Saturday, 10 November 2018

Have your say on the Merton Local Plan before 6 January 2019

Merton Council are consulting on their new Local Plan 2020, which will be used as the basis for planning decisions in the future. Planning decisions are one of the ways in which cycling policies are put into practice, so it's really important that the Local Plan incorporates strong commitments to cycling and active transport.

MCC will be submitting a response to the Draft Plan, and we would love to hear your views to incorporate into our response. Comment below, or on Cycle Scape or email hello@mertoncyclingcampaign.org.uk 

Find out more at merton.gov.uk/newlocalplan  - the draft Cycling policy is set out in the Infrastructure section, and you can also find out how to submit your individual comments or view hard copies of the documents. (The Plan also covers policy on housing, design, schools, healthcare, streets, travel, utilities, waste, open space, playspace, air quality and the economy, so you may find you have lots of things you want to comment on!)

Copies of the full document are also available to read at the Colliers Wood, Mitcham, Morden, Raynes Park and Wimbledon libraries. 

For more information please email Merton Council at future.merton@merton.gov.uk or phone at 020 8545 3837

Saturday, 3 November 2018

TfL Consulting on Sutton Link until 6 January 2018

TfL are consulting on a proposed new transport link between Sutton and Merton called the Sutton Link. They are seeking views on three route options and whether a tram or Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) service would provide the best service.

We broadly welcome improvements to the public transport in Merton and the neighbouring boroughs as it reduces car use and improves air quality. We'll be pushing to ensure that the proposals don't negatively impact on cycle routes, that the proposed stations and stops have good cycling and walking routes to them and that the space for the final scheme comes from private car lanes, not cycling space. If the tram is the eventually chosen then any places where cyclists cross the tracks must be well designed with the latest materials to avoid tramlining incidents.

MCC will be submitting a response to the consultation and would love to hear your views to feed into our response. Let us know what you think by: 


Or you can complete TfL's online survey by Sunday 6 January 2019 www.tfl.gov.uk/sutton-link

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Annual Report and re-election of Committee Members

We held our annual meeting for MCC as part of our monthly meeting on Thursday 4th October. Borough Co-ordinator Kathryn provided the annual report on our achievements over the last year, which you can read below, or download here if you prefer a PDF. 

Kathryn, Hugh, David and Philip were returned to their positions of Co-ordinator, Engineering Matters, Treasurer and Secretary. However, Philip announced his intention to hang up his pen and pencil next year, so we will be on the hunt for a new Secretary!

We’re always keen to welcome cyclists of all frequencies, types and speeds to get involved so if you want to be part of making Merton a better borough for cycling and active transport, please get in touch or come along to one of our monthly meetings - you don't need to be a member of  LCC to join us.

Executive Summary 

Merton Cycling Campaign have had a busy year, welcoming new members and seeing some of our ‘newer’ initiatives beginning to turn into ‘what we do’. As a group I am grateful for and proud of the support that the whole membership has shown me in my co-ordinator role, stepping up to share responsibility for chairing meetings, respond to queries, represent the group in different forums, and promote activity on social media.  

A large part of the year has been dominated by the Local Authority elections in May, and our regular Borough Liaison Meetings have continued to hold Merton to account, whilst we’ve also began to explore other ways that we can push for improvements. In policy terms we have strong foundations on which to build.

At our January meeting this year we took stock of what we wanted to achieve in relation to our three objectives to: 
  • Raising awareness of cycling issues in the borough
  • Campaigning to improve conditions for cycling in the borough 
  • Providing a range of services for members
We’ve made good starts on all of these, but there is room to do more.

Raising awareness of cycling issues in the borough

We set out to raise the profile of cycling in the borough by running a number of events and campaigns. 

At the request of Merton History Society, Hugh Morgan successfully delivered an event focussed on the Year of Women’s Suffrage in July, with a well-received talk on ‘Our Cycling Suffragette’ Rose Lamartine Yates. We have since submitted a Blue Plaque application to mark her work. 
Our ambition to hold a pollution reduction activity during the summer holidays and creating a leisure circuit that links the green spaces in the borough remain outstanding, but are good ideas that we can hopefully turn our attention to next year.  

Despite the trials and tribulations of implementing the new GDPR regulations, we’ve increased our public communications activity. In 2016-2017 we posted to facebook only 8 times; this year we have posted over 50 times, with a mix of MCC and LCC messages, with each post reaching up to 100 people. Engagement with each post is still in single figures, but is slowly increasing. Over the course of the year we’ve grown our page followers from 40 to 55. We’ve also increased our tweeting and promoted our events via LCC channels including the events listings, e-newsletter and Magazine insert. 

