Saturday, July 14, 2012

Leicester suffragettes, urban warfare and Bonkers Hall

Time for a final dip into Alice Hawkins and the Suffragette Movement in Edwardian Leicester. We have read about suffragettes in Market Harborough and Isobel Logan, but what struck me most in the book was the level of direct action in and around Leicester by supporters of women's suffrage.

There was nothing quite as startling as the arson that badly damaged the church at Breadsall in Derbyshire, but it came close.

Leicester pillar boxes in Eastgates, Humberstone Road, Rutland Street and Newark Street were attacked. So was Leicester Golf Course on Stoughton Drive, where 'No Votes, No Golf' was carved into the turf. Telephone lines in this affluent part of the city were cut too.

More than that:
Kitty Marion arrived in Leicester in early June and began to instruct the branch in urban warfare with the result that, in July 1914, she, Ellen Sheriff and Elizabeth Frisby, armed with wood shavings dipped in creosol and an axe to break in, trekked across a field in the middle of the night and managed to burn down Blaby railway station, causing £500 worth of damage.
Blaby station was on the Leicester to Birmingham line. It closed in 1968 and there is a local campaign to have it reopened.

And there's more:
an arson campaign was carried out around Leicestershire with three empty mansion houses being targeted: the Red House in Burton Walk, Loughborough, on 19 October 1913, Stoughton Hall in May 1914 and Neville (sic) Holt Mansion near Market Harborough in May 1914.
That's right. Nevill Holt, thought by many to be the model for Bonkers Hall, was attacked. It was standing empty because the Cunard family had vacated it in 1912 and it did not become a prep school until 1919.

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