Somehow I’ve visited Torrington twice in a week, both for events at The Plough, which is a small theatre/arts centre, a jewel in the historic market town. For the first event, I attended a talk by Jenni Murray of Woman’s Hour, but yesterday it was to see the self-published author, Pamela Vass, talk about the suffragettes in North Devon. If you thought they never got this far, think again. Ilfracombe was a hotbed of female radicalism, Barnstaple similar, and the women even travelled to Bideford and Clovelly. What constantly fascinates me is how the suffragettes could be so militant on the subject of the female vote and so conservative/nationalistic when it came to handing out white feathers during wartime. The suffragettes were a combination of social classes but many were distinctly middle-class. They were subjected to terrible treatment to obtain the vote.
This is an interesting blog. It seems there were rallies even at places as genteel as Arlington Court. A house at Lynton was also burned down. I quote from the blog:
The head line of “Suffragette Outrage or Not” in the North Devon Journal of 7th August 1913 concerned Hollerday House at Lynton, described as one of North Devon’s finest modern mansions. Built for Sir George Newnes it had stood empty and for sale since his death in 1910. Two American women had been conducted around the house on Sunday morning with the view to purchase. The fire on Monday night was reported to have started in two parts of the house, with explosions and it was known that the Suffragettes targeted arson at empty properties but the investigation was inconclusive.
Pamela Vass believes it was the work of the suffragettes for the house had links with a magistrate who had put a number of them in jail. There was a house called Manorville in Westward Ho! which belonged to the Pankhursts. However, bought in 1920, it was sold in 1921, so a short-lived investment.
The rest of Great Torrington (Torrington) has historical links and is a friendly place. I was thrilled to find a greengrocer’s (with eggs from Bude, no less). It is a trek to go to the Plough so it would be lovely to have such creative vision nearer to Bude. One day, maybe.