Campaigning to improve conditions for cycling in the borough 

We sought to work with London Borough of Merton to achieve: 
  • MCC considered as a key stakeholder by Merton in developing active travel strategies and plans and asked pro-actively for advice and ideas 
  • Better Quietways, in particular the Quietway between Sutton and Kingston 
  • Removal of the railings on Durnsford Rail Bridge
We are making some progress in this regard, building on the strong foundations that our regular liaison meetings with the Borough Cycling Officer provide us with. We were recently invited to participate in the establishment of an Active Travel group in Merton by the Healthy Places Officer working in the Public Health team at Merton Council.

Huge thanks must go to Hugh Morgan, Jim Wagner, Philip Box, Charles Barrabell and all others who take part in these regular meetings.

We took part in the Borough’s early consultation on developing the Local Plan and are ready to participate in the next round of development. 

We carried out a survey in April to inform our campaigning, with good results. We have an opportunity to make more these results and internalise the findings and incorporate them more into our own campaigning efforts. 

A large chunk of the first part of the year was given over to the Local Authority elections; we worked with Living Streets to jointly campaign for Merton to submit a high quality Liveable Neighbourhoods bid ahead of the next elections in 4 years. Disappointingly, the Administration has not engaged with us on this objective, but the campaign opened up relationships with both Living Streets, and Merton Park Residents Association, that are seeing us build relationships and be more aware of what is happening at a policy level. 

We supported Kingston CC in clarifying and supporting the proposals for the Quietways between Sutton and Kingston, providing some links with other outer London boroughs that we can begin to build on. 

Our campaigning to remove the recently installed railings on Durnsford Rail Bridge have reached a disappointing stalemate, with no explanation of why they have been installed and no willingness on the part of Merton officers to consider the reasons for their removal. 

As an outer borough we often feel cut off from the wider campaigning of LCC, focussed on inner London boroughs. We set out to strengthen our ties with LCC, and have managed sporadic attendance at the Local Groups Forum, and have submitted the only two group motions for the LCC AGM in October 2018. Raising our profile with LCC is one way to gain support and visibility for outer London boroughs, and we will need to build on this in the next year to create a constructive dialogue about how we can be better supported. 

Alongside that there is more for us to do to strengthen our relationships with the neighbouring borough groups. 

Providing a range of services for members 

To achieve this objective, we planned to host events and rides throughout the year to encourage people who live work and play in Merton to ride and build relationships to support our campaigning activity, and it turns out we’re quite a sociable bunch! 

We hosted our second Vernal Equinox Drinks in March, welcoming new faces and reconnecting with older ones. We once again hosted a successful summer bbq and participated in the Summer Solstice Ride to Richmond Park. We also increased the number of marshals supporting the Freecycle Feeder ride, and plans are afoot for our third winter warmer ride. 

Challenges ahead 

Like any small community group, we face the challenges of a small membership which is stretched for time. We will need to widen our membership, and attract new members if we are to build on our successes this year and begin to achieve our ambitions and vision for a borough that has safe and pleasant places that benefit individuals, local communities and the wider environment. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Join us at the MCC Annual Meeting - Thursday 4th October

We'll be holding our annual meeting for LCC as part of our monthly meeting on Thursday 4th October.

We'll be reporting back on our achievements for this year, electing Officers and planning ahead for the next year. Please join us!

Thursday 4th October, 8pm 
All Saints Centre
All Saints Road
London, SW19 1BX

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Rose Lamartine Yates talk. ‘Our Cycling Suffragette’; By Hugh Morgan of Merton Cycling Campaign

The transcript of Hugh's talk, given at Colliers Wood Library on July 21st 2018. If you prefer a Pdf you can download it here.

‘As this was a one-off talk I will not be crediting all photos etc. But I would like to thank Yolande Yates for permitting me to make use of the late Paul Lamartine Yates’, as yet unpublished, auto-biography which is held with much of interest by the John Innes Society so thanks to them as well. In the June 18th copy of the Wimbledon and District Gazette in 1896 the Wimbledon library sub-committee receive a suggestion that a shed or covered way be provided at the rear of the library for the accommodation of cyclists as it might increase the number of readers and borrowers. Over 120 years later my first visit to the brand new Colliers Wood library for this visit revealed no cycle parking. I have reported this to Paul Miles the Merton Cycling Officer who is very effective and now has this in hand. They should be well designed as he is the great grandson of the Suffragette Elspeth Douglas McClelland, famous for having herself posted to 10 Downing Street and being the first woman architect.’  - Hugh

The development of the bicycle and rise of the women’s suffrage movement were closely connected. This is the story of a woman who became uniquely influential in both.

This well-known photo shows a Suffragette holding forth, with police protection, addressing a large crowd who appear to be listening attentively.

What can we read from this photo.  A confident speaker.  A commanding speaker. She is relaxed she has her hand in her pocket. Flanked by two women who are also relaxed but attentive the foreground figure looks as though she may be the guest speaker. The man at the back looks as though he is going to remain expressionless and dart beedy eyes at anyone who looks like trouble. He is the speaker’s husband. She is Rose Lamartine Yates the Cyclists’ Suffragette and in Merton she is ‘Our Cycling Suffragette’.

