Emmeline Pankhurst (1th July 1858 to 14th June 1928)

 

When I was a boy I was naive enough to think most of history happened down in London and not much happened down the streets and aisles in northern counties. I remember being a bit glad and sitting up when I found out the suffragette Pankhursts lived in Manchester. Manchester was only seven miles from my bedroom.

 

The Pankhurst’s home is still standing near Manchester University and I went to have a quick look. I’d won some oil paints on ebay and went to collect them one Sunday afternoon from a house near one of the university buildings. I parked on a quiet backstreet and collected the paints from someone living in one of those huge houses that has been butchered into student flats. While I was there I walked up to the Whitworth Art Gallery and was more impressed by the building than the paintings inside it. Outside was Student City – thousands of the milling around Oxford Street, so many of them were Chinese I could have been in Bejing.

 

I crossed the road and put a bit of Kate Bush on my mp3 player but “Hammer Horror” had only just go going when I arrived at the blue plaque outside the house where the Pankhursts lived. Here’re the photos.

 

The Grade I-listed Victorian villa looks out of place alongside the surrounding university buildings. It would have been demolished years ago but for the bright bold Pankhursts who had bounded around it in its heyday. Now it’s The Pankhurst Centre, the birthplace of the suffragette movement which yanked the rug out from male-dominated life and changed women’s lives. Emmeline Pankhurst lived here and I’d heard her name before I was fifteen years old. She was the trailblazer leader of the British suffragette movement who started it all. She was voted 27th of 100 Greatest Britons due to her political activism.

 

I stood across on the street across from the house and sat on a wall having a KitKat. I took some photos and a man in a car didn’t once avert his eyes away from of his phone. Didn’t his eyes lock onto blue plaques like mine do? Wasn’t he interested in the story behind the plaque? At least some students looked at the plaque as they passed by. There’ve been countless books written about this family, painting’s painted, graves visited, films made and commemorative plaques put on walls.

 

This must have been a frenetic household at one time. It was one of many places Emmeline lived in and this one has survived. Her husband was Richard, a 44-year-old barrister who advocated women’s suffrage and a former committed bachelor. Emmeline was only 20 when she saw a “beautiful hand” opening the door of a cab when he was attending a meeting. She threw herself at him, a romance ensued and they married and had five children in ten years: three girls: Christabel, Sylvia, Adela and two sons - Francis and Henry (Francis died.)

 

The Pankhurst’s propelled such a wave over the whole country it’s difficult to quantify their effect now but so much plotting and planning must have gone on in this house. I was a little disappointed to find Emmeline had moved to and spent many years in London (her husband Richard had died many years before.)  She died there. As her health failed from many years of hunger strikes she moved into a nursing home in Hampstead in North London. Years before she had known a doctor who had attended her while she was in prison on hunger strikes (his use of the stomach pump had helped her feel better). She requested he visit the nursing home to pump her stomach again but before this could be done she died aged 69. Soon after women were giving voting rights (I’m sure she would like to have witnessed this before her last breath.)

 

One sunny autumn afternoon I found her grave in Brompton Cemetery in West London. I’ve also found her husband’s grave in Sale, Greater Manchester.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing the Emmeline Pankhurst statue which will unveiled in St Peter’s Square in Manchester in March 2019. Not many folk have a statue made in their honour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rear…

 

At Brompton Cemetery, about to search out headstones…

 

 

 

Looking for Richard Pankhurst’s grave in Sale Brooklands Cemetery in Greater Manchester…

 

Here he is…