, but now a Norwegian had discovered the South Pole, and as they all knew, the Queen of Norway was a Suffragette.’

One of the beautifully illustrated pages with a heartfelt message of thanks created for Helena when she retired from the WI (SHC ref 3410/4/1)

From giving such stirring speeches to the minutiae of accounting and organising meetings and marches, Helena was dedicated to the cause. She never lost faith, even when times looked bleak.  And once the vote was won, her civic work didn’t end but found a new direction; she co-founded the Surrey County Federation of the Women’s Institute, of which she was President for 10 years, and the extent to which she was beloved and respected can be seen in some measure by the astonishing care and effort that was clearly made for her leaving gift, another treasure hiding in the Strong Room.

And beyond the Strong Room a brief search of census data reveals further intriguing avenues to follow – the 1939 Register taken shortly after the outbreak of WWII lists two ‘refugees from Nazi Germany’ as staying at Helena’s house.  So I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of Helena’s story but at least there is now an initial biography of her on Exploring Surrey’s Past, and thanks to this project, more people may hear her story and be inspired by it.

Uncovering more extraordinary stories

Highlighting such unsung stories is something Heritage Open Days has at its heart, the project I am lucky enough to call my day job. We are a national festival of history and culture, but most importantly, one where the events put on and stories celebrated are chosen and planned by local people. You can look for something near you on our event directory from mid-July. Or if you’re interested in staging your own celebration, it’s not too late to join us; we have a special resource pack for organisers, and will be highlighting some of the events on our blog over the summer, especially those with a focus on women’s stories.

At Heritage Open Days we are celebrating Extraordinary Women past, present and future. Tell us your story, plan an event, or look for one taking place near you this September.

Extraordinary Women’ is our guiding theme for the year, celebrating women from history who may have been previously overlooked (like Helena) but also asking about inspirational women today. Not just recognisable names but the women who have made a difference in your lives, and to your local area. What about the leader of your brownie or cub pack; the woman who contributes to every PTA meeting, every school event; the one who taught you to bake; the teacher or friend who expanded your horizons? If you know someone who’s light deserves to be seen, then tell us – put her forward as part of our Unsung Stories.

Together, and especially through projects like The March of The Women and Unsung Stories, we can enrich the kaleidoscope of history, filling in gaps, and forging new pathways.

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Test 13 July Schedule

Fri, 13/07/2018 - 09:40


The post Test 13 July Schedule appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.

Wedded Bliss!

Fri, 13/07/2018 - 00:02

I read somewhere recently that the average cost of a wedding in the UK is £27,000. I nearly fell off my perch when I read this and thanked whoever was listening that I hadn’t got any children – if I had, they certainly wouldn’t have got £27,000 from me, or even assuming only a half payment, £13,500! Yes, call me mean but this is a deposit for a house! I mean, come on!!!

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about weddings recently as I’ve been enjoying searching through a recent collection we have acquired by a Woking photographer, Sidney Francis (I mentioned this before regarding a family called Varndell some weeks ago) which features a huge selection of wedding photographs.

Well, I’ve got involved in another interesting story which was brought about by two of these photographs which, while not especially glamorous, were certainly very interesting – and I bet they didn’t cost the couple and their family their life savings.

This is (we believe) a picture of one Isaiah Dighton, age 24 (b 19 May 1905) who married Georgina Deacon, 23 (b 23 Sep 1906) on 21 Apr 1930 at St Paul’s Church in Woking. The marriage register records both their addresses as 127a Courtenay Road, which was also the address of Georgina’s parents James and Louisa from 1929 to 1931. Both fathers were named as dealers and Isaiah himself also described himself as a dealer, although we don’t know what he dealt in. We believe the yard in the photograph is probably 127a Courtenay Road although if anyone knows different, please let us know.

