Front cover of Ethel Smyth's composition The March of the Women, dedicated to the Women's Social and Political Union, 1911 (SHC Ref. 9180/5)

Front cover of Ethel Smyth’s composition The March of the Women, dedicated to the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1911 (SHC ref 9180/5)

Surrey Heritage has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £99,300 grant to explore and celebrate Surrey’s role in winning the vote for women. The project, called ‘The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote’, will mark the 2018 centenary of the 1918 Act of Parliament which gave the vote to women over the age of 30. The project will focus on Surrey’s hugely significant role in the long campaign for women’s suffrage and will explore the contributions made by local women and men to the cause.

Read the project blog.

Find out about forthcoming project talks and events.


From the 1870s onwards, Surrey was home to suffragists, suffragettes (militant activists) and groups on all sides of the fierce debate. The county was home to many pro-suffrage organisations and notable activists, including Mary Seton Watts, wife of the famous Compton artist GF Watts, and Dame Ethel Smyth, the Woking composer who was imprisoned for her suffragette activities. Surrey witnessed key moments in the long-running campaign, including Emily Davison stepping out in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby and suffering fatal injuries, and Emmeline Pankhurst’s part in the blowing up of a house in Walton-on-the-Hill being built for Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George.

Extract from the report by Superintendent Henry Coleman, Surrey Constabulary (Dorking Division), regarding Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest for her part in the bombing of Lloyd George’s house at Walton-on-the-Hill, 24 Feb 1913 (SHC ref CC98/11/3).

Extract from the report by Superintendent Henry Coleman, Surrey Constabulary (Dorking Division), regarding Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest for her part in the bombing of Lloyd George’s house at Walton-on-the-Hill, 24 Feb 1913 (SHC ref CC98/11/3).

Surrey’s women also played a vital part in winning the First World War by working in munitions factories and hospitals and on the land, efforts which helped to turn the tide of public opinion in their favour.

Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Surrey played a crucial and dramatic role in the historic hard-fought battle for women’s voting rights and we’re delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund is making it possible for us to tell the full story and bring it to a wide audience in Surrey and beyond.

“With women’s voting rights now taken for granted, this announcement is a timely reminder in the wake of a general election of everything that led up to those rights being won. This project will create a lasting digital record of Surrey’s contribution for generations to come.”

Published cartoon sketch entitled ‘History Up To Date And More So By a Suffragette Pavement Artist’, by suffragette Marie Brackenbury, 1908, from cuttings compiled by the Vaughan Williams family of Leith Hill, (SHC ref <strong><a title="Published cartoon sketch entitled ‘History Up To Date And More So. By a Suffragette Pavement Artist’" href="https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHCOL_6536_10_11_10_18" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6536/221</a></strong>).

Published cartoon sketch entitled ‘History Up To Date And More So By a Suffragette Pavement Artist’, by suffragette Marie Brackenbury, 1908, from cuttings compiled by the Vaughan Williams family of Leith Hill, (SHC ref 6536/221).

What will the project do?

Surrey History Centre cares for many significant letters, books and documents which shed light on how the battle for the vote was fought and ultimately won. The project will give us the opportunity to bring many of these unique items to a wider audience, through detailed investigation, cataloguing and online publication on our Exploring Surrey’s Past website. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn archive conservation and packaging skills to help make the precious records accessible to the public. At the same we will be working with five Surrey museums to investigate and promote their local suffrage collections through a travelling exhibition. Drawing on all these sources and new discoveries, the gripping tale will be told to the public through a range of events and different media and in locations across Surrey.

Students will have the opportunity to learn more about how their rights as citizens were won through a number of school workshops which will turn the exciting story into a radio broadcast.

