Deeds Not Words!

Historic England

2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, which gave the first British women the right to vote. This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive and Google Street View illustrates some of the places where the power of protest illuminated the cause for women's suffrage.

Deeds Not Words!

In 1897 seventeen regional societies campaigning for the vote for women were grouped under the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Led by Millicent Fawcett, the suffragists of the NUWSS campaigned and lobbied Members of Parliament in an attempt to fulfill their aims.

In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia set up the separate, more radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Its motto was 'deeds, not words', and its members undertook direct action like window-smashing and arson. Many were arrested, tried, imprisoned and tortured for their cause.

The Daily Mail newspaper dubbed members of the WSPU 'suffragettes'.

Pictured: a view of Deansgate, Manchester
The Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage was established in 1867. It had offices in commerical buildings in Deansgate, including at the Gothic-style corner building seen in this photograph.

The junction of Deansgate and John Dalton Street, Manchester

Deansgate is the longest street in the centre of Manchester and, in part, has Roman origins. During the 1870s and 1880s Deansgate was virtually rebuilt and lined with new shops and office buildings, including those used by The Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage.

Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester

On 14 April 1868 the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage held its first public meeting at the city's Free Trade Hall.

Thirty-seven years later the same venue witnessed the beginning of the militant campaign led by the Women's Social and Political Union.

In October 1905 Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney interrupted a Liberal Party meeting at the Free Trade Hall and questioned whether the Liberals would enfranchise women. Their question was ignored and both women were removed before being arrested for obstruction and spitting at a policeman.

Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester

Manchester's Free Trade Hall was built in 1853-6 to designs by architect Edward Walters as a hall for 'public amusement and instruction'.

It was constructed on the site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, and became known as the Free Trade Hall in 1855 in recognition of the campaign to repeal the Corn Laws that placed restrictions on importing grain.

In 1940 the Free Trade Hall was severely damaged by aerial bombing. Its historical and architectural significance resulted in it being restored between 1946 and 1951. It is now a hotel.

The Free Trade Hall is a Grade II* Listed Building.

Strangeways Prison Manchester

Rather than pay a fine, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney were imprisoned in Manchester's imposing Strangeways Prison.

It was at Strangeways that suffragette Emily Wilding Davison blockaded herself in her cell to avoid being forcibly fed. Her cell was flooded to force her out. Protests led to her receiving compensation.

HM Prison Manchester

Originally known as Salford Prison, and then Strangeways, HM Prison Manchester was designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse and built between 1866 and 1868.

From October 1905 until 1914, the prison housed women arrested for acts of militancy undertaken during the campaign for women's suffrage.

The main part of the prison comprised a central hub with five radiating four-storey wings of cells. A separate cruciform block for female prisoners was located at the north-east side of the site.

Waterhouse favoured the Gothic style of architecture. The prison's gatehouse, finished in red brick and stone dressings, is in a French Gothic style.

The gatehouse, main block, former women's prison and tower are all Grade II Listed Buildings.

10 Downing Street, Westminster, London

While 10 Downing Street has been associated with Prime Ministers since the 1730s, it was not until 1902 that the building became firmly established as the Prime Minister's traditional home.

On 19 January 1908, members of the WSPU chained themselves to the railings outside 10 Downing Street. Later that year, suffragettes Edith New and Mary Leigh threw stones and broke windows, resulting in two months imprisonment at Holloway.

On 1st March 1912, Emmeline Pankhurst, and three other WSPU members threw stones and broke four windows. Their arrest and conviction also resulted in a two month prison sentence.

10 Downing Street, Westminster, London

10 Downing Street, a large, terraced town house, dates from 1682. Originally two dwellings, it was remodelled as one property between 1723 and 1735.

It has been the official residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as First Lord of the Treasury since 1735.

10 Downing Street is a Grade I Listed Building.

HM Prison Holloway, Islington, London

The prison at Holloway became female-only in 1902. Over 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned here for their criminal activities.

Suffragettes were treated as criminal prisoners rather than political prisoners. In protest, suffragette Marion Wallace-Dunlop began a hunger-strike in 1909, which was then taken up by the WSPU as policy. After ninety-one hours of fasting, Wallace-Dunlop was released from prison.

The prison authorities began force-feeding suffragettes on hunger-strike. Sylvia Pankhurst was forcibly fed at Holloway in 1913, a steel gag and rubber tube was used to administer milk, beaten eggs and vitamins into her stomach.

HM Prison Holloway, Islington, London

Built in 1852 as the City House of Correction, the prison housed both male and female inmates until it became a female-only prison in 1902. Many convicted suffragettes were held here, including Emily Wilding Davison, who was arrested several times. In 1912 she was imprisoned for setting fire to postboxes in the Holloway area.

Between 1971 and 1985 the prison was completely rebuilt on the same site, leaving no trace of the buildings that once housed its suffragette prisoners.

Holloway closed in 2016. The remaining female prisoners were transferred to Downview and Bronzefield prisons.

Palace of Westminister, Parliament Square, London

As the home of Parliamentary democracy, the Palace of Westminster and Parliament Square were obvious places for suffragette demonstrations.