Isaiah had a Romany background and his parents wedding was a rather romantic affair. In April 1889 in an Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court, a young man named Andrew Dighton described as ‘a gipsy’ was summoned by the father of one Caroline Smith and accused of abducting his daughter. It would seem that young Caroline, only 18 years of age, had taken an instant passion to Andrew and persuaded him to elope with her. Although the couple escaped with only a tent and their love to keep them warm, they were eventually caught by Caroline’s father and the police, who took Andrew into custody and thus to trial. He was, however, acquitted and he was discharged as he claimed not to have known that the girl was only 18. However, love is all powerful and to quote a report in The Croydon Chronicle and East Surrey Advertiser of 4 May 1889:

Miss Smith did not allow her adventures to rest even with the termination of the case, for a scene in the streets followed the discharge of the gipsy. The girl struggled violently to free herself from her father’s grasp, and loudly appealed to be allowed to join Dighton at his tent. The girl’s excitement and appeals created much sympathy amongst the crowd that witnessed the incident.

Newspapers can be such a wonderful source for family history research and don’t forget, if you have a Surrey Library Card this gives you free access at home to The Times online and 19th Century Newspapers online. In addition, you can have free access to the British Newspaper Archive at any Surrey library – and unlimited time on a computer at Surrey History Centre. Take a look at all the FREE family history resources at the History Centre on our website!

Love, it would seem, conquers all and Andrew and Caroline married in March quarter of 1893 in Ticehurst registration district and went on to have 10 children, of whom Isaiah was number 7!

Georgina was the daughter of a flower seller, one James Deacon originally from Hampshire, and she was born in Ashford in Middlesex. She had at least one brother, Hiram Deacon who was born in Horsell in March 1912. By 1939 Hiram was working as a lorry driver (as was his brother-in-law Isaiah!) living with his parents next door to the Dightons. In May 1939 (Derby Day) the Surrey Advertiser reports that he was disqualified for a year for drunk driving the said lorry. Sadly, he did not make old bones and died in December 1954 aged just 42 years.

So weddings! The group – particularly at the back with the accordion player – look as though they might like to party (and possibly this second photograph shows that the groom had partied quite a lot!) so obviously they didn’t need expensive trappings to enjoy their wedding day. I have to say that if I was the bride, I would have wanted somewhere a leetle bit more attractive to cut my cake, but love is blind, the bride is lovely, the groom is merry and it really does look like a nice cake!

If anyone can tell us a little bit more about this family, we’d love to hear from you. Until then,


Happy Researching!






PS:  Do try and visit the wonderful exhibition of Sidney Francis photographs at The Lightbox in Woking (http://www.thelightbox.org.uk/sidney-francis-photographs-of-woking).  It starts on 14 July and runs until 7 October.  You are in for a real treat!


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Suffrage in Egham

Tue, 03/07/2018 - 15:01

Amy Stone

Guest blog: Amy Stone, Cultural Engagement Officer (Suffrage in Egham Project), Egham Museum


The ‘Suffrage in Egham’ project aimed to uncover the local impact of the suffrage movement and the affect it had on ordinary people in Egham over 100 years ago. Royal Holloway, University of London and Egham Town Team have partnered on this varied and community-focussed project.

The research, completed by an intern and a team of volunteers, has been the basis for the co-curated exhibition held at the United Church, Egham from Monday 11th June until Saturday 16th June which can now be found at the Egham Museum until November.

Our research was focussed around local newspapers and key individuals. We also wanted to highlight the difference between Suffragists, who were campaigning for women’s rights and their more militant (and much more well-known) counterparts, the Suffragettes. Although Egham did see some Suffragette action, most notably an arson at a house in Englefield Green, it was also home to two branches of the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) or Suffragists.

This research then fed directly into our ‘History Through the Arts’ programme which aimed to engage local people in the history of the suffrage movement through varied arts and craft activities aimed at visitors of all ages.

‘Suffrage Moves!’ in progress

Some highlights of the programme have been ‘Suffrage Moves!’ which was part of the international drawing festival the “Big Draw”. The theme was Living Lines so we hosted a digital animation workshop where children created their own short film. The outcome was a short stop-motion film about the life of Isabel Cowe, a lady who was arrested in Egham for riding her bicycle on the pavement while taking part in a national Suffragist pilgrimage. This Suffrage Moves film can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0NIMFLGrdk&t.

For the adults, we have taken part in the “Museums at Night” initiative and hosted art workshops in the evening for people to learn new skills. So far we have held lino printing and screen printing; stay tuned to our website eghammuseum.org for our next workshops which will be held in October 2018.