The project will:

  • Employ a project archivist to create detailed archive catalogues of suffrage papers held at Surrey History Centre, including the papers of Dorothy Hunter, the Farrer family, and Bertha Broadwood, as well as parish and County Council archives.
  • Create a project blog to reveal stories and treasures discovered during the course of cataloguing and research.
  • Give volunteers the opportunity to learn archive conservation and packaging skills to help make the precious records accessible to the public.
  • Employ a project officer to work in partnership with museums and other groups, to draw out the regional stories of Surrey’s road to the vote, including the promotion of suffrage material in five Surrey museums.
  • Create suffrage stories on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website to create a detailed research resource, online bibliographies of Surrey’s key suffrage individuals, and an online gallery of key sources.
  • Create a travelling exhibition, displayed at venues around the county, telling the stories of the key individuals and events in Surrey’s suffrage story.
  • Hold outreach events, such as talks and a community day, to bring the story of Surrey’s road to the vote to a wider audience.
  • Work with learning consultants to deliver a series of schools workshops in which students will create a radio play podcast, which will form the core element of a free online learning resource.

That’s Surrey TV interviewed Rosie Everritt (Project Archivist at Surrey History Centre) about the project, watch the interview by clicking on the YouTube link below.

Find out about the 2018 anniversaries of the suffrage movement

Project partners

Surrey Heritage will be working with a number of community partners, including Haslemere Educational Museum, Godalming Museum, Chertsey Museum, and Bourne Hall Museum, Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre, Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, Royal Holloway University, and London Bedford Centre for the History of Women. We have also received support for the project from Surrey History Trust, Surrey Federation of Women’s Institutes, and Soroptimists International.

When will the project start?

The project will begin in June 2017 and will culminate next year to mark the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave the vote to women over 30. By the project’s end the story of Surrey’s proud contribution to the battle to win the vote for women will be better understood and accessible to audiences across the world.

Get involved!

Would you like to volunteer some of your time to help make this project a success? Volunteers will play a vital role in the project and there are a number of different opportunities available, ranging from archival conservation and packaging, research and indexing, digital photography, and writing content for the website and travelling exhibition. If you would like to volunteer in any capacity please contact Di Stiff, Surrey Heritage’s Collections Development Archivist, email: [email protected] or Tel: 01483 518740.

Participating partners

Royal Holloway University of London, Bedford Centre for the History of Women https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/history/research/researchcentres/bedfordcentre/home.aspx. Follow the Bedford Centre Blog on Women’s and Gender History

Soroptimists International: Woking branch http://sigbi.org/woking-and-district/ and Epsom branch http://sigbi.org/epsom-and-district/.

Surrey Federation of Women’s Institutes https://www.thewi.org.uk/become-a-member/structure-of-the-wi/england/surrey/about-us.

Surrey History Trust https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/make-a-donation-to-surrey-heritage/surrey-history-trust.

Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell http://www.epsom.townpage.co.uk/bhmuseum.htm.

Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre https://www.dorkingmuseum.org.uk/.

Haslemere Educational Museum http://www.haslemeremuseum.co.uk/.

Godalming Museum http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/.

Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, Compton http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/.

Chertsey Museum http://www.chertseymuseum.org.uk/.

UK Vote 100 project celebrating 100 years of the vote in the UK Parliament https://ukvote100.org/author/ukvote100/.

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) https://www.hlf.org.uk/.

Useful links

Project Archivist, Rosie Everritt, was interviewed by Radio Redhill about this project. You can listen again at http://radioredhill.co.uk/listenagain/. The interview is in two parts and can be found in ‘The Sunday Colour Supplement’. The first part is 16:45 minutes into the ‘Sun 11 Mar 2018 – 2:02pm’ recording and the second part is at 33:20 minutes.

Find out more about the women’s suffrage movement in Surrey, including how the movement grew, activism and militant suffragettes, how suffragettes evaded the 1911 census, sources for researching suffrage in Surrey, and how the vote was won.

Discover more about key figures of the Surrey Suffrage movement, such as Dame Ethel Smyth, Gertrude Jekyll, Emily Wilding Davison, Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Constance Maud, and Helena Auerbach.

Find out how Surrey’s women contributed to the county’s First World War effort http://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/.

Click here for more details of the HLF award and full project press release.