Early Spring, Newton St. Cyres

Olive Wharry (1886-1947)about 1920 to 1940

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
Exeter, United Kingdom

This delicate watercolour by Olive Wharry depicts thatched cottages in the village of Newton St Cyres, which is located between Crediton and Exeter.

Olive Wharry was born in London in 1886 to a middle-class family. Her father was a doctor who moved to Devon following his retirement. Olive studied at Exeter School of Art. She became an artist and suffragette. The suffragettes fought for the right for women to vote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Between 1911 and 1914 Olive was an active member of the Woman’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.). This was the militant wing of the women’s British Suffragette movement. They believed that only deeds, not words would convince the government to give women the vote. They targeted those who did not support their campaign. Through arson, physical damage and even bombs. Meetings for the W.S.P.U were often held at Olive’s studios at 12 Bedford Gardens.

Olive was imprisoned several times. She took part in the WSPU’s window smashing campaign in the West End in 1911. She declared at her trial that ‘she had never broken the law before…but considered it the duty of every self-respecting women to take part in the protests’. She was imprisoned twice in 1912, for window smashing and throwing a shoe at a court official during a visit by Lloyd George to Aberdeen.

In 1913, with Lilian Lenton, she burnt down Kew Gardens Tea Pavilion. She was sentenced in March 1913 to 18 months in Holloway prison where she went on hunger strike for 32 days. When Olive was released she weighed just 5-½ stone (36 kg). The WSPU claimed that this was the longest hunger strike on record for any suffragette at that time.


  • Title: Early Spring, Newton St. Cyres
  • Creator: Olive Wharry (1886-1947)
  • Date Created: about 1920 to 1940

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