Participants work on their screen prints with artist Nicole Line

As well as the suffrage-themed events which were open to the public, we worked closely with local Girl Guiding groups. From suffrage-inspired bunting to museum sleepovers and debates, we held a variety of sessions with local young people.

The finished textiles piece by Paula Doyle

Another aspect of the project has been our partnership with Royal Holloway University of London, working on three artistic commissions. One of the commissioned artists, Paula Doyle, has produced three textiles panels depicting the life of Emily Wilding Davison. A well-known Suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who attended Royal Holloway, became a martyr for the cause after being hit by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. These panels will be displayed in the Emily Wilding Davison library at Royal Holloway as a legacy of the project. We also hosted some of the Royal Holloway “Play Festival” participants who performed during our exhibition week, as part of the second commission. Our final commission is Samantha Fernando, who has been working on a music piece inspired by the suffrage movement. This will be performed by the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra in December 2018.

Emilio Casco Centeno performs “Mexican Echoes of Social Equality” at the Suffrage in Egham Exhibition

We have also launched a brand new “Visit Egham” website which will bring together all of the activities and events happening in Egham in one place. The site is now live at http://visit-egham.uk/

Our Suffrage in Egham website (suffrage.eghammuseum.org) is to be a lasting legacy of the project and hosts useful information about the suffrage movement in Egham, links, images, films, resources and inspiration for your own Suffrage-related events to mark the centenary as we move through the year.

The Exhibition is now up in the Egham Museum until November. We are open Tuesday and Thursday 10.00 – 4.30 and Saturday 10.30-12.30.

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Test Scheduled Blog

Fri, 29/06/2018 - 11:00

Testing scheduling

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Brick Walls – and why I don’t like them!

Fri, 29/06/2018 - 00:02

The term ‘Brick Wall’ has crept into the language of family history research and seems set to stay.  You can’t pick up a book or a magazine article which doesn’t offer advice on how to break one down, climb over one, battle through one –any day now I’m expecting an article on how to pole vault over one or tunnel underneath!

Personally, I don’t think you can label anything to do with family history with absolutes, and I think that the term ‘Brick Wall’ sounds much too pessimistic for someone with a fairly up-beat view of family history research.  I have two reasons for this, which I will bore you with now.

Firstly, the phrase ‘Brick Wall’ is a very off-putting term with rather negative connotations.  It implies that there is something unpleasant to be dealt with rather than an inspiring challenge which, let’s face it, is something that taps the inner detective in most family historians.

Secondly, it rather suggests an inevitable.  When people say “Oh, I’ve hit a brick wall” I’m never quite sure whether they are issuing a statement of failure or a challenge.  I do hope it’s the latter but often it seems to be that people assume that it is somehow their fault that they can’t find anything else.  They assume that it must be something they are doing wrong, or that they have failed to identify the perfect source which will answer all their questions, plus the meaning of life.  I feel honour bound to say, that source does not exist.

Edinburgh from Carlton Hill

It’s a sad fact but there are several reasons why your research might stall mid-way.  One of these is the survival (or not) of records, which in some cases can be a real handicap.  I have family in Scotland who I’ve managed to trace back to 1780 but unfortunately, the earlier church records for the parish where they lived were destroyed in a fire so I’ve no way of tracing their baptisms, marriages and burials.  Anyone researching their family history in Ireland is faced with the possibility that the answer to their many questions might also have gone up in flames in the fires of the Dublin Four Courts in 1922.  Finding that our great-great grandmother was born illegitimately and that no father is mentioned on the birth certificate is a particular blow to tracing that particular line on the family tree.

Another problem we may have is that our ancestors were not always honest about their backgrounds and had a happy knack of ‘reinventing’ themselves when the need arose.  I’m working on a particularly intriguing story at the moment where it appears that a woman from a ‘trade’ background married someone who came into quite a lot of money.  In addition to lying about her age on the census (not uncommon) she appears to have changed her name from Frances to the more glamourous Cecilie and changed the names of her brothers!  More about this intriguing family in a later blog.  In my own family, my great-grandfather seems to have rather enjoyed cocking a snook at authority by listing all his children on the 1901 census by their second names and swapping their birth dates around.  On the other side of the family, my Irish lot seem to have lived with the name Tomb until the 1850s and then changed it to Tombe (well, you would, wouldn’t you?) and don’t even get me started on some of my Scottish lot and their dates of birth.

