Sir William and Lady Julia Chance: Suffragist campaigners of Godalming
William Chance (1853-1935) and his wife Julia (1864-1949) were stalwart supporters of women’s suffrage in Surrey. They moved from London to “Wharfenden House”, Frimley (now part of Lakeside Country Club), following their marriage in 1884. They are listed as residents there in the 1891 Census but by 1897 were preparing to have a house built on Munstead Heath Road, Bramley. Here they met fellow suffragist Gertrude Jekyll and the resulting house called “Orchards”, designed by Edwin Lutyens, is considered to be one of his best. William became the second Baronet Chance following the death of his father in 1902.
John Grant in his directory Surrey: Historical, Biographical, Pictorial comments of the Chances that:
“In these days of somewhat hysterical invective indulged in by its opponents of both sexes, it is refreshing that so clear and logical a thinker as Sir William Chance sees none of the disasters ahead oftentimes associated with affording representation to a large class of the thinking community, who are at present only considered eligible for taxation. Sir William wrote recently about the suffragists ‘They know they can expect no help from the present Government, which has betrayed them over and over again. They know it is doubtful whether the new Franchise Bill will pass through this Parliament at all; indeed it is quite possible that the amendments referred to in the memorandum may lead to its rejection. They have got the Government into a fix, and they have no intention of getting them out of it. If the Unionist Party only recognised this they would look on women suffragists as their best friends. They need only lie low and look on while these women do the work of turning the Government out for them.’”
Lady Julia Chance was a prolific letter writer on the subject of women’s suffrage to the editors of local and national newspapers. As early as 1908 The Times published a letter in support of the Women’s Liberal Federation inviting David Lloyd George to speak on Women’s Suffrage at a meeting on 5 December (3 Dec 1908). Lady Julia Chance, Christiana J Herringham, Bertha Newcombe, Lady Frances Balfour, Lady Isabel Somerset, Beatrice Webb and Gertrude Jekyll, were among the signatories to this letter. The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) opposed the invitation.
Sir William Chance was supportive of the setting up of a local branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) he presided over local meetings, including one in Godalming, reported in The Times, 11 February 1909, at which a letter from Dr Alfred Russel Wallace was read. Dr Wallace writes: “As long as I have thought or written at all on politics, I have been in favour of woman suffrage. None of the arguments have any weight with me, except one, which may be thus stated: – All human inhabitants of any one country should have equal rights and liberties before the law; women are human beings; therefore they should have votes as well as men.” A letter from Mrs [Mary] G F Watts, expressing sympathy with the movement, her support for the formation of a local branch, and her readiness to be involved was also read. Mary Watts became President of the Godalming and District Women’s Suffrage Society (NUWSS), Gertrude Jekyll and Sir William Chance Vice-Presidents, and Theodora Powell was secretary.
Lady Julia Chance wrote to Lord Farrer of Abinger, on 15 July 1910, inviting him to give his support to the Guildford Branch of the NUWSS which had been formed the previous February (SHC ref: 2572/1/57). She added that it was difficult to rouse Guildford to much interest or enthusiasm for the cause because it was largely occupied by “retired” people and a large number of “Antis” owing to the retired Indian element. She continues: “…Guildford badly needs more influential support in its own neighbourhood and if you would consent to be named a VP it would give the cause a great gift”. She includes news of the activities of the Godalming Branch mentioning that Mrs G F Watts was President and Miss Gertrude Jekyll and Lady Midleton were Vice-Presidents. She reported that the branch was launching a vigorous campaign over Surrey with a view to educating the working women and enlightening them on the suffrage question claiming that “many are quite ignorant on the subject and fall prey to the first “Anti” who tells them that it is…for women to want the vote. We do not hope to educate Mrs Humphrey Ward in the recognition of these alarming facts.”
In another letter written by Julia to her cousin Miss Strachey, dated 19 July 1910, she suggests that there should be an immediate canvass particularly among the working classes and trades to prepare the way for the Autumn suffrage campaign. She writes that work has begun in Godalming and urges the NUWSS to encourage other branches to make a similar effort [LSE Women’s Library ref: 9/01/0836].
In a letter from an anonymous “Suffragist” from Godalming published in the Surrey Advertiser on 10 September 1910, Sir William Chance was referred to as a man of standing, as a “…convinced suffragist many years before the “suffragettes” were heard of (or the word coined, in fact) in company with the late Lord Salisbury, Mr Balfour, Mr Haldane and many other men of eminence.”
