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Tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst

A Grade II* Listed Building in Redcliffe, Kensington and Chelsea

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Latitude: 51.4876 / 51°29'15"N

Longitude: -0.1935 / 0°11'36"W

OS Eastings: 525522

OS Northings: 178066

OS Grid: TQ255780

Mapcode National: GBR 0N.RX

Mapcode Global: VHGQY.LVKY

Plus Code: 9C3XFRQ4+3H

Entry Name: Tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst

Listing Date: 7 November 1984

Last Amended: 7 June 2018

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1225716

English Heritage Legacy ID: 422216

Location: Redcliffe, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW10

County: Kensington and Chelsea

Electoral Ward/Division: Redcliffe

Built-Up Area: Kensington and Chelsea

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Luke, South Kensington

Church of England Diocese: London

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Tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst, 1930, designed by Julian Phelps Allan.


Tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst, 1930, designed by Julian Phelps Allen.

MATERIALS: red sandstone.

DESCRIPTION: the tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst takes the form of a Celtic cross which stands on a two stepped base. The lower section of the shaft bears an inscription which reads IN LOVING MEMORY OF / EMMELINE / PANKHURST / WIFE OF / R.M. PANKHURST LLD / AT REST / JUNE 14TH 1928. Above the inscription, a haloed figure is depicted in low relief with their right hand raised in blessing, with floral motifs to each corner. The head of the cross has angels to either side reaching down toward each other, holding up an object which may represent Emmeline’s soul. Above them, forming the top section of the cross is the extended open hand of God, which may refer to a phrase from the first verse of chapter three in The Book of Wisdom of Solomon: “The Souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them” (Barnes, 2016). The area in front of the cross is paved.


Emmeline Pankhurst, born 14 July 1858, was a British political activist who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union, the most iconic of Britain’s suffrage organisations. Raised in a political household where anti-slavery and women’s rights were openly discussed, in 1879 she married Richard Pankhurst, a radical Manchester lawyer twenty years her senior. The couple became early members of the Manchester branch of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and Emmeline was first arrested for defying a ban on speaking in public parks at Boggart Hole Clough in Manchester. After Richard’s death in 1898 the ILP helped her secure paid work as a registrar of births and deaths. Emmeline became dissatisfied with the ILP’s attitude towards women’s suffrage and in 1903 she and other Manchester ILP women formed a new group, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), to campaign for votes for women.

In its early years there was little to distinguish the WSPU from other pro-suffrage societies. This changed dramatically in October 1905 when Emmeline’s oldest daughter Christabel Pankhurst (1880 – 1958), and another WSPU member Annie Kenney (1879 - 1953), attended a Liberal Party election meeting at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. After persistently asking whether a Liberal government would give women votes and unfurling a banner demanding ‘Votes for Women’, the women were ejected and subsequently arrested for obstruction and assault. They refused to pay a fine, and were sent to Strangeways prison, Annie for three days and Christabel for one week.

From this point the WSPU became a militant organisation. Its members became known as ‘suffragettes’. It moved its Headquarters from Manchester to London, and developed a network of branches with offices throughout Britain supported by large numbers of paid and voluntary staff. Over the next nine years, more than 1000 women went to prison in pursuit of the vote, for a variety of offences ranging from civil (obstruction or unlicensed street selling) to criminal (damage to property and arson). Once in prison, suffragettes continued their protests through initiatives such as hunger striking. The government responded by sanctioning forcible feeding from September 1909. This was a controversial procedure which divided public opinion, and in 1913 the so-called Cat and Mouse Act was introduced allowing hunger-strikers to be released on license, until they were well enough to be re-arrested.

Emmeline Pankhurst was the Union’s undisputed leader. In 1907 she successfully dismissed a challenge to her leadership of the WSPU by a group of dissidents who subsequently formed the Women’s Freedom League. Emmeline also frequently led from the front. She was arrested on a deputation in February 1908 and served two months in Holloway Prison. In October 1908 she returned to prison having been tried for incitement in her capacity as WSPU leader. When not in prison she spent most of her days on the road promoting the WSPU at public meetings throughout Britain and undertaking a number of fundraising tours to the USA.