This year, we are commemorating 1918 but to start we need to go back 50 years earlier. Things don’t
change, there are timetable problems on the railways.  You have to imagine that the road outside is composed of compacted and dusty hoggins, a surface not yet as good as Colliers Wood High Street had been in Roman time.

The Romans had the sense to have straight radial routes out of Londinium, TfL have capitalized on this with Red Routes and Blue cycle superhighways but in 1868 for almost 2000 years the high street had seen nothing but pedestrians, horses and carts plying backwards and forwards. Only relatively recently the railways have embanked and gouged there way through the suburbs. Suddenly a man on a velocipede streaks down Colliers Wood High Street.

A velocipide
Reported in the South London News, due to the problems on the railway, several gentlemen have taken to velocipedes from the outskirts, one rider ‘outstripping the steam-horse by gliding along at the rate of 15 miles an hour’. 

Human beings balanced on a simple two-wheeled contraption suddenly have personal transport; they can increase their range and speed five-fold without the wealth needed to stable, shoe and feed a horse. 

Just over ten years later on a fine last Saturday in May 1881 at a Bicycle Meet in Hampton Court over 2000 bicyclists and tri-cyclists turn out to process round the park.

Cycling Clubs became popular, the Bicycle Touring Club, later to become the Cyclists Touring Club and more recently Cycling UK, was founded in Harrogate in 1878. In  the same year The National Cyclists Union which organised racing championships was founded in London.  In 1880 the CTC opened membership to women and by the mid 1890’s a third of all new members were women. By
1890 both clubs boasted 60,000 members each. In the preceeding two years the CTC had gained 8000 members a year. The political status of cycling made it appropriate for the Prime Minister Arthur Balfour to be President of the National Cyclists Union. But essentially it became the ultimate leveller.

The pneumatic tyre, chain power and tarmacadam all combined together to make the bicycle comfortable to ride, and while London’s trains and horse drawn trams gave freedom of movement in the most advanced city in the world.

Elsewhere in Britain this relatively cheap form of personal transport was providing such freedom of movement for the working population that they were able to start being more selective about who they chose to work for and how much they were paid. It was a great influence on the spread of trade unionism.  Between 1888 and 89 union membership doubled in a single year to two million.
It is claimed that the bicycle also had an important impact on human evolution. In rural areas it dramatically increased access to potential marriage partners because everyone now could travel beyond their local communities.

In 1894 the Socialists Cycling Club is founded in Birmingham late adopted by the Socialist newspaper the Clarion it became the Clarion Cycle Club open to women members from the beginning. The young Pankhurst girls became members in 1896 and discovered political activism on wheels.

In 1896 The New Wimbledon Cycling Club at the Club’s Annual sports day bemoans the fact that ‘there are a large number of lady cyclists in Wimbledon and if they would join the club it would be a great advantage’; at that time they had only one lady member.

The fact is that the freedoms of cycling had perhaps the most influence with women. The idea of rational dress when women could wear what they found suitable for the occasion rather than what gentility dictated.

In 1881 the Rational Dress Society was founded in London the president and co-founder, Lady Florence Harberton, was a keen cyclist and an advocate of exercise for women. Recognizing the restrictive nature of women’s clothes she advocated the wearing of a divided skirt over a pair of bloomers or other under trousers. Note (Which seems a bit irrational)
       
It was a 16 year old Brighton girl who made the sort of breakthrough necessary to cause change. In Sept 1893 Tessie Reynolds road a man’s bike from Brighton to London and back in 8 hours 30 minutes. She wore pantaloons cropped and cinched below the knee with a shirt and long coat. All tailored by her sister who was a seamstress. The outfit caused outrage and inspired women as far away as America. Three years later the veteran American civil rights leader, Susan B Anthony, would write in 1896:
"I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.

10 years on, back to Colliers Wood High Street, a plethora of bike shops have opened up, where they actually manufacture bicycles from the basic steel tube on the premises. Just across the street from Library is Genners. The badge is from the Genner bicycle of Richard Smith who still uses it everyday to get to AWCycles where he has worked since starting as a Saturday job in the 1950’s. (AW is the last of these manufacturing shops to survive and will close finally in September.) 

Tom and Rose
Back to Colliers Wood 1906, a married couple cycle past, in their CTC uniforms of green serge on their way to Brixton for lunch with her family. Mr and Mrs Lamartine Yates  have come from their home in Fulwell through Raynes Park and in Merton Park have just seen a fine house for rent on the Kingston Road.