A report of an open-air Women’s Suffrage meeting in Wharf Street Godalming was published in the same issue of the Surrey Advertiser. Amongst those attending were Sir William and Lady Chance, Mr G T and Mrs Pilcher, Miss Baker [Noeline] (secretary of the Guildford Women’s Suffrage Society), Miss Powell (secretary of the Godalming Women’s Suffrage Society), Miss Burnett and others. Mr John Simpson, a member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, was the principal speaker.
The Surrey Advertiser of 2 November 1910 reported a separate suffragist demonstration and great gathering at Guildford at which Sir William Chance spoke in favour of the resolution on women’s suffrage. Sharing the podium was Mr A W Chapman, vice-chairman of Surrey County Council. The other speakers included Lady Frances Balfour, Miss Frances Sterling and Mr H N Brailsford. Attendees included Lady Chance, Lady Farrer, Lady Jardine, Lady Roberts Austen, Sir William and Lady Treacher, Sir Owen and Lady Roberts, Sir Robert Hunter, Mrs G F Watts, Gertrude Jekyll, Mrs Corbet, Mr and Mr Basset, Rev. and Mrs Sims, Mrs Springman, Miss Cockle, Miss Todhunter, Dr B Thorne Thorne, Mr H Nevill, Col C T Lane, Col S Babington (former Mayor of Godalming) and Mr A H Olds (representative of the Guildford Teachers Union).
The Times reported that Sir William Chance presided at a meeting of the Women’s Local Government Association (WLGA) held in Godalming where Mrs Humphry Ward (Anti-suffrage campaigner), gave the address in which she identified a shortfall in the numbers of women on local governing bodies (2 November 1910). A fuller report of this first annual meeting of the WLGA was published in the Surrey Advertiser of 5 November 1910. Among the large attendance were Sir William Chance, Mrs Davey, Mrs Theodora Williams, Mrs Rendall, Mrs Humphrey Ward and Miss L Parson. There were reports on the forming of branches of WLGA at Haslemere, with Mrs White as secretary, and, at Guildford through the exertion of Miss Fry. Mrs Humphrey Ward gave the address where she expressed her view that women should put effort into local government, serving on councils.
Lady Julia Chance also spoke at meetings, as is recorded in John Grant’s Surrey: Historical, Biographical, Pictorial, having recently “given an address at Wonersh on Suffragists and Sex Morality, fearlessly attacking the double standard of morality for men and women, a burning question that is inseparably connected with the movement.” She addressed an afternoon meeting in the village of Hascombe, in the presence of Miss Susan Onslow [a local anti-suffrage campaigner]. Susan wrote a letter to the editor of the Surrey Advertiser giving an account of the meeting (published 7 November 1912). Lady Julia responded with a pithy repost to Susan Onslow’s account of the meeting (published 13 November 1912). The Surrey Advertiser further reported that Lady Julia Chance shared the platform with Lord Farrer at a meeting of the Brockham Women’s Suffrage Society (22 February 1913).
Throughout the women’s suffrage campaign Lady Julia wrote a number of articles and booklets, including Words to working women on women’s suffrage (Conservative and Unionist Franchise Association, 1912) [other earlier editions were published from 1909-1910]; Women’s Suffrage and Morality. An address to married women (NUWSS, 1912 and 1913); Wartime work in the National Union (NUWSS, 1915), and The predominance of men in anti-suffrage finance and organisation (Conservative and Unionist Franchise Association, 1913).
By December 1910 the letters pages of The Times reveals that a controversy had arisen over the canvassing of women in the Godalming and District Borough, carried out by Godalming Suffrage Society. One of the canvassers was Julia Chance. In her letter published in The Times on 16 December 1910, she sought to clarify the situation following a letter from Mr Massie attacking the methodology of the canvass. Lady Betty Balfour, of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, also took to the letters page to further clarify on 20 December 1910.
In a letter dated 2 April 1911 from Sir William Chance to his wife’s cousin, Miss Philippa (Pippa) Strachey, he relates that the Godalming branch of the NUWSS had decided to form a small circulating library of suffrage literature and recommends this to other branches (LSE Women’s Library Ref: 9/01/0935). Pippa’s reply to him on the 6 April 1911 states that she thought that establishing libraries in NUWSS branches was a good thing and that she has wanted to do so at her office. (LSE Ref: 9/01/0936).
