New Bath roots for suffragettes.

New Bath roots for suffragettes.

My friend Audrey Wood is a fellow member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and has enjoyed showing people around this city for more than forty years.

She also does regular voluntary work on duty at Bath Abbey, No 1 Royal Crescent and the Victoria Art Gallery – welcoming visitors and answering their questions.

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Audrey Woods on duty as a Mayor’s Guide in Abbey Church Yard.

You’d think she had little time for doing much more than putting her feet up with a well-earned cup of tea but no – something else has made her restless – and this concerns some rather special visitors from the past.

Of course Bath is about people as well as Georgian buildings and Roman remains. As a Mayor’s Guide the tours Audrey helps give will often involve pointing out some of the many bronze plaques above doorways which indicate where some of the big names of history may have lived or visited.

Now she’s determined to get proper recognition for a whole group of  early 20th century visitors who helped make history –  by standing up and fighting for their rights.

We’re talking about the Suffragette Movement which campaigned for votes for women in the years leading up to the First World War.

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 fight for equal voting rights

The Blathwayt family who lived at Eagle House in Batheaston 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.

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

At Eagle House the suffragettes were encouraged to plant a tree in the grounds. There were 60 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.

Former 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 planted in Alice Park, Royal Victoria Park and Bath Spa University in March 2011.

Audrey Woods

Audrey Woods beside the young pine tree in Royal Victoria Park. This was taken a couple of years ago.

However Audrey has been anxious to ensure the trees continue to prosper and that there are notices nearby to tell people why they were planted.

She had no idea if the tree at Bath Spa was still alive, was unhappy about the condition and location of the tree in Victoria Park and was worried about wire encasing the fir in Alice Park.

Now the University has sent her some good news. The tree there is alive and well and they sent a picture to prove it.

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The Suffragette cedar (L) at Newton Park

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The Suffragette tree in Alice Park.

Meanwhile, the tree in Victoria Park is going to be replaced and re-positioned just inside the entrance to the Botanical Gardens where it will replace a fallen champion tree.

Meanwhile, the wire has already been taken off the tree in Alice Park.

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The plaque prior to polishing.

Audrey’s last task is to find someone who would be able to give the brass plaque in front of the Alice Park tree a regular polish so people can read the inscription.

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A first attempt!

Here are ‘before and after’ shots – showing my meagre efforts. If anyone who is a regular visitor to the park can help – Audrey would love to hear from you.

Vicky Park finally gets a special plaque!

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.

 

 

 

Honouring the suffragettes

Honouring the suffragettes

I have been for a walk in Royal Victoria Park with a woman well-known for her love of Bath and its history and heritage.  Audrey Woods is happy to share her enthusiasm too –  and she does with hundreds of visitors to the city each year.

Audrey has just been given a long-service award for forty years of volunteering as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – an organisation – currently celebrating its 80th anniversary – that operates twice-daily tours of the city. It’s a popular attraction  – maybe because its free – but every tour is unique with each guide adding their own knowledge and personality to what people see and hear on a two-hour gentle walk around the city.

Audrey beside the pine planted in Royal Victoria Park in 2011 to commemorate the suffragettes at Eagle House.

Audrey beside the pine planted in Royal Victoria Park in 2011 to commemorate the suffragettes at Eagle House.

Of course Bath is about people as well as Georgian buildings and Roman remains. The tours Audrey helps give will often involve pointing out some of the many brass plaques above doorways which indicate where some of the big names of history may have lived or visited.  

Now she’s determined to get proper recognition for a whole group of  early 20th century visitors who helped make history –  by standing up and fighting for their rights.

We’re talking about the Suffragette Movement which campaigned for votes for women in the years leading up to the First World War.

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 fight for equal voting rights.

Just how – l will explain in greater detail in just a moment. First let’s find out why Audrey had taken me to Royal Victoria Park and to a particular young pine sapling planted there in commemoration of the suffragettes three years ago.

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The Blathwayt family Audrey refers to 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 Adela Pankhurst, Kitty and Annie Kenney 1910 © Bath in Time

Suffragettes Adela Pankhurst, Kitty and Annie Kenney 1910 © Bath in Time.
Click on images to access original print.

At Eagle House the suffragettes were encouraged to plant a tree in the grounds. There were 60 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.

A view of the arboretum at Eagle House 1909. © Bath in Time

A view of the arboretum at Eagle House 1909.
© Bath in Time

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 planted in Alice Park, Royal Victoria Park and Bath Spa University. The plantings took place in March 2011.

He has now been alerted about the lack of a Royal Victoria Park plaque and accompanying commemorative plantings and l will let you know what transpires from here.