Dorset Hall, empty for some years, appears to be just what they want; they are excited. They are an unusual married couple he is 61 she is 31, they have been married 8 years. Before they were married she had known him all her life as Uncle Tom, because he was a friend of her father and of similar age. They are an interesting couple because neither is conventional and they start socially with a clean slate. Both had the advantage of coming from no defined level in society. He self-educated, she the daughter of French immigrants.

Tom was born Swindlehurst; not Yates. His father an engineer involved in a construction company gained National notoriety when convicted of fraud at the Old Bailey the same year that Tom qualified as a solicitor. To be a solicitor with ‘Swindle’ as part of your name would not be ideal but having his father publicly living out the family name is enough to make a less Dickensian name desirable;  Tom chose ‘Yates’.

Tom’s legal qualifications had been hard won. From 11 he had worked in a factory, from where he got himself a job in London as a clerk. Studying 3 hours before breakfast and 3 hours at night he teaches himself Latin, French, Italian, German and Maths. He then studies law till he becomes a solicitor. He is 5ft 3ins and a fitness freak with much walking and running from Clapham to the City and cycling. Without fail every day starts with a cold bath. He always wears a hat because he was bald at 35.  If there is one thing that Rose is critical of is that he drops his ‘H’s.

Rose is the third and last child of two language teachers from France. Both over here to teach French they meet in Brighton and subsequently marry, when she Pauline is 30 and he Elphege is 23. Pauline was orphaned at 15 and brought up by relations in France until coming to a Brighton school as French Mistress aged 28. She is a strong believer in egalité.

Elphege came to England aged 19 on the promise of a teaching job which didn’t materialize. Life is a struggle living off various small teaching jobs, which is when Tom came to him for French lessons and they became friends. Once Elphege and Pauline are married, Elphege establishes himself as French Master at Christ’s Hospital School for boys in the city  and Pauline as French Mistress at Dulwich High School for girls. A job she continues while bringing up the children. Her two girls and a boy who she treats equally. Rose as youngest, demands attention; we hear she is sickly and has back problems; at certain times during her development she has breakdowns, which usually results in a change of scene. This starts with being transferred from London to Truro High School to benefit from Cornwall’s more salubrious air. At 18 she goes to College in Kassel in Germany, after her first year ill health brings her home, she recuperates and goes to the Sorbonne in Paris where after another breakdown returns to England, when she goes to Royal Holloway College. She breaks down in her third year but later returns for her finals and passes.

There is no question that Rose was extremely articulate, forthright and opinionated. She is described, slightly unfairly,  by her own son as not a reasoner, but a plunger, and  he also said she didn’t walk, she strode. Maybe a year in Kassel and the Sorbonne was all those Colleges could take. Her stay in Royal Holloway College found more stability with like-minded women. One of whom is ‘Pem’ her good friend and fellow cyclist Emily Wilding Davison.

A letter from her mother Pauline to Tom before Roses’s Royal Holloway breakdown demonstrates her mother’s egalitarian position. After encouraging Tom to get rid of his cold by not taking cold baths, she says that she and Rose and Elphege will be over at the weekend, but hopes they will see him before Saturday ‘if the roads will allow you to enjoy your steed’ . She says Elphege will be at a Christs Hospital lodge dinner on Tuesday and continues;
 ‘I cannot imagine how men can enjoy a dinner without ladies, truly it must be heavy and to a certain extent coarse – Man is a strange being – he cannot make women his equal, or rather he will not and as a natural consequence woman uses her intelligence in making man a slave and degrading him – is it not true in most cases’. 

These revealing thoughts from his contemporary and future mother-in-law did not put Tom off.

During Rose’s Royal Holloway breakdown she recuperates over Christmas 1898 at a rest home in Broadstairs. He sends her very generous Christmas presents. Her thank-you letter starts ‘Dear naughty good uncle’ refers to his generous gifts and says  ‘they look like wedding presents’ and signs off  ‘from your loving niece’ .

Her breakdown does not seem to have affected her performance in taking the Oxford Final Honours exam in modern languages and philology, she passes but as a woman is not entitled to a degree.         
9 months later she and Tom are engaged, 9 months after that married.

Her elder brother and sister who are both striving to get jobs as teachers had no sympathy with Rose’s breakdowns, her last they saw as postponing the decision of how to make a living and conclude she took the easy way out by marrying a well set up solicitor.

Apart from not being allowed a degree the thing that lit the fuse of Rose’s passionate drive for equality for women was spending the first two years in her husband’s office. Rose studied Law under his direction so that she could assist in his practice in Essex Street and she informally took articles. She learned with disgust of the inequity in law between the positions of men and women. "The reason such a state of affairs exists" she wrote, "is that by order of man woman is dumb with regard to all legislative and national affairs".

The couple’s other shared occupation was cycling. His interest in physical fitness and her inclination for travel meant that cycling was their joint pleasure. Rose joined her husband in the popular Cyclists’ Touring Club.