All this goes to show that brick walls are not brick walls – they are natural and inevitable halts.  They may be simply temporary halts until perseverance and crafty research reveal answers.  For example, if there is no father’s name on a birth certificate, there might be a mention in the magistrates court records of him paying maintenance, or (for earlier examples) a bastardy bond.

1st Family Historian: Of course, our family came over with the Conquerer
2nd Family Historian: Really? Our family have always regarded the Normans as rather Nouveau Riche!

However, we must accept that occasionally, when all avenues have been exhausted, it is time to admit that there may be ancestors who are going to be permanently elusive and we may never be able to trace their backgrounds.  This is no-one’s fault (although I suspect that some of our ancestors made sure that we wouldn’t be able to find out much about them, so technically it is their fault) and it doesn’t mean that we are failures for not being able to trace our lineage on that particular line back to 1066!  Sometimes, the odds are stacked to many against us and it simply won’t work.  Accept, put to once side, and move on to another branch of the family – at least for the time being.

Is there a solution to these natural ‘halts’?  Well, I think the best thing to do is to talk to other family historians.  Everyone will be able to supply a “have you tried …” suggestion and the experience of others is worth rubies.  Make a list of all the likely sources you can think of that you haven’t tried and where you can access them.  Prioritise these and make a plan of action to visit record offices, write to organisations or access online resources.  Also, do make sure you document all the sources you have tried so that you don’t spend hours re-doing research, which will just make you more depressed if you keep not finding things.

Also, don’t forget that a negative result can often supply a positive outcome along the lines of “Well, I definitely know that he didn’t die in Scunthorpe in 1901”.

Consider Arthur Conan Doyle’s suggestion, through the words of his famous detective Sherlock Holmes “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. Hmmm, tempting but might be dangerous!  What do you think?

Happy Researching!





PS:  Ancestry.com have added Aberdeen and Fife Electoral Registers to their website.  I shall have fun searching through these!!

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Being Friendly

Fri, 15/06/2018 - 00:02

As anyone following this blog will know, I’ve just returned from a wonderful genealogical jaunt in Scotland where I enjoyed tracing my ancestors and walking in their footsteps.  We family historians have a slightly morbid interest in graves and headstones and as such, my friend (and partner in all things genealogical) and I spent several hours rooting around some rather splendid graveyards, peeling back lichen and generally getting a very grubby but with a lot of satisfaction.

Kilmartin & Kilbride Cemetery

One graveyard we visited, Kilmartin and Kilbride, has now been de-commissioned and for many years lay in a state of neglect.  It was purchased several years ago by a dedicated and committed local historian Liam Griffin, who along with his wife and volunteers, has spent hundreds of hours restoring and caring for the graves and monuments long left to moulder away into oblivion.  You can read all about their story at http://www.friendsofkilbride.scot/.

While visiting the graveyard and being conducted around the graveyard and shown the graves of my ancestors (and also being royally entertained by Liam and his wife!) I decided that I would become a friend of the graveyard.  Sadly, I can’t get up there and help clean the graves or clear the vegetation which seems determined to re-claim the site, but for a few pounds a year I feel that I’m helping perhaps in another way.  This graveyard, and the Friends group that supports and cares for it, is personal to me and I like to contribute.  Isn’t that a lot of what being a family historian is about?  It’s nice to find information but it’s also nice to contribute in some way, as perhaps a small memorial to our ancestors?

We can all do this in small ways.  Yes, practically it’s a great idea to join ‘Friends’ of various groups (and our own ‘friends’ group, the Surrey History Trust does wonderful work in raising money to support the archives and also to raise awareness of who we are and what we do) and subscriptions are often quite reasonable.  However, perhaps if money is a bit tight, we might also think of other ways of contributing.

I use the website Find A Grave.com quite a lot and have found many of many ancestors there.  I’ve got into the habit of whenever I visit a graveyard, just snapping a few photographs of random graves so that I can upload them onto this wonderful (and free to use) website in the hope that someone else will benefit from my visit, just as I have benefitted in the past.

