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Votes for women protest in West Norfolk revealed a century on

The role of a Hunstanton churchgoer in the suffragette movement has been revealed in a new project, more than a century after it happened.

Research by Historic England has uncovered the story of an impromptu protest against the imprisonment of campaigners for votes for women at the resort’s St Edmund’s Church.

Now, the site is one of more than 40 to be formally recognised for the part it played in giving women the vote for the first time 100 years ago.

A protest in support of the Suffragette movement took place at St Edmund's Church in Hunstanton in 1914 (2453958)
A protest in support of the Suffragette movement took place at St Edmund's Church in Hunstanton in 1914 (2453958)

The move is part of the organisation’s HerStories project, developed with academics from the University of Lincoln, which has also seen the grave of suffragette leader Emmaline Pankhurst given Grade II listed status.

The Hunstanton protest happened in March 1914, at a time when supporters were carrying out “prayers for prisoners” protests across the country.

The project reveals that an unknown woman stood up in St Edmund’s and said: “Oh, God we beseech thee to lead thy church to a true repentance for Her toleration of the treatment of political prisoners who are fighting for justice and purity, and give Her to see Her grave responsibility in this matter, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

Experts say the language was typical of similar protests made at the time.

But the current vicar of St Edmund’s, the Rev John Bloomfield, said the revelation had come as a complete, and fascinating, surprise to him.

He said: “I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never had any inkling of anything like that. I have read quite a bit that people have uncovered of the history.”

The church now stands alongside the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, where the movement began in 1903, and Westminster Abbey in being recognised by the project.

Also included is the Prince’s Stand at Epsom Downs racecourse, where Emily Wilding Davison was fatally injured after being struck down by the King’s horse, Anmer, when she ran in front of the field in the 1913 Derby.

Celia Richardson, of Historic England, said: “The history of suffrage can be traced through the fabric of our city streets and buildings.

“Even though there are few tangible markers left 41 of the listed buildings and places the suffragettes used as their public theatre of protest have had their official records updated, ensuring the part they played in the struggle for suffrage is fully recognised.”

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