The first years of her membership she played a vigorous part in general meetings and was an active member with her husband, cycling extensively in Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany reporting on the Standard of accommodation bearing the CTC’s plaque. Her fluency in French and German making her ideally qualified. Their rides on the popular Portsmouth Road meant that Dorset Hall in Merton Park couldn’t have suited them better and once settled in Rose’s really makes her mark.

Dorset Hall - then and now
At that time Dorset  Hall, a Queen Anne House, had 11 bedrooms and 3 acres of garden including a large pond. The couple employed four female staff living in, and a gardener , Friston, and his boy living out.

Rose was an advocate for growing one’s own produce and she kept poultry particularly ducks. Most of the garden was given over to fruit and vegetables.  It would not be long before the first annual  show of the Merton Allotment and Cottage Garden Society takes place at Dorset Hall.
Tom has an easy walk to Wimbledon Station to get to work in Chancery Lane and after his cold bath, regular as clockwork leaves the house at 8.30a.m. Neighbours nickname him ‘The White Rabbit’ from his habit of regularly referring to his pocket watch. In addition to his legal business he invests in shop properties in good areas.

The year they move to Dorset Hall, 1906, there is a crisis at the Cyclists Touring Club. The CTC was thrown into some confusion as motor vehicles started to be more invasive on what had largely become the cyclists’ domain.

There was a faction intent on making the Club an organisation that would also represent motorists. The Club secretary and editor of the Club Magazine was himself a motorist and saw wider membership as a way to bolster finances. At the same time he has delibearately suppressed a report into the abuse of club finances. Tom is one of the signatories requesting its publication and this leads to Shipton’s resignation in very merky circumstances. At the following election for council seats a very strong faction for the club to be for cyclists and motorists  was met by a Reform group for remaining an exclusive cycling club. The Reform Group managed to field a candidate for every available seat a substantial feat of organisation accomplished principally by Rose, who is now 3 months pregnant. She is one of the two Surrey candidates. The other being a Wimbledon barrister who is in favour of the motoring lobby. Rose wins the seat and the Cyclists win the day. Which made way for the AA and RAC.

She was now the only woman of the 68 councillors representing Britain. And a year or two later in the Journal of Cycling her contribution is described as: 
‘A keen debater and one of the most lucid and convincing speakers in the club, who does not hesitate to go straight to the root of any subject that attracts her investigation. As CTC Councillor for Surrey she is at the present time the most active lady worker we possess, and it is highly creditable to her that she is willing to devote so much time to the improvement of the cyclists’s lot when other ladies are so conspicuously absent from the Council’s of our leaders’

The reaction of many women to this reference to their absence will have been ‘Not for want of trying’. There had been several unsuccessful attempts by women before Rose including the redoubtable Lady Florence Harberton president of the Rational Dress Society. When Rose retired from the CTC Council in 1914 it was several years before any other woman attained a position on the Council.

During her election Rose has disclaimed being a suffragette and Lady Harberton had asked ‘Why not?’ However after about a year on the Council Rose gave a speech entitled: ‘How I became a Suffragist’ she stated, "... on looking into the matter seriously I find I have never been anything else ... and ... I came to realise that I was and must remain one at whatever personal cost".
In fact the rough and tumble of CTC administration in which Rose gained so much experience and confidence, was an excellent grounding for the rough and tumble of the Suffragette Movement.
After a rousing speech to cyclists in Birmingham the London Daily Cycling News (Note that London had its own daily cycling paper) reported  ‘ she entered into the fray with almost the enthusiasm of a Suffragette’.

Needless to say only 4 months after her son Paul is born, (and disappointed he is not a girl) Rose is being a founder member of the Wimbledon Womens Social and Political Union and the following month is addressing a crowd of 1000 on Wimbledon Common for the cause. The WSPU motto of ‘Deeds not Words’ made huge sense in that if you didn’t have the vote, politicians ignored your words.

Rose engaged in deeds with great dynamism, and Dorset Hall became a primary suburban secure refuge and legal advice shop for many suffragettes, but Rose’s ultimate weapon were words. Delivered often with enormous courage and conviction. She had a remarkable gift of repartee and invariably got the better of hecklers. Her deeds included her words.

Her first serious call to arms was a WSPU meeting in Caxton Hall in February 1909. She joined a deputation to Westminster including Pem to protest to Prime Minister Asquith at the omission of Women’s Suffrage from the Kings speech. On the eve of the deputation Tom now 60 , had given Rose a letter:
"My dearest, 
"To day is thy birthday, & what a momentous one.
"The present I give thee is not gold nor silver but the permission freely & gladly,  to offer up thy liberty for the benefit of downtrodden woman.  To day is the decision tomorrow the sacrifice whence can only com e good tho it mean pain & suffering to thee. "Years hence, our Paul - our boy - will be proud of his mother and her achievement. "Be not afraid for strength and courage will come to thee in the hour of need. Tom" The police are waiting for them and they are punched, tripped, half-strangled, picked up and flung down again and again. They are then herded into Cannon Row Police Station and charged with "obstructing the police in the execution of their duty".