Lady Chance was a member Godalming Town Council Ladies Committee for the design and commission of the Jack Phillips Memorial Cloister – built to commemorate death of Jack Phillips, the wireless operator on the “Titanic” who sacrificed his life transmitting the SOS calls as the ship sank. Also on the committee were Mary Watts, Iona Davey and Margery Horne, who were all members of the NUWSS. These ladies invited Gertrude Jekyll to join them to advise on garden planting schemes. Mary Watts was President of the Godalming and District Women’s Suffrage Society (NUWSS), Gertrude Jekyll and Sir William Chance Vice-Presidents, and Theodora Powell was secretary.
In 1912 an eminent physician, Sir Amroth Wright, triggered a debate in the press about the intellectual and mental incapacity of women which, in his opinion, rendered them unsuitable for the rigours of political decision making. In response to this, and a subsequent letter from Miss Markham, The Times published one of Lady Chance’s eloquent letters to the editor under the headline “Lady Chance’s views” on 11 April 1912.
On the 7 September 1913 Sir William Chance wrote a letter to Lord [Thomas Henry] Farrer (SHC ref 2572/1/64), in which he says: “My dear Farrer, I am getting up a big women’s suffrage meeting on Thursday 13 November in Guildford with a men’s platform only. The Bishop of Kensington has assented to preside at it. I much want you to take part in it and, (if you wish) to propose the vote of thanks to the speakers.” Chance continues “The meeting will be held under the auspices of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage…which is non-militant and non-party”.
Further letters from Sir William Chance to Lord Farrer are preserved in Lord Farrer’s letter books including (SHC ref 2572/1/70) dated 21 June 1916: “My wife told me about your suggestion that a lady be nominated to represent Godalming on the County Council but I do not quite ascertain the position, I read in the last weeks Surrey paper that the vacancy here has been filled by the selection of Dr Page. However, I am seeing Mr Davey on the subject on Wednesday week, when I may hear how the position stands. She says “It is quite useless to put up a woman for the Surrey County Council at this particular moment” but she does not say why.”
The Godalming and District Women’s Suffrage Society was involved in supporting the Great Suffrage Pilgrimage of 1913 as it passed through the area, collecting marchers and holding meetings as it progressed. The banner, designed by Gertrude Jekyll for the Godalming and District Women’s Suffrage Society, was given a prominent outing. Following a collection and distribution of suffrage literature the pilgrims were dispersed to stay in the homes of local members overnight, including that of Lady Julia Chance.
On 12 January 1914 the Surrey Advertiser carried a report of the formation of a West Surrey Branch of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage. The meeting was chaired by Sir William and many prominent men attended, including Sir Owen Roberts, Commander E C Thornhill (Shalford), Colonel Cutell (Farnham), Colonel Bullock (Chiddingfold) Dr Bather, Rev C C Frewe (Blackheath), Mr G T Pilcher and Mr R L Atkinson (Camberley). Letters of apology and support were received from Archdeacon Beresford Potter (Milford), Canon Hunter (formerly of Chiddingfold), Rev Green (Bramley), Rev E R Price Devereaux (Woking), Mr E Bridger (Godalming) and Mr Gilbert H White (Guildford). Seventy members expressed approval for the formation of a new branch including Lord Aberconway, Lord Farrer, the Bishop of Guildford, Sir Sturmy Cave, Sir Charles Crosthwaite (Shamley Green), Rev F C Hill (Shere), Rev A B Gwynne (Compton) Rev A E N Sims (Grayshott), Colonel G Christie (Farnham) and Arthur Jex Davey. They agreed that they would form two sub-branches to cover the parliamentary constituencies of Guildford and Chertsey. The committee president would be Sir William Chance, with vice-presidents Sir Sturmy Cave, Lord Aberconway and Col. Bullock. Mr Giles Theodore Pilcher would take on the role of treasurer.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, Lady Julia appealed through the pages of the Surrey Advertiser (12 September 1914), for women to volunteer to carry out civilian war work so as to free men for enlistment as volunteers. She asked those who were interested, of whatever political persuasion, to contact the NUWSS HQ as they were now going to co-ordinate war work through its 600 branches across the country.
Lady Chance continued to be involved in the campaign for Women’s Suffrage after the war. A copy of a letter sent to her about the Eighth Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) in 1920 survives in the archives of the IWSA, (held at Manchester University ref IWSA 2/28).
Contributed by Miriam Farr, The March of the Women project volunteer.
