Florence Annie Conybeare
Florence Annie Conybeare (13 September 1872 – 29 February 1916) was a British campaigner for the Women's Suffrage movement. She was a fundraiser and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) worker during the First World War, and an active member of the Women's Liberal Federation.
- 1 Background
- 2 Early years
- 3 Marriage
- 4 Women's suffrage
- 5 Civic work
- 6 Last days
- 7 Afterword
- 8 Endnotes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Bohemian glass merchant's daughter
Florence Conybeare was born Florence Annie Strauss on 13 September 1872 at 10 St. Johns Villas, Brixton Road, Brixton, London. She was the eldest daughter of Gustave Strauss,[note 1] a successful German-speaking Bohemian glass merchant  and patented inventor, who emigrated to Britain and later became a naturalised British subject. Florence's father was born in 1843 in Gablonz, North Bohemia, a town in the Czech Republic known for glass and jewellery production. Florence's mother was Frances Lehmaier (b. 1852 New York, USA; d. 1893 London, England). Florence was the elder sister of Bernard Edwin Strauss (born 1874) and Lily Julia Strauss (1877-1955), who later married George May, 1st Baron May, and became Lady Lily Julia May, 1st Baroness of Weybridge.
1881: Bleak House, Brixton
In 1881, Florence (8) was living with her father (38) and mother (29) in Bleak House, 7 Elgin Gardens, Effra Road, Brixton, in the Borough of Lambeth, London. She lived there with her brother Bernard Edwin (6 yrs) and sister Lily (4 yrs). Their household was run by four domestic servants and a cook.
By 3 April 1891, aged 18, Florence Strauss had moved to 2 West Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London—with her parents. No-one is listed as head of the household on that day as her parents were not present for census purposes. There were six servants looking after the household.
On 15 October 1896, Florence Annie Strauss, a twenty-four-year-old spinster from West Kensington, married the 43-year-old bachelor, former Liberal MP for Camborne, Cornwall, and practising barrister, Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare. The marriage was conducted in accordance with to the rites and ceremonies of the Theistic Church. The service was officiated by Charles Voysey, a freethinking Yorkshire vicar who was deposed for publishing heretical sermons and for denying the doctrine of everlasting hell. The church was situated in Swallow Street, Piccadilly, in the District of Westminster, London. Florence's brother and sister, Bernard and Lily, also got married in the same Theistic Church in 1900 and 1903, respectively.
On marriage, Florence Conybeare became the 'beneficial owner' of, among other properties, the Tregullow Offices, a small dwelling and former mine office [note 2] in Scorrier in the County of Cornwall, as part of a marriage settlement which her husband, Charles A.V. Conybeare, arranged with various parties including the wealthy merchant banker Isaac Seligman. The marriage settlement was effected by means of a Deed of Trust signed by three moneylenders, two of whom had attended the same public school as Charles Conybeare: Tonbridge School, in Kent, and one family member (uncle). "In those days, a marriage settlement was settled upon the marriage."  Such settlements can be compared to prenuptials and should not be confused with financial settlements made on the dissolution of a marriage. In those days, it was a convenient way for a husband-to-be to make adequate financial provision for his wife-to-be. This prevented a wife from otherwise becoming destitute as a result of the husband deserting his wife, or from having to resort to prostitution in order to support herself.
On 11 March 1891, Florence's husband Charles Conybeare conveyed various properties [note 3] by way of a mortgage to William Henry Luard Pattisson and to the parties referred to in Point 2 of the 1896 Deed of Trust. In this mortgage arrangement, Charles Conybeare was able to secure a loan of ₤3,000 from his moneylenders, using the properties as collateral for the loan and the repayment of interest on the outstanding loan.
Deed of Trust
On 14 October 1896, the day before Florence got married, Charles A. V. Conybeare placed those "various properties" including the Tregullow Offices (known together as "the estate") in trust—which properties were still subject to a mortgage—to Henry Grant Madan Conybeare (Charles's brother and JP) and merchant banker Isaac Seligman. As a result, Henry Conybeare and Isaac Seligman became the legal owners and trustees of the estate. This construction enabled Charles Conybeare to confer financial benefits to Florence Conybeare, so that when parts of the estate were sold, she would be entitled to a share of the proceeds. The Deed of Trust that was drawn up to make this possible, recognised four interested parties: 1. Charles A.V. Conybeare (husband and trustor). 2. Jacob Luard Pattisson (civil servant), James Jollie Pattisson (teacher) and Bixby Garnham Luard (vicar and uncle to the first two): the mortgagees (read: moneylenders). 3. Charles A.V. Conybeare and Florence Annie Conybeare (beneficial owners). 4. Isaac Seligman and Henry Grant Madan Conybeare (legal owners and trustees).
"Although Henry Conybeare and Isaac Seligman became the owners of the legal estate the moment it was conveyed to them in 1896, they never actually owned the properties themselves. They simply held on to the properties in trust as part of a marriage settlement, and were only entitled to act on the couple's instructions", not independently of them.