I also upload a family tree onto Ancestry.com and although it is a private tree, I’m happy to share information if it is requested.  This has led to several interesting contacts over the years and I have benefitted by receiving copies of photographs of my ancestors from a very nice and distantly related lady in Florida, while being able to copy some legal documents that I hold for a similarly distant relative in Ohio.

Many people join family history societies such as the West Surrey Family History Society and the East Surrey Family History Society.  Often members reach out to other members living in different parts of the country and offer to conduct research on their behalf.  I’ve done this for my family history with a northern family history group.  I’ve looked up information for a lady in Preston and she has traced some of my family in the Lancashire Record Office.  I also know all about her husband’s triple by-pass and she knows my continuing battle with mice on the allotment.  We’ve become old-fashioned pen-friends!!  Family history societies also run lots of events and trips and can be a wonderful way to learn more about genealogy and also take part in events and workshops throughout the year – often for a very minimal contribution – and also help others by sharing your experiences with the group.

Liam Griffin made our visit to the cemetery very special. Thank you!

There are lots of different opinions about sharing research and putting family trees online and I have to say, I can agree with all sides of the arguments.  Yes, its irritating when people ‘hoover up’ information that we have taken the time to gather and randomly attach it to their trees but equally, I have found some really good information on other people’s trees which has provided me with some much needed clues to tracing my own family.  We should always be cautious how we share information but that shouldn’t stop us from reaching out to give something back.  I would welcome your experiences and comments on this!

Happy researching!





PS:  If you think that our struggles with family history are a recent phenomenon, just take a look at this extract from the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1796.  Julian Pooley, Surrey History Centre’s manager is overseeing a grand project to index the Surrey connections in this wonderful publication and found this lovely piece which he thought we family historians might enjoy!  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BhFEAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA986&lpg=PA986&dq=%22Tracing+genealogies%22+Gentleman’s+magazine+1796&source=bl&ots=Was4sHPLW-&sig=Tls_GqhGhLCo9LBZqfoisaQ85Ec&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjG163urcHbAhVHxxQKHYreDmkQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=%22Tracing%20genealogies%22%20Gentleman’s%20magazine%201796&f=false

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Magic, Witches and Evil: An Unexpected Find in Staines Part two

Tue, 12/06/2018 - 14:24

Throughout archaeological or building work we regularly find hidden objects such as single shoes and sealed bottles containing personal items, other sorts of dead animals, broken and bent pins and nails, and even hair clippings and textiles, as well as strange markings and carvings. Collectively they’re known as “Apotropaic” features – ones which keep out or ward off evil.

Witches bottle found in Leatherhead. Copyright Martin Higgins, Senior Historic Buildings Officer

We don’t fully understand the significance of all of these, particularly since many aren’t overtly religious or biblical in nature. They tended not to be written about, with their origins in folklore and knowledge of their efficacy being passed from one generation to another, and they exist primarily as physical items rather than being described in detail in the historical record, which means some of the objects’ meanings are now lost to us. Shoes are common: they’re interesting as they’re always worn and never new so it is supposed that they somehow carry the “essence” of the depositor and therefore more supernatural power, and shoes themselves can still be thought to be of considerable symbolic or ritual significance in a number of cultures across the world, even today. Sealed bottles containing votive offerings of things like pins, herbs, nail and hair clippings and urine (yes you read that right) can also be explained as acting as a barrier when placed in a certain location, with whatever magic encased within unable to dissipate so therefore of perpetual power. These are also relatively common and known as “Witch Bottles”, as keeping those particular miscreants out was their primary function. Hide one up the chimney or under a door threshold (where these objects are most commonly found) and a witch couldn’t get into your house that way. They are also relatively late in date, appearing from around the seventeenth century onwards.

Shoes found in building from Farnham area. Copyright Martin Higgins, Senior Historic Buildings Officer.

