Activities of the Suffragettes in 1913

1913, 19 February: Suffragettes were causing problems and the Surrey Constabulary had to deal with three bomb outrages. The first and most famous happened at 6.10 am on 19 February 1913 at a house being built for Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Walton-on-the-Hill, in the Dorking Division.

Inspector Riley of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch and Major Cooper Keys, the Chief of the Explosives Branch of the Home Office, were notified by Superintendent Coleman the local man. A motor car P8487 was traced passing through Banstead at 2.50 am and returned at about 5 am. The car was heard to leave the vicinity of the house at about 4.30 am and so the fuse must have taken about two hours to burn down.

On the 24 February 1913 Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested in London for the bombing and later taken to Leatherhead Police Station where she was questioned and charged. Superintendent Coleman reported:

She is being detained in Inspector Tudgay's sitting room, and I have arranged with Inspector Tudgay to sleep her in one of his bedrooms tonight.

Instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions had requested that whilst in custody Mrs Pankhurst should be treated with due consideration! Next day Pankhurst was bailed from Epsom Magistrates Court having been driven to the court with the Superintendent which made her the first person in the Surrey Constabulary area to have been "conveyed to court in a motor car".18

1913, 7 March: Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard: Referring to the recent outrages by the Suffragettes in the Metropolitan Police District and at Walton-on-the-Hill, I beg to report that at 3.25 pm on the 19th ultimo (last month) a telephone message was received from Superintendent Coleman, Surrey Constabulary, stationed at Dorking, stating that at 6.10 a.m. that day an explosion had occurred at Sir George Riddell's house at Walton-on-the-Hill, and that a tin of unexploded black gunpowder had been found in the house.

The explosion is supposed to have been caused by a five pound tin of coarse grained gunpowder which had been placed in a bedroom on the first floor ... The room in which the explosion took place was wrecked in the interior; the western wall was bulging about four inches. Inquiries have been made regarding the outrage ... and the movements of car LF4587 on the 18th and 19th ultimo ... In consequence of Mrs Pankhurst's public uttering regarding this and other outrages, the Director of Public prosecutions decided to take proceedings against her under the Malicious Damages Act 1861.

A suffraggette being arrested.

A suffraggette being arrested.

1913, 19-20 March: Suffragettes set fire to Trevethan, Englefield Green the property of Lady White. The house, unoccupied for three years was nearly destroyed causing damage of £2,000. Two ladies on bicycles were seen close by and were in fact stopped by PC Pickett who stopped one of them.

The Metropolitan Police Special Branch, Superintendent Quinn and Detective Inspector Riley handled the London end of the enquiries and Superintendent Thomas Mears of Chertsey dealt with the Surrey end.

One of the suspects, Elsie Duval, was convicted on the 12 April 1913 and sentenced to six weeks for being in possession of inflammable material, cans of paraffin oil, wadding, firelighters etc., on the 4th April at Tooting.19

See also the entry for 19 January 1914 concerning Phyllis Brady.

1913, 21 March: The Scotsman: From papers found by police searching the grounds during the day there appears to be no doubt that the outbreak was the work of militant suffragettes and this view is to some extent strengthened by the fact that two young women were seen upon bicycles riding at rapid speed from the scene of the fire shortly after it was discovered. ---

About twenty minutes past one, the constable in charge of the district was informed that the house was on fire. With promptitude he summoned the Egham Volunteer Fire Brigade. --- The police throughout the day made a close examination of the small part of the house that remained and of the grounds, which included a large lawn surrounded by shrubbery and a kitchen garden.

Remembering the recent attack on Mr Lloyd George's house at Walton they looked for evidence of this being a similar act upon the part of the suffragettes. Ample evidence that this was the case was quickly forthcoming. Underneath the rockery at the back of the house were found three pieces of paper upon which were written in a woman's hand, but obviously disguised: "Votes for Women", "Stop torturing our comrades in prison" and "By kind permission of Mr Hobhouse". Entry was made through an unlocked door and the central staircase soaked in oil then a match applied. Windows were opened so the fire could be fanned by the draught. Nothing was found that would give a clue to the perpetrators.

Describing the occurrence PC Alexander of the Surrey Constabulary remarked hat he passed the house at about midnight when everything was secure. As another constable had inspected the residence a quarter of an hour previously he did not pay particular attention to it and he continued on his beat. "About ten minutes past one a man came up to me and said the house was on fire. I was then three quarters of a mile away but I quickly got there on my bicycle, and found the flames were coming through the roof. The fire brigade quickly arrived but there was no pressure of water they could do practically nothing, and the fire burned itself out."

Constable Alexander stated that about twenty minutes to one yesterday morning when he was approaching the house he saw two women coming towards him. They were riding at a rapid speed on their bicycles in the direction of Egham. He did not take much notice of them but thought that one of them wore "a sort of Ulster-like brown coat." Two other constables further down the road also saw the cyclists who appeared to them to be young women of about twenty five years of age. An endeavour has been made by Inspector Stevens of Egham to trace the two travellers but up to a late hour last night no success had attended his efforts. The damage is estimated to be about £4,000 which is covered by insurance.

1913, 30 April: Oxted Station bomb outrage (Suffragette): An explosion took place in the lavatory at the station, and inside was found a rush basket twenty inches by eleven inches by nine inches deep, containing a two gallon can of Shell petrol, a clock, a battery two firelighters, and a half pint tin that had contained cycle burning oil and a cardboard box that had probably contained gunpowder. The damage was comparatively slight. In the urinal was found a gent's soft felt hat and a pistol, sixteen inches long, containing a loaded shot cartridge.

At 1.35 am a man had been seen by PC Peet adjusting the wheel of his cycle. At 3am the same constable stopped two men. The clock had been set for 3am when the explosion would have been triggered. Sergeant Boshier handled the Surrey end of the enquiry. A piece of paper found in the box formed the only tangible evidence and this was traced to an address to which it had been sent on 3 April 1913. A long and detailed enquiry followed but no one was charged. As a result of this incident all railway stations and tunnels were patrolled to prevent further attacks.

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18 Durrant, A.J. (1951). A hundred years of the Surrey Constabulary, 1851-1951, p. 39.

19 Durrant, A.J. (1951). A hundred years of the Surrey Constabulary, 1851-1951, p. 40.


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