Adela Pankhurst, lived at 45 Marlborough Rd, 1910 to 1912
Adela Pankhurst, the youngest of the famous Pankhurst sisters, lived in this house for only a short time but she certainly left her mark as she turned this house into the Sheffield HQ of the suffragette movement during a critical time in its history. She is commemorated by this plaque, which is the result of many years of campaigning by local residents for recognition of the importance of this house in local history.
The full story of what happened here on the night of Sunday 2nd April 1911 has been documented by Dr Jill Liddington, a history researcher from Leeds University, who has written many books and papers on the subject of the struggle for women’s suffrage in the UK. As you will know 1911 was a census year and for the first time census returns were supposed to be made by the ‘head of each household’, almost always a man, rather than by census enumerators, Also, the census included, for the first time, intrusive social questions on how long the marriage had lasted and how many children had been born in the marriage, both living and dead. This was but one of many factors that enraged campaigners for women’s suffrage about the census, leading to a declaration by some that as “women do not count, neither shall they be counted”. In other words, many suffrage groups resolved to either frustrate or boycott the census as an act of civil disobedience. In the runup to the census the boycott campaign was hotly debated in the press, including in the Sheffield Telegraph, where there were many letters and articles, including of course several from Adela Pankhurst.
As census night itself drew near plans were laid for how census enumerators would be evaded, census forms spoilt or even destroyed altogether. A wide range of techniques were used to frustrate the census by local groups including, according to one report, an all-night roller-skating session at the Aldwych Rink in London. Here in Sheffield, the Sheffield Telegraph dispatched a reporter to this house to find out what was going on. In his report he describes making his way under cover of darkness to the ‘house of conspiracy’.
The census return that was actually produced for this house on that night is illuminating. Apparently completed by the enumerator, it names only two of the people present. These were Helen Archdale, the owner of the house and local WPSU coordinator, and Adela Pankhurst herself. Helen’s three children, their nurse and two house servants are also enumerated but no names are given; the entry ‘NK’ or ‘not known’ shows that the information had been refused. Apart from the ages of the children all other questions on the form are also completed with ‘NK’.
So was this after all just a small family of census resisters, quietly refusing to proffer information but otherwise causing no trouble? No. The census form shows that in addition to these established residents at this address, on that night there were also 1 male and 48 female ‘visitors’ present in the house, the man giving his occupation as ‘newspaper proprietor’ but nobody else saying anything at all about who they were. So it looks like the man from the Sheffield Telegraph got his story and enjoyed a jolly fun evening too.