Bent and broken pins and nails sometimes appear in these bottles, but can also be found in other contexts and are a little harder for us to explain. This phenomenon appears to be related to another aspect of activity which we commonly find on sites of magical significance, where objects are “ritually killed” or rendered unfit for purpose, prior to being deposited. Many finds of weapons from rivers are thought to be ritual offerings, and a majority of these will be broken, bent or damaged – obviously deliberately so – prior to deposition. The same can be said of bent pilgrims’ badges and coins that are common finds in such contexts, and it’s a tradition that is recorded across Britain and Europe from the Bronze Age right through to the post-medieval period. It is posited that some of the weapons might be damaged in ceremonies or funerals, but there must also be some significance to the metal itself having been bent, or the practice wouldn’t extend to smaller objects such as coins and pins. There might also be some significance in the type of metal as well – Iron is known to have been a material once considered to have magical qualities for example, in the same way as is salt – but this doesn’t explain the bent coins. It’s simply something we don’t fully understand. Similarly obscure, recent studies of peculiar burn marks on certain timbers in historic buildings is suggesting burning tapers were specifically placed there – possibly to ward off evil spirits. Our own County Historic Buildings’ Officer has been recording instances of these burn marks within certain Surrey historic properties for some time.

Taper burns from Bletchingley. Copyright Martin Higgins, Senior Historic Buildings Officer

They were likely part of a widespread domestic ritual designed to keep witches out, but we don’t fully understand how this practice was supposed to actually “work” and there are no known mentions of it in the historical record. Later on, taper burns seem to have fulfilled a more practical form of protection, possibly against fire or explosion. Corn flour dust is highly combustible when suspended in air for example, and some 19th century mills have burn marks, as does the HMS Victory where they are visible along the gunpowder locker even though naked flames were forbidden on naval ships. However if this was the case, this practice is similarly unrecorded, and the more practical application of burning tapers in these examples doesn’t explain the earlier instances.


Superstition is all around us, it is deep-seated and ancient and we all practice it in some form or another, whether we’re conscious of it or not. How many people reading this article will refuse to walk under a ladder, or perhaps threw salt over their left shoulder the last time they spilled some? Most of us might not actually fear that a witch might be creeping down the chimney in our sleep anytime soon, or feel the need for a dead cat in the floorboards to ward off verminous supernatural intruders, but other practices persist and they’re all part of the same wider cultural tradition. Our desiccated cat in Staines is a small find, made on a large and in archaeological terms a fairly modern and unspectacular site, but it is a find which sheds light on how our understanding and perception of the world was different even in relatively recent times, and one which contributes to our understanding of ourselves. Its discovery (amongst the other information obtained from the recording work) also demonstrates the value in considering the need for archaeological recording of even relatively recent buildings.

All the examples of UK and European countermagical finds and features referenced in this article: Witch Bottles, votive shoes, taper burn marks and ritually killed objects, have been found and recorded in Surrey.

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A Family History ‘Staycation’!

Thu, 07/06/2018 - 16:23

This isn’t a blog, it’s a quick reminder about some family history courses we are running during the summer!

Anyone new to family history research (or simply wanting to make sure that they’ve covered all the basics) might like to join our Beginning Your Family History workshop which is being run on Saturday 7th July.  This is Who Do You Think You Are! for everyone and will cover all the basics and include lots of time-saving (and possibly money!) tips and techniques.  It’s also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to share ideas and experiences.  At the end of the session, there is an option to see some original records on display in the searchroom and if anyone wants to stay on to conduct research in the afternoon, or to use Ancestry.com, FindMyPast or any of our other online resources, my colleagues and I will be on hand to offer help and advice.

If you research your family history online or are thinking of subscribing to one of the online genealogical websites, why not join us for Family History Online on Saturday 4th August.  In addition to offering tips and techniques on using the many and varied resources online, we will focus on getting the best from Ancestry.com and Find My Past and also the many wonderful free websites such as FamilySearch.  Don’t forget, along with the British Newspaper Archive you have free access to Ancestry.com and Find My Past here at the History Centre and again, why not bring a packed lunch and stay on for some research in the afternoon and some ‘hands on’ practice with these resources.

There are so many of us out there with Irish ancestry! The Researching Your Irish Family History workshop runs on Saturday 18th August and is devoted to exploring sources and resources for tracking down our Irish forebears.  There has been so much made available online in the last few years that there is an almost dizzying array of information.  Hopefully this workshop will help you steer your way through the waves of resources and explore and discuss how to get the best out of both the commercial and free websites dedicated to Irish family history research.