At her trial, with Tom in court as her solicitor, as part of her statement Rose declares
"I have a little son who is only eight months old, and his father and I decided ... that when that boy grows up he might ask me, 'What did you do, mother, in the days of women's agitation, to lay the views of the women before the Prime Minister?' and I could but blush if I said to him,'I made no attempt to go to the Prime Minister.—"

In the magazine Punch of 10 March, Rose is rebuked in verse titled ‘A Mothers Sacrifice’ the last verses include the lines
“…. You renounced your husband, home and baby,  When he (the last-named) was but eight months old."  The verse then asked on baby Paul's behalf, "Meanwhile, dear Parent, who looked after me?"

A riposte from Paul is soon published, starting   ‘Dear Mr Punch I’m happy with daddie,…and ended: "But, Mr Punch, twere time you had some schooling, For mothers are not parents by our laws; Tis fathers only, by all legal ruling; So children, too, must help the women's cause!" Signed little Paul

The sentence is one month in prison. The bad food, bad air and minimal sanitation, the cold and the lack of exercise were a severe ordeal. Rose had an attack of pleurisy and suffered a strain, lifting heavy pails and bed-boards.

In the one letter allowed her she writes to Tom dealing with matters under headings which include, .. CTC work, Gardening, Poultry and Publisher (she is co-author of the ‘Modern languages calendar').

After release she would proudly wear the ‘Holloway Brooch’ designed by Sylvia Pankhurst (Note hatless, and CTC emblem).  After recuperating in Yorkshire for several weeks she returned to her commitments. One of which is a brief lecture tour to Monmouth and Bath. She visited Eagle House, Batheaston, where she planted an Austrian pine in the Suffragette Arboritum. In past years these have been removed for a housing estate  and Rose’s is the only one that has survived.

In the CTC she is elected Chief Consul for Surrey and she commences to revise the list of hotels and farmhouses affiliated to the club.

With her prison experiences she begins to give lectures, titles like ‘The rigour and humour of Prison Life’ and she chairs local meetings indoors and on the common. The common meetings take place every Sunday and she is increasingly the principal speaker. Although she successfully invites most of suffragettes leading figures as guest speakers. Who included Mary Leigh,prisoner of prisoners and drum-major of the Suffragette Drum and Fife band, Una Dugdale who scandalised the nation by refusing to say ‘obey’ at her wedding ceremony,  Emily Wilding Davison and the Pankhurst sisters.

The Wimbledon WSPU start looking for commercial premises and they open a meeting room, office and shop at 6 Victoria Crescent. The shop sold WSPU post cards, stationery and china,- home made products like children’s clothing and  above all Flowers, eggs and garden produce from Dorset Hall. Rose is treasurer and they make a profit of some £400 a year. This allows the Wimbledon WSPU to be independent, due to receiving no funds from the WSPU itself.

Each February Tom’s birthday gift to Rose is something for the shop. One year 48 chairs for the meeting room, another year a clock. Which he says is to mark time till the vote is won. Rose’s activities could hardly be called marking time. In her 1911 election address to the CTC she mentions working on the Rights and Privileges Committee, the Hotels Committee and the Foreign and Colonial Committee. Meanwhile there are numerous events to be organised at Dorset Hall and the constant Sunday afternoon gatherings on Wimbledon Common. In March 1912 Rose is arrested with 5 other Wimbledon members on a window smashing campaign, including Winston Churchill’s windows. Two are imprisoned Mrs Begbe and Mrs Wilkinson who go on hunger strike and endure the pain and horror of forced feeding. Their release is marked by a Garden Party at Dorset Hall. Photographs show the pale thin prisoners one resting in a hammock.


Dorset Hall becomes an emulation of all she believes. The flower beds are planted in the green white and purple Suffragette colours, votes for women banners garland the Kingston Road side, and son Paul has to cope for a good number of years with being dressed as a girl with long flowing blond hair.
On her birthday in February 1913 the Sunday meeting on the Common is attacked and on the first Sunday of March 300 police are not enough to control the crowd the platform and flagstaff are broken alongside some very dishevelled and bruised women.

The Home Secretary forbids the WSPU from calling public meetings in open spaces such as Hyde Park and Wimbledon Common, however the Wimbledon WSPU as an autonomous union maintained it was independent and Rose, often single handed carried on with them.  After the Home Office ruling the next meeting on Wimbledon Common was reported by the newspapers,  one under the headline ‘Hissed by 5000’. The crowd had gathered to witness lively scenes between the police and suffragettes but were surprised when they eventually saw a woman standing in the centre of a cordon of police three and four deep and speaking against the Home Office Order. A section of the crowd wished to know why she was allowed to speak she explained she was not a member of the Womens Social and Political Union but of the independent Wimbledon WSPU a different organisation.