Archive sources held at Surrey History Centre:
T C Farrer letter books (SHC refs 2572/1/53, 2572/1/57, 2572/1/63, 2572/1/64, 2572/1/65, 2572/1/70, 2572/1/71/93, 2572/1/72/13, and 2572/1/76/56)
Surrey County Council committee minutes, 1907-1913 (SHC ref 603/3)
Board of Guardians declarations on acceptance of office (SHC ref BG4/1)
Oaths of Surrey Justices of the Peace (SHC ref: QS1/2/1)
Acting Magistrates and County Officials (SHC ref QS1/3/35 – QS1/3/55)
Published sources in Surrey History Centre Local Studies Collection:
Burkes Peerage and Baronetage; 1912
Horace Cox, Who’s Who in Kent, Surrey and Sussex; 1911
John Grant, Surrey: Historical, Biographical, Pictorial; London Provincial, nd
Christopher Hussey, The life of Sir Edwin Lutyens; Antique Collectors Club, 1984
Roderick Gradidge, Edwin Lutyens Architect Laureate; Allen & Unwin, 1981
Jill Liddington, Vanishing for the Vote; Manchester University, 2014
Jane Brown, Lutyens and the Edwardians: an English architect and his clients; Viking Press, 1996
Jane Ridley, The Architect and his wife; Chatto & Windus, 2001
Jane Ridley, ‘Living with Lutyens’; Country Life, 27 June 2002
A S G Butler, ‘The Architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens’, Vol 1: Country Houses; Antique Collectors Club, 1950
Judith Tankard, Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement; Harry N. Abrams, 2004
Sally Festing, Gertrude Jekyll; Viking 1991
Francis Jekyll, A memoir of Gertrude Jekyll; Jonathan Cape, 1934
Sarah Sullivan, Phillips Memorial Park: an arts and crafts tribute to the hero of the Titanic; 2012
Julia Bush, Women against the Vote: female anti-suffragism in Britain; OUP, 2007
Jane Robinson, Hearts and minds, the untold story of the Great Pilgrimage and how women won the vote; Doubleday, 2017
Gertrude Jekyll, ‘Children and Gardens’; Country Life, 1908
Ernest Gaskell, Surrey Leaders: Social and Political, Queenhithe, nd
Ordnance Survey map: 15.16, 25 inches to 1 mile, Frimley Green, Basingstoke Canal, Richmond Hill, Frimley Junction, Sturt Lane Junction, 1897
Ordnance Survey map: 31.16, 25 inches to 1 mile, Catteshall Manor, Catteshall, Munstead, Snowdenham, Thorncombe Park, Munstead Wood, 1897
Ordnance Survey map: 31.16, 25 inches to 1 mile, Catteshall, Munstead, Orchards, Snowdenham, Thorncombe Park, Munstead Park, 1916
Newspapers accessed at Surrey History Centre on microfilm:
Surrey Advertiser (microfilm) 5/2/1910 – Sir William Chance stood for re-election to SCC
Surrey Advertiser (microfilm) 10/9/1910 – letter from “Suffragist”, report of open-air meeting in Godalming
Surrey Advertiser (microfilm) 2/11/1910 – Suffragist demonstration in Guildford
Surrey Advertiser (microfilm) 13/4/1935 Obituary for Sir William Chance.
Archive sources held elsewhere:
Letter from [JC] Chance to [Miss Strachey], 9/7/1910; held at LSE Women’s Library, Ref: 9/01/0938
Letter from Sir William Chance to Philippa Strachey 2/4/1911; held at LSE Women’s Library, Ref: 9/01/0935
Philippa Strachey’s reply to Sir William Chance 6/4/1911; held at LSE Women’s Library, Ref: 9/01/0936
Other publications consulted (not held at Surrey History Centre):
Mrs Julia Chance, A Book of Cats: being a discourse on cats with many quotations and original pencil drawings, J M Dent, 1898
Accessed via https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/libraries/learning-and-research/adult-online-reference-shelf–
Times Digital Archive:
3 Dec 1908 – letter signed by Christiana J Herringham, Bertha Newcombe, Lady Julia Chance and others
2 Nov 1910, Local Government Association meeting Godalming
11 Apr 1912, letter “Lady Chance’s Views”
13 Aug 1912, letter “Nauseous Publications”
27 Oct 1913, letter “The Women’s Movement”
8 Nov 1913, letter “The Women’s Movement”
29 May 1915, letter “The Women’s Share”
24 Nov 1916, letter “Women Suffrage”
30 Aug 1949, death notice for Lady Julia Chance
10 Apr 1935, obituary for Sir William Chance
Photograph of Sir William Chance addressing supporters of the suffragettes movement, Trafalgar Square, 19 Nov 1910, Getty Images
Who Was Who Online Edition