So, why not enjoy a bit of a ‘staycation’ and indulge your hobby while learning some new skills and perhaps even making new friends?  All the above courses can be booked on line on the Surrey History Centre Events page at https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/heritage-events.

We look forward to seeing you!

Happy Researching!

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Women’s Suffrage and Royal Holloway College

Tue, 05/06/2018 - 12:27

Harriet Costelloe

Guest blog: Harriet Costelloe, College Archivist, Royal Holloway, University of London


As a result of being an early women’s higher education college, Royal Holloway College in Egham has many illustrious female alumnae, including some who took an active role in the suffrage movement after leaving College and many who interacted with the issues surrounding women’s rights and suffrage whilst completing their studies. The College had both an Old Students’ Women’s Suffrage Society and a current student’s Women’s Suffrage Society, and both invited speakers to talk at College on suffrage, including the founder of the Women’s Freedom League Charlotte Despard who came in 1909.

Winifred Seville was a student at Royal Holloway between 1906 and 1910. She kept a detailed diary during this time, now kept in our archives. The diary provides an insight into how the suffrage movement was received at College. In November 1906 Seville recorded in her diary that she had been to Political Society where the debate surrounding the for- and against-women’s suffrage positions had become so heated that time had to be extended. The final vote was 109 for and 40 against, of which she was one, demonstrating that the enfranchisement of women divided opinion at Royal Holloway.

In May 1908 Seville records that the chief item to discuss at the Student’s Meeting was whether a Holloway contingent should go up to the Women’s Suffrage procession in London. The passing resolution forbid the use of the name Holloway in the matter at all. This characterises how the College approached the movement: they encouraged intellectual debate and engagement but discouraged active demonstration and protest.

In April 1913 Royal Holloway College’s Picture Gallery’s curator, Charles William Carey, reported that the Picture Gallery would be closed to the public until further notice ‘in consequence of the Suffragette disturbances’. This is likely in response to attacks by suffragettes on property in nearby Englefield Green and Walton-on-the-Hill and makes evident that the College felt that they may be targeted.

Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London RHC AR/500/228/2 Royal Holloway College Picture Gallery closure notice

The term ‘suffragette’ refers to militant campaigners whose radical acts sometimes broke the law. The suffragette Emily Wilding Davison joined Royal Holloway College in January 1892 but had to leave after only 5 terms because her family could no longer afford her education after her father’s death in July 1893.

Education was clearly important to Davison – after she had left, she worked as a governess to support herself and saved the money to finish her higher education at St Hugh’s College in Oxford. Despite passing her course she was unable to fully graduate as women were not able to take full degrees at Oxford until 1920. She later gained a degree from London University – which granted women degrees from 1878 onwards – as an external student in 1908.

Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London RHC AR/200/1 Emily Wilding Davison’s entry in the first Royal Holloway College Student Register

From 1906 Davison became very active in the suffrage movement, joining the militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She was arrested nine times, went on hunger strike seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. She died after being hit by King George V’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby, having walked onto the track in a demonstration during the race.

Another suffragette and Royal Holloway alumna, Rose Lamartine Yates wrote a tribute to Davison in the commemorative issue of The Suffragette newspaper the WSPU produced after Davison died. In it she refers to Davison as her ‘old college friend’. This term of endearment is interesting because Davison and Yates were not at Royal Holloway College at the same time. Despite this, Yates wanted to share an affinity with Davison and chose to do this through relating their relationship to both their time at Royal Holloway.

Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London 324.342 SUF FOLIO The Suffragette 13 June 1913

When the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918, the Royal Holloway College Women’s Suffrage Society stated that the Bill had to a ‘certain extent’ changed the ‘character’ of the Suffrage Societies since their objective had been partially realised. However there was still a need to ‘extend franchise’ and to supply women with ‘a political education which will enable them to make a more intelligent use of their vote’. It was only with the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women gained equal voting rights to men.

Royal Holloway Archives and Special Collections holds the institutional records of two early higher education colleges for women, Bedford College and Royal Holloway College, as well as editions of the Votes for Women and The Suffragette newspapers and pamphlets disseminated during the suffrage movement. To find out more or arrange a time to visit us, please email archives@rhul.ac.uk or call 01784 443814.


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