She said ‘It ought not to be necessary for us to require protection from the police’ voice in the crowd ‘It’ll be soldiers next week’. Rose carried on ‘Many of you seem to think that these meetings are prohibited, but until we are officially informed of that fact we shall not deprive you of the pleasure of listening to us.’ At this point the crowd started to press and 8 mounted police arrived to cries of ‘Here come the Lancers’. When she finished her speech the police closed round her and escorted her to Dorset Hall a mile away. This involved 200 police and 50 mounted while the crowd of 5,000 accompanied them hissing and booing. Interviewed later she stated that she had been conducting these meetings for over 4 years and said that when she enquired whether the prohibition order applied to the Wimbledon Union’s meetings she was not informed that it did, so the meeting took place.  In later years she considered that this defence of the right of free speech to be her ‘most valuable contribution’ to the movement. In National terms it demonstrated that the groundswell of powerful speakers and leaders was not limited to the aristocratic figureheads of the WSPU. 

One the most militant of the suffragettes was Emily Wilding Davison, even performing deeds the WSPU did not approve, such as setting fire to letter boxes. The deputation to Asquith resulted in the first of her 7 prison sentences and  7 Hunger strikes during which she was force fed 49 times.
She declared that ‘Sacrifice of human life’ was the only way to bring force feeding to the public’s attention and made 2 unsuccessful attempts at jumping off prison balconies. During Derby week she met Rose at the Suffragette Flower Festival at Kensington and on the afternoon before Derby Day she visited Dorset Hall. We know she did because there is a first-hand account of Rose saying she did. The reason seems to be that she went to see her friend Rose as a trustworthy confidant for what she was about to do.  Britain in Europe was one of the last countries to punish suicide as a crime, only changing the law in 1961. Before the Suicide Act 1961, it was a crime to commit suicide, and anyone who attempted and failed could be prosecuted and imprisoned, not that Emily was too worried about that, but the families of those who succeeded could also potentially be prosecuted.  A coroner’s verdict of ‘selfmurder’ had repercussions for surviving family members and legally it was best avoided. We assume therefore that Emily came to make sure that Tom would act for her and her family, which was agreed.   Also if she killed herself she wanted to make sure that impact was felt and she would need Rose’s organisational skills to make sure this happened.  Her other practical problem was that at Victoria Station they had been only selling return tickets for Derby Day  and she didn’t want this to diminish her intent. She left the return half with Rose to use as she felt the circumstances warranted.

She would be dramatically sacrificing herself while trying to avoid a coroner’s verdict of self-murder. After her death Tom acted for the family and this was achieved. The Davison family were represented by her half-brother Captain Henry Davison who stayed at Dorset Hall till the funeral.

Rose ably assisted by the presentational skills of Mary Leigh and Gladys Evans, made the arrangements for the magnificent funeral procession into Kings Cross from where the body was taken to Morpeth for burial. Rose was ‘First Guard of Honour’ to the coffin between Epsom and Kings Cross. Dressed in white with black sashes the bodyguard flanked the open carriage drawn by four black horses followed by vehicles bearing wreathes from all over the world.

The funeral procession was over two miles long. On the Sunday of Emilys death Rose mounted her box on the Common and gave a prepared lecture on the treatment of women’s suffrage by the government, Emily’s plight was not touched upon. After that she went abroad for several weeks and suffered a long spell of illness in the autumn.

This was her first breakdown since marriage.

When war was declared the Wimbledon WSPU had to decide its war plans. The Common meetings ceased and it was agreed to maintain subscriptions and to open a kitchen at once "to supply food to the necessitous at the lowest possible price".

The shop at Victoria Crescent began to serve hot meals for a halfpenny twice a day for those with tickets from the Wimbledon Guild of Help. It was soon clear that Merton too needed a kitchen, and premises at 119 Merton High Street  were equipped and opened. In the first seven months 35,000 meals were served, of which 13,000 were in Merton. Clothing was also collected and distributed where needed. The treasurer of these Distress Kitchens was Rose. This gave her less time for attention to her Cycling affairs. She had won women their place at the CTC and maintained a strong presence for 7 years. She resigned from the CTC Council in November with a moving letter to Surrey members published in the ‘CTC Gazette’. She says it is now  her duty to offer her services to her ‘stricken countrywomen’ and says she will always value Surrey’s pioneer courage in entrusting the work to a woman.