The attack on 10 Downing Street by Edith New and Mary Leigh in 1908 was a response to the way demonstrators had been treated in Parliament Square, and Mary Dunlop-Wallace was imprisoned for daubing slogans on the walls of Parliament.

In 1910 the Houses of Parliament were the backdrop to one of the most violent episodes in the struggle for women's suffrage. On 18 November, a deputation of three hundred women were assaulted by police. What became known as Black Friday sparked a campaign of destruction across the country that included window smashing and arson.

Palace of Westminster, Parliament Square, London

The oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster is Westminster Hall, which was built 1097-9. Much of what we know as the Houses of Parliament was built between 1835 and 1860 to designs by Sir Charles Barry, with interior decorations and furnishings by Augustus Pugin.

The site was damaged by bombing during the Second World War and was considerably restored.

The Houses of Parliament is a Grade I Listed Building.

Roynton Cottage, Rivington, Lancashire

Roynton Cottage was one of the homes of the industrialist and philanthropist William Hesketh Lever. The original timber cottage was built in 1901 and was supposedly burned down in an arson attack by local WSPU activist Edith Rigby in 1913.

While at Liverpool Police Court facing charges relating to an explosion at Liverpool Cotton Exchange, Rigby admitted to causing the fire at Roynton. Despite this, she was neither charged nor convicted for the incident.

This photograph shows the building after it was reconstructed in stone. It was demolished in 1948.

Rivington Gardens, Rivington, Lancashire

Roynton Cottage was built in 1901 for weekend visits and shooting parties. It sat within Rivington Gardens, one of three created by Thomas Hayton Mawson for William Hesketh Lever.

In 1921, the landscape and architectural firm of James Pulham & Son created a Japanese style garden and rugged ravine with waterfalls.

The site was acquired by Liverpool Corporation in 1939. In 1948 the bungalow that replaced the one destroyed by Edith Rigby was demolished, and the gardens opened to the public.

Rivington Gardens is a Grade II Registered Park and Garden.

Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Surrey

Emily Wilding Davison joined the WSPU in 1906 and gave up her teaching job in 1909 to commit herself full-time to the suffrage movement.

That year she was imprisoned in Manchester and sentenced to one month's hard labour for throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George.

On 4 June 1913 Davison famously left the enclosure at Epsom Racecourse and walked on to the track during the running of The Derby. She was knocked down by the king's horse and died of her injuries four days later.

The motive for her action remain unclear but at the time, the Daily Sketch newspaper declared her the 'First Martyr for Votes for Women.'

Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Surrey

The first recorded race at Epsom took place in 1661 in the presence of King Charles II.

The course's famous race, The Oaks, was first run in 1779. It takes its name from the house of Lord Derby, who proposed the race during a gathering of friends at his house the previous year. Another new race, The Derby Stakes, first took place in 1780.

The oldest building at the racecourse is the Princes' Stand, which dates from 1879, and has a first floor verandah for spectators.

The Princes' Stand is a Grade II Listed Building.

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London

Museums and art galleries were targets for militant suffragettes.

Paintings at Manchester Art Gallery were attacked in April 1913 and in March 1914 Mary Richardson slashed a painting of Venus in the National Gallery in protest at the treatment of Emmeline Pankhurst. At her trial she declared that while she cared for art, she cared more for justice. In response, the gallery closed to the general public for two weeks.

The National Gallery is a Grade I Listed Building.

National Portrait Gallery, Westminster, London

In July 1914, suffragette Anne Hunt entered the National Portrait Gallery with a hidden cleaver. In an apparent act of random vandalism, she slashed a portrait of philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle, painted by Sir John Everett Millais. A female student who was in the gallery copying portraits was one of the first to restrain Hunt.

The National Portrait Gallery is a Grade I Listed Building.

Church of St Mary, Wargrave, Wokingham

Originally dating to the 13th century, the Church of St Mary at Wargrave was almost completely destroyed in an alleged suffragette arson attack in June 1914.

The local Reading Standard newspaper reported 'Discoveries at the church itself leave no shred of doubt that the fire was an act of incendiarism on the part of militant suffragists. There were three postcards charging the authorities with torturing women.'

Church of St Mary, Wargrave, Wokingham

The alleged suffragette arson attack on the Church of St Mary in 1914 destroyed all but the west tower of 1635, the walls and the north doorway. Rebuilding began the same year under the direction of the architect W. Fellowes Prynne, and was completed in 1916 at a cost of £15,800.

The Church of St Mary is a Grade II* Listed Building.

Emmeline Pankhurst Statue, Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London

In February 1918 the Representation of the People Act became law. It enacted that women over the age of thirty, who met certain property qualifications, were granted the right to vote for the first time.

It would not be until 1928 that women were given the right to vote on the same terms as men.

Emmeline Pankhurst died on 14 June 1928 and was buried at Brompton Cemetery. To commemorate her achievements a bronze statue was unveiled in Victoria Tower Gardens, close to the Houses of Parliament, by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin on 6 March 1930.

The Emmeline Pankhurst Statue is a Grade I Listed Monument.

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