In 1910 the WSPU called a truce to militant activity while an all-party Conciliation Committee drafted a bill for women’s suffrage. When the government failed to give the bill a parliamentary hearing, Emmeline led a large deputation of women to protest at Parliament. This was violently broken up by the police with several women sustaining life-threatening injuries. In response the WSPU increased its militancy through activities such as mass window smashing and arson. Consequently Emmeline and Christabel were charged with conspiracy in 1912, along with Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (editors of the WSPU’s newspaper Votes for Women). Christabel fled to Paris and Emmeline was sentenced to nine months in prison. From this point Emmeline and Christabel directed the WSPU between them. The Pethick-Lawrences, who were less convinced of the WSPU’s escalating violence, were ousted and a new paper was set up, named The Suffragette. As militancy increased Emmeline was again charged with conspiracy. She was sentenced to three years penal servitude for incitement. As a persistent hunger-striker she served less than six weeks of this sentence, but spent much of the next 18 months in and out of prison.

When war broke out in August 1914, Pankhurst suspended the WSPU’s militant campaign. She called on suffragettes to support the war, and campaigned for women’s war work. She also adopted four war orphans; Betty, Kathleen, Mary and Joan, who she cared for with the help of Catherine Pine, a nurse and WSPU supporter. As the end of the war approached the WSPU was renamed the Women’s Party with Emmeline as its treasurer. The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the right to vote to women over the age of 30, providing they (or their husband) occupied either a dwelling house of any value, or owned land or premises with a yearly value of £5 or more. Female university graduates over 30 were also given the right to vote. This act also gave the right to vote to all men over the age of 21. Despite being a hugely significant change, these restrictions excluded approximately a third of the female population. The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 soon followed, which gave women over the age of 21 the right to stand for election as a Member of Parliament. The Women’s Party fielded one candidate, Christabel Pankhurst, in 1918 but she failed to win, a bitter disappointment to her mother.

Emmeline Pankhurst spent the next seven years moving between various locations with her adoptive family working as a lecturer on social hygiene for the Canadian government and running an unsuccessful tea shop in the South of France. In 1925 she accepted an invitation from the Conservative Party to stand as a candidate in Whitechapel in the 1929 election. She moved to the constituency, but died on 14 June 1928 from septicaemia after developing influenza, shortly before the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 received Royal Assent. This act gave all women over the age of 21 the right to vote.

Emmeline Pankhurst’s funeral took place at St John’s Church, Smith Square. Her coffin was accompanied by a WSPU flag, and over a thousand women accompanied it to Brompton Cemetery where it was laid in a grave lined with ivy, privet and laurel. In December 1928 former Viscountess Rhondda, a former WSPU organizer, opened a memorial fund. This raised over £2,000, which was used to fund a statue in Tower Gardens, the purchase of Georgina Brackenbury’s portrait of her for the National Portrait Gallery and a headstone for the grave. The headstone was dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on June 1930. It was the work of Julian Phelps Allan (born Eva Dorothy Allan) (1892-1996) a recent graduate and gold medal winner of the Royal Academy of Arts. The headstone appears to have been one of her first commissions.

Allan changed her name from Eva to Julian when she started sculpting professionally, as she felt her work would be taken more seriously if attributed to a man. It is also suggested that Allan may have renamed herself after the Medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, whose Revelations of Divine Love is believed to be the first book in the English language to be written by a woman (Barnes, 2016). She studied at the Royal Academy Schools in the 1920s, receiving the Gold Medal in 1925, and served in the army in both World Wars, leaving with the rank of colonel. As a sculptor she made a number of works for monasteries and convents, including a monumental crucifix in Paisley, Scotland and a Madonna and Child at the Carmelite Monastery, Wetherby, North Yorkshire. In 1932 she was commissioned by Downe House School, near Newbury, West Berkshire, to create an altar relief. She also worked as a portraitist. She worked from studios in both London and Edinburgh and from about 1933-1938 was at 3 Pembroke Studios, LB Kensington and Chelsea (Grade II, NHLE 1442898). A sculpted panel in the reredos of Sutton Baptist Church, also the work of Allan, forms a key part of its List entry (Grade II*, NHLE 1357638).

Brompton Cemetery is a Registered Park and Garden (Grade I, NHLE 1000248), and also lies within the Brompton Cemetery Conservation Area. There are a number of designated funerary monuments within the cemetery. Emmeline Pankhurst’s tomb was listed at Grade II on 7 November 1984.

Reasons for Listing

The tomb of Emmeline Pankhurst, 1930, by Julian Phelps Allan, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* Emmeline Pankhurst is one of the most important national figures of the C20, for her pivotal role in the suffragette movement.

Architectural interest:

* as an elegant cross, commissioned by Julian Phelps Allan, in a period when most comparative tombs were made by commercial masons.

Group value:

* within the Grade I registered Brompton Cemetery, with other Grade II listed tombs nearby.

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