International Women's Day!
Posted on 8th March 2019 at 09:01
All this week Barnstaple Town Council have been posting about inspiring women in our town's past, who have contributed to make Barnstaple the beautiful town it is today.
In honour of International Women’s day, Friday 8th March 2019, we will be posting every day in the run-up to Friday a piece on, what we think are five inspiring women from Barnstaple past.
Today’s choice: Alice Horwood.
Not much is known about Alice before she married Thomas her husband who was Mayor to Barnstaple in 1640 and 1653. Thomas founded the Horwood Almshouses but died before they were completed. Alice not only completed his work but went on to create a school adjoining the Almshouses as well. The most extraordinary thing about this was it was a school for poor girls and in 1659, this was remarkable. A plaque inscribed above the door of the Almshouses reads:
“This almshous was founded and endowed by the worshjpful Thomas Horwood, Merchant, twice mayor of this towne who was a worthy benefactor, and began it in his life, finished by his wife, Mrs Alice Horwood, after his death who of her owne accord added the adioyning free schoole and endowed it for 20 poore children for ever. 1659. Abi et tu fac similiter"
Inspiring women day 3, today’s choice: Anne Bell
Nurse Anne Bell was a prominent suffragette in North Devon and went on to cause quite a stir. She was a well-educated businesswoman responsible for forming two Trained Nurses Institutes in Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. In 1911 there was to be a census, it was a tactic of the WFL to encourage women to purposely evade the census, they used the slogan “Since women do not count neither will they be counted”. Anne jumped at this opportunity to strike at the government which did not jeopardise her position as a businesswoman. She decided to offer the Trained Nurses Institute in Ashleigh Road Barnstaple to anyone who wished to avoid the census. Hundreds of women nationwide followed suit. Her protests didn't end there, she took it a step further and decided to support the tactic introduced where women refused to pay tax, “No Vote, No Tax”. She was visited by bailiffs two weeks after evading the census, who removed items from the Ashleigh Road Nursing Home, to cover the cost of what she owed in tax. She was photographed with the items in an effort to raise as much awareness of the cause as possible. She was accompanied to the auction of her goods by friends who bought back her possessions and restored them to her.
Inspiring women day 5, today’s choice: Florence (Florrie) Fewings.
Unlike Alice and Prudence or Harriet, this lady didn’t have the wealth of a husband or brother to support their amazing efforts. Florrie was a working-class woman, who despite a poor and sometimes harsh background still managed to achieve amazing things. Also, like Alice, Prudence, Harriet and Anne, she left a legacy which can still be seen in our wonderful town, but not in the way of buildings and plaques. Florrie’s legacy was her family which are still prevalent in the town today. One being Me, Megan Florence Sanders the Heritage and Cultural Manager for Barnstaple Town Council, Florrie’s great-granddaughter. During the great depression Florrie and her Husband Reggie would help to feed and wash the poor, sharing what little they had to help others, she was a washerwoman and also worked at the isolation hospital in Castle Street for patients with contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. She lived to the age of 98 and was a true inspiration to her family.
Inspiring women day 2, today’s choice: Prudence Payne
Prudence Payne has always been of interest to the Town Council as she is the only women to have a painting hanging in the Main Chamber of the Guildhall. We know she is the sister of the famous William Rock, a wealthy benefactor who has a well-known history with our town. In a desire to know more about her and why she was painted and hung in the towns Guildhall, we contacted the North Devon Athenaeum. It turns out that she just as proud and supportive of our town as her brother, alongside whom she did all her charitable work for the town
Inspiring women day 4, today’s choice: Harriet Jewell
Harriet Jewell was Mayoress throughout The Great War years. She had the foresight to make early preparations for war in Barnstaple. Relief committees were formed, and various organisations set up. Mrs Jewell was responsible for raising hundreds of guineas for the Belgian Relief Fund. She furnished homes to accommodate a 100 Belgians, she also raised the money to fund a Barnstaple bed in a Serbian hospital for a year. The Golden Lion Hotel offered a back room as Barnstaple’s War Supply Depot.
Mrs Jewell recruited a large willing band of local ladies who spent their time knitting, crocheting and cooking. Hundreds of pounds of jam, ingredients willingly donated, were given to poorer families whose men had gone to war. She organised many flag days for many good causes, fetes, sales, raffles and collections of old newspapers, all to raise money. Thousands of eggs were collected, some for the casualties and some to be sent to the boys at the front. She also went on to become the first women councillor elected to Barnstaple Town Council.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
Barnstaple has been very fortunate to have been influenced by many amazing women in its history, without whom the town would not be the beautiful place we live in today. Take some time to consider the deeds of the amazing women we have written about this week, some pioneers of their time others just doing their best for their families and a bit more for their community. We here at Barnstaple Town Council are proud to be living and working in a town shaped by so many amazing women.
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