In 1914 Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel suspended the WSPU action and backed the Government in the War effort. Sylvia was a pacifist and did not agree with this. Rose was partly motivated by pacifism and also by not wanting to allow Pem’s sacrifice to have been in vain. In October 1915 she initiated and chaired a meeting at Caxton Hall of WSPU members from many parts of the country and a signed resolution was sent to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst protesting at their abandonment of the cause of women’s suffrage. The ‘Suffragettes of the WSPU’ was inaugurated with Rose one of the committee members in the Emily Wilding Lodge. They felt it important that while many women were doing their bit for the war effort the threat of WSPU militancy should not go away.

With the end of the War the election of December 1918 saw suffrage extended to all males over 21,  to women over 30 and women could for the first time stand for Parliament. In support of the argument that militancy and the threat of militancy played a major part in bringing this about, the British situation can be compared with France, where suffragists had not been nearly as militant, but where women were equally engaged in war work. In France it was not until the end of the 2nd World War that women got the vote.

Rose was invited by the Labour Party to contest the Wimbledon Parliamentary seat. She chose instead to stand as a characteristically independent candidate, backed by the National Union of Women Teachers, in the London County Council election of 1919 for the North Lambeth Division. As the first Independent LCC Councillor Rose caused a stir on her first appearance at a Council meeting, by appearing hatless! She lobbied for better public housing, school improvements and equal pay for men and women.

An end to war-work for women made a big difference to North Lambeth family budgets, and Rose took the initiative to set up a children’s clinic in a YMCA hut near Waterloo Station. The clinic was opened in September 1921 and at the insistence of local teachers named after Rose.

One of the opening gifts is an embroidered apron from the Manchester Suffragettes.

Royal assent is given for women over 21 to vote in 1928

The clinic closes at the outbreak of the next war, when Rose makes a major contribution to our heritage by setting up the Suffragette Record Room. She had the vision to see that the artifacts of this extraordinary campaign should not be lost and probably as a duty to her friend Pem.

Having made Dorset Hall a significant port of call for the movement there were many important artifacts including the Epsom return ticket.

After Tom dies in 1929, aged 81, Our Cycling Suffragette’s final cycling act is to donate her and Tom’s bicycles to the Cyclists Touring Club Museum which were gratefully received, but unfortunately are no longer there.

In 1932 Rose became involved in the Women’s Consultative Committee of the League of Nations in Geneva. This was an offshoot of the International Council for Women whose co-founder had been the American Susan B Anthony. The one who said the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world

Rose died in 1954 aged 79.

The Votes for Women movement was successful, not because establishment and titled ladies led a baying herd, but because it revealed a pool of talent and power that was not going to go away. Real power came out of the woodwork from all levels of society, in fact it was the woodwork. Heroines popped up all over the country. As a local heroine ‘Our Cycling Suffragette’ was in a league of her own and made courageous, calculated and considerable contributions to the whole movement.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Prudential RideLondon Freecycle 2018 London

Over fifty local cyclists took part in the Merton feeder ride to and from the Prudential Ride London on July 28th. Setting off in blazing sunshine riders old and young were ably led by Chris along the Wandle Trail, through Wandsworth, along and over the Thames and through Kensington High Street to reach Green Park.

A huge thank you to our marshals as well, Maeve, Terry, Chris, John and Kathryn. 

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Rose Lamartine Yates – our cycling suffragette

Cycling history in Merton stretches back considerably further than 40 years! Ceri Davies reviews Hugh Morgan's talk at Colliers Wood library, 21 July 2018.

Forceful, full of personality, foresight and social conscience, Rose Lamartine Yates’ eminence in championing female emancipation was vividly portrayed in an entertaining and informative talk given by Hugh Morgan as part of Merton Heritage Service’s centenary programme celebrating the women’s suffrage campaign in Merton.


Hugh’s research and lively delivery animated the very significant work carried out by this local heroine.  She not only conquered a milestone in cycling history (she was the first woman to be elected to the Cyclists’ Touring Club Council) but was highly influential in the quest for sexual equality, promoting her ideas through powerful speeches and actions, always supported by her husband Tom, a lawyer and fellow cyclist.  Hugh emphasised how her powerful oratory – some of which took place on Wimbledon Common - became one of her most important weapons in the struggle.

Out of all the local places significant to her activities, we learnt how her home in Merton, Dorset Hall on Kingston Road, served not only her family and friends but became a refuge for activists and a focal point for her campaigning activities as the secretary of the Wimbledon Social and Political Union (WSPU).  Hugh made a strong case for recognising Dorset Hall as a respected location for the women’s movement.

Rose Lamartine Yates continued her fight even after women won the full vote. She worked for the establishment of an archive for the suffrage campaign, and opened the Women’s Record Room, now part of the suffrage collection in the Museum of London.

Hugh’s knowledgeable presentation provoked questions and contributions from the wide-ranging members of the audience, including Rose Lamartine Yates’ own grand-daughter, Yolande. Thank you, Hugh for a splendid afternoon.