Florence sells property interest
On 21 July 1902, Florence Conybeare was a co-signatory to the 1902 Deed of Conveyance (Indenture) which instructed Isaac Seligman and Henry Conybeare to sell her beneficial interest in one of the estate's properties, namely, the Tregullow Offices. In doing so, she effectively sold that property with her husband, for ₤170, to a mining engineer called Charles Rule Williams, who had recently returned from Mexico after working 15 years in silver mines at Zimapan. The new owner changed the name of the property to Zimapan Villa.
Florence and Charles Conybeare lived the first part of their married life in the fashionable part of London at No. 3 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, in a flat overlooking the Thames. She lived very close to another Women's Rights campaigner, Sylvia Pankhurst, who lived down the road at No. 120 Cheyne Walk. In 1891, Florence and Charles Conybeare MP Camborne, Cornwall, moved to Tregullow House, Scorrier, Cornwall, a country pile owned by John Williams the 5th, a direct descendant of the Williams mining-moguls' dynasty. She remained there in Cornwall until at least 1902. The couple later moved to Oakfield Park in Dartford, Kent.
1907: Women's Enfranchisement Bill
Florence Conybeare was an active organiser, supporter and voice within the Women’s Suffrage movement. Florence Conybeare had supported Mr. W.H. Dickenson's[note 4] Women's Enfranchisement Bill which received its first reading on 8 March 1907. Up till then, married women living in the same house were not regarded as 'joint owners' of that property in the eyes of the law. The Dickenson Bill proposed that husband and wife living under the same roof should both be considered as 'joint occupiers' of the property which, as a consequence, would give married women equal status with men and the right to vote.
1908: Women's Suffrage: A Liberal Principle
In her ‘treatise’ Some Objections Answered published in 1908, in which she claimed that "Women’s Suffrage is essentially a Liberal principle", Florence Conybeare (aka: Mrs C.A.V. Conybeare) wrote a reply to an article written by Edith Calkin, one of the women critics of Women’s Suffrage. She rebuked Calkin for wanting to deny women political recognition and argued why women should be given the right to vote, and aired her objections to Edith Calkin’s approach to women's rights.
The inequities of legislation
- Florence Conybeare referred to Mr Dickenson's 'Women's Suffrage Bill of 1907' [ed. Women’s Enfranchisement Bill], which, if passed, would treat married women as 'joint occupier' of a dwelling, and chided Calkin for ignoring recent legislative developments concerning Women's Suffrage.
- Conybeare believed that all women should be eligible to vote, irrespective of any 'property qualification'.
- It was not right that women who paid rates and taxes had no right to decide how money is spent; taxation and representation belonged together.
- The Married Woman’s Property Act of 1882, she wrote, was "very unsatisfactory for women", especially given the fact that married woman typically ran 16-hour days multitasking for their husbands, and any savings a woman made while running a home were the property of her husband.
- The Law of Divorce "treated men and women differently, making it far easier for a husband to divorce his wife than for a wife to rid herself of a bad husband".
- She objected to married women being barred from voting in municipal elections.
- Women should be allowed to vote so they can help run the country, and pointed to the "very active part" women have played in the country's political life, and said that the last General Election [ed. 1906] "had been fought as much by men as women", thanks to the Women’s Liberal Associations and the Primrose League, whose work had been used by all the political parties.
The plight of working women
- Conybeare rebukes Calkin's claim that women's place is in the home, and for failing to address the issue of women's pay.
- Conybeare defined 'sweated labour' as "a woman who is paid less than a man for the same work".
- While highlighting the drudgery of working women, Conybeare asserted that "women of leisure have a duty to fight for the rights of the working woman".
- She urged working women to unite and lobby for Women’s Suffrage because it was not only for their own good, but also because it would "raise the status of working women", especially as "the status of the poorest class of male worker had vastly improved" once he had been granted the right to vote in 1884".
1913: Suffragist meeting at Dartford
On 24 July 1913, a meeting of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies was held in a meadow in Bullace Lane where the Australian suffragist, Miss Muriel Matters, had been invited to address a gathering on the subject of votes for women. The event was organised by, and presided over by, Florence Conybeare of Oakfield Park, Dartford, Kent, whose husband Charles Conybeare had been a Liberal MP from 1885 until 1895. Florence kicked off the meeting by mounting the wagon which was being used as a stage. Her introduction made it clear that they were not militant suffragists, and that they sought to make changes by argument rather than by force.
Speech: Australian vs. British suffragism
Muriel Matters, who had been sentenced to a month in Holloway Prison for obstruction, having earlier chained herself to a grille in the House of Commons, arrived by car with her entourage, as part of a publicity tour around the area, termed a 'pilgrimage'. In her speech, she contrasted the situation in this country with that in Australia where women already had the vote [ed. in 1902, see Women's suffrage in Australia], pointing out that women in Britain were being treated in the same way as criminals, foreigners and lunatics, despite having to pay taxes.
