Eagle House (suffragette's rest)
Eagle House in 2010
|Country||England, United Kingdom|
|Designations||Grade II listed|
When Emily Blathwayt and her husband Colonel Linley Blathwayt owned the house, it was used, from 1909 to 1912, as a refuge for suffragettes who had been released from prison after hunger strikes. It became known as the Suffragette's Retreat. Emily Blathwayt was a suffragette and member of the Women's Social and Political Union.
Between April 1909 and July 1911, trees were planted in the grounds to commemorate individual suffragettes; at least 47 were planted . Known as Annie's Arboretum, after Annie Kenney, the trees were destroyed in the 1960s when a council estate was built. Only one tree, an Australian Pine planted in 1909 by Rose Lamartine Yates, remains.
Architecture and history
The two-storey bath stone house has ashlar quoins and a slate roof. There is an ionic doorcase with columns either side supporting a pediment. The south side is of five bays while the east has three. The interior includes an 18th century staircase and fireplace. In the garden is a former chapel with an early 19th century window featuring tracery.
The house was built in the late 17th or early 18th century, then remodelled in 1724 and again in 1729 by the architect John Wood, the Elder as his own house. The house was later associated with his son John Wood, the Younger.
In 1882 Eagle House became home to Colonel Linley Blathwayt, his wife Emily, and their children William and Mary Blathwayt. Linley Blathwayt had been a Colonel in the army in India and moved into the house when he retired. He had interests in insects and in photography. Emily Blathwayt's interest was in the garden and they had an extensive library of books, including hundreds on botany and nature.
Emily and Mary Blathwayt began attending meetings of the Bath Women's Suffrage Society. In 1906 they gave three shillings to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Mary met Annie Kenney at a Women's Social and Political Union meeting in Bath, and she agreed to help Kenney, Elsie Howey, Clara Codd and Mary Phillips organise a local women's suffrage campaign. Mary was given an allowance by her family to support her in her work for women's rights.
On 28 April 1909, Emily Blathwayt wrote in her diary that "the idea of a field of trees grows". The site chosen was a two-acre field on the side of Solsbury Hill. This was not to be a simple wood or even an arboretum. They planted individual holly trees to celebrate women working for the cause wheres those militant women who had been imprisoned were celebrated with a particular conifer. Each had a different species and floral rings were planted around each tree. The planting was achieved by a visit from the suffragette who then posed by a purpose made lead plaque. This was photographed by Colonel Lindley and he would also capture a portrait of the suffragette. These portraits were signed and sold at the WSPU shop in Bath. Blathwayt's diary also includes details of the sexual relationships between some participants of the movement which took place at Eagle House.
Eagle House became an important refuge for suffragettes who had been released from prison after hunger strikes. Each tree was planted to commemorate each woman — at least 47 trees were planted between April 1909 and July 1911, including Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Charlotte Despard, Millicent Fawcett and Lady Lytton.
Many major people from the suffragette movement were invited to stay at her house and to plant a tree to celebrate a prison sentence. The trees were known as "Annie's Arboreatum" after Annie Kenney. There was also a "Pankhurst Pond" within the grounds.
When Vera Wentworth and Elsie Howey assaulted H. H. Asquith (the Prime Minister), this proved too much for the Blathwayt family. The Blathwayts were also distressed by arson and other attacks on property carried out by the suffragettes, including one near Eagle House. Emily Blathwayt resigned from the WSPU and Linley Blathwayt wrote letters of protest to Christabel Pankhurst, Howey and Wentworth. Pankhurst was told that Howey and Wentworth could not visit their house again. Wentworth sent them a long reply expressing regret at their reaction but noting that "if Mr. Asquith will not receive deputation they will pummel him again".
The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 contained provision for woodland of historic importance to be preserved but the importance of this site was never identified. In fact Somerset Archaeological Society was consulted over a planning application and they noted that the grounds were "not very attractive". In 1961 the Local Planning Authority overruled local objections which did not mention the garden. The house was kept but its contents were auctioned and this included a Boadicea brooch given by Annie Kenney to Mary Blathwayt. The garden did not completely go unnoticed as a local journalist noted that the contents of the house were unimportant when compared to the suffragette's garden.
The trees in "Annie's Arboretum" were removed to make way for a housing estate in about 1965. Helen Watts wrote one of the last known accounts of "Annies Arboretum" at Eagle House. She returned to see the spot where she was honoured in 1911. She visited in 1962 and took a sprig of juniper as a souvenir. The local newspaper reported that she could not find her plaque but she did find stout trees and with the aid of Colonel Blathwayt's photo she identified "her" juniper.
One of the trees, an Australian Pine, remains. It was planted by Rose Lamartine Yates in 1909. In 2011 it was announced that the trees would be replaced with new ones in Bath at the Royal Victoria Park, Alice Park and Bath Spa University.
The house has been divided into four apartments.
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