Vicky Park finally gets a special plaque!

Bath is famous for the names over the doors. A series of brass plaques above doorways around this Georgian city which indicate where some of the big names of history may have lived or visited.

Audrey Woods beside the young pine tree in Royal Victoria Park.
Audrey Woods beside the young pine tree in Royal Victoria Park.

As a long-serving member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides Audrey Woods has been happily pointing them out to tourists for forty years – but there is one very important plaque that she felt has been missing.

One that should commemorate a whole group of early 20th century visitors who had helped make history by standing up and fighting for their rights.

In 2011 a young pine tree was planted in Royal Victoria Park to mark Bath’s connection with the Suffragette Movement which campaigned for votes for women in the years leading up to the First World War.

It’s growing well but no one had actually got around to providing a plaque to explain why it was there – until now.

First – the background.

Bath was not a major centre of protest and had little of the activist displays seen in London and other cities but it did play its part in helping some of the women involved in this campaign for equal voting rights

The Blathwayt family lived at Eagle House in Batheaston and offered their home to suffragettes who wanted to recuperate from the harsh treatment they received when imprisoned for their political activism in support of votes for women. Many of them were force-fed when on hunger strike to protest against their conditions.

Suffragettes Laura Ainsworth & Charlotte Marsh planting a tree at Eagle House in 1911
Suffragettes Laura Ainsworth & Charlotte Marsh planting a tree at Eagle House in 1911

At Eagle House the suffragettes had been encouraged to plant a tree in the grounds to mark their visit.

There were sixty planted and they flourished in the care of Mrs Blathwayt who also underplanted them with flowers and shrubs in the colours of the Suffragette Movement.

These colours are purple for dignity, white for purity and green for hope. It is – apparently – a myth that green meant GIVE, white WOMEN and violet VOTES.

This historic arboretum made way for a housing estate in 1960 – although one towering Austrian Pine does remain.

Cllr Bryan Chalker Independent, Lambridge Ward
Cllr Bryan Chalker
Independent, Lambridge Ward

B&NES councillor and Heritage Champion Bryan Chalker – having found out about the story – arranged (with others) to have three new trees planted to commemorate the suffragettes at Eagle House.

They were installed in Alice Park, Royal Victoria Park and Bath Spa University but – it seems – without their explanatory plaques.

Audrey – who had explored the story of the Blathwayts at Eagle House – had joined him in pushing for the planting and more recently enlisted his help to try once more to get at least a plaque for the pine in Royal Victoria Park.

We went to see it and l asked her how she felt.