The journalist who reported on the event believed that most people who turned up for the meeting were not actually interested in votes for women at all, but had instead come to witness any trouble if there was any. The only violence on the day of the Dartford meeting, however, was a stone which was thrown at the wagon from a neighbouring backyard, but no damage was caused. At the end of the speech, Florence Conybeare invited Councillor W.H.D. King to give the vote of thanks. He said that he felt ashamed that he had the vote while they did not, but thanked the party for recognising Dartford as a place of importance worth visiting.
Voluntary Aid Detachment
Florence Conybeare was actively engaged in Voluntary Aid Detachment work at Charing Cross Hospital, London. On 13 January 1916, when Lady Henry Grosvenor held a meeting at the new YMCA Hut at Dartford, Florence was present in VAD uniform. "Whatever she took up, Mrs Conybeare did thoroughly and with a will".
Fundraising for the Western Front
Florence Conybeare was actively involved in fundraising in Dartford during the First World War. "As the grim reality developed in France, an appeal went out from Florence Conybeare, to 'all Florence's'. Her plan was to raise money to purchase and equip an ambulance which would be sent to the Western Front which would be used to move wounded British soldiers—referred to as "the devoted sons of our Empire" on Florence's memorial stone—from the battlegrounds back to the field hospitals. Not only did she want this done, she wanted volunteers called "Florences" to "man" the ambulance in France! She managed to raise the money, but she never got her wish to man the ambulance with Florence's.
Women's Liberal Association
Florence was President of the Dartford Women's Liberal Association [ed. Federation], and had largely been responsible for the setting up and running of the Babies Club.
Florence Conybeare died at her father's home in 2 West Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London, on 29 February 1916, aged 43.[note 5] She left no issue. During the preceding 18 months, she had been in failing health, but no-one had anticipated her sudden demise from pneumonia. Her husband, Charles Conybeare, was unfortunately at Canterbury at the time. Florence was cremated and a memorial service was held for her in London. She was buried in the cemetery of St Mary the Virgin Church, Fryerning, Ingatestone, Essex, and lies close to Charles Conybeare's parents. Charles Conybeare had a large obelisk-shaped memorial erected in her memory, which is mounted upon a square stone plinth,[note 6] and devised the following poignant inscription:
Here rest the ashes of Florence Annie
The beloved wife of Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare
Late of 'Tregullow', Cornwall
Who gave her life in devoted service to the gallant sons of our Empire
She passed into immortality
on February 29th 1916
She is not dead
On 18 August 1916, probate was granted on Florence Conybeare's will in London to her husband Charles A.V. Conybeare. Florence died a wealthy lady, leaving effects totalling £5,392 6s 2d, which in today's money  is equivalent to £232,193.
- Born 'Gustavus'.
- The property was owned by, and lived in by, Sir William Robert Williams, 3rd Baronet of Tregullow, Cornwall, whose great grandfather was the mining mogul who built Scorrier House in 1778, built the Plymouth breakwater with the Fox family, controlled the copperbelt and copper smelting works in Swansea, developed the harbour at Portreath and linked it to the mineral tramway, which was used to deliver timber and supplies to mines and transported valuable minerals back down to the sea.
- The 1901 Conveyance, which refers back to the Indenture (conveyance) of 1891, records the words inter alia, which indicates that several properties were involved in the original loan, not just the Tregullow Offices.
- Liberal MP for St Pancras.
- Florence's father, Gustave Strauss, died three months later on 5 June 1916.
- Charles Conybeare followed Florence three years later, on 18 February 1919. His ashes lie in the same tomb as Florence's.
- Women's Suffrage: Some Objections Answered, an article written by Florence A.V. Conybeare, in The Commonwealth & Empire Review, 1908, pp 282-287.
- Birth certificate, 23 October 1872, General Register Office, Southport, England.
- Pottery Gazette, 1 August 1890. Apparatus for producing glass tube for use in making large beads, Patent No. 49,659, Class XXXIII; refers to birthplace of inventor.
- The 1881 England Census, Ancestry.com.
- The 1891 England Census, Ancestry.com.
- Marriage certificate, 15 October 1896, General Register Office, Southport, England.
- The Zimapanners website, researched and published by Peter King Smith, 2010. [Note: Please do not add a hyperlink to this website]
- Ian K. Nelson, conveyancing solicitor at the law firm of Nelson Nichols, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK, 2009.
- Yesterday's Town: Dartford, by Geoff Porteus, 1981.
- Edith Calkin's article "Votes for Women", published in The Commonwealth and Empire Review
- The Commonwealth and Empire Review Vol. XIV, Sep. 1908.
- Adapted from The Calm Before the Storm: Dartford 1900-1914, by Dr Mike Still, Curator of the Dartford Borough Museum, 2014, based on a newspaper article in the Dartford Chronicle & District Times, 1 August 1913.
- Obituary in the Dartford Chronicle, March 1916.
- Dartford and The Great War, Gethyn Rees, 1998, p. 18.
- Death certificate, 29 February 1916, General Register Office, Southport, England.
- National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations), 1861-1941.