Monday, 6 February 2012

Suffragette Attack on a Railway Carriage - Teddington, 1913

This image from the London and South Western Railway's staff magazine, The South Western Gazette, is of a carriage that was attacked by Suffragettes on 26 April 1913. The train, the 9.15 pm from London Waterloo to Teddington, had been shunted into a siding between Hampton Wick and Teddington Stations when, at around 3 am, it was set on fire. A local policeman, Fairfax, saw the flames and raised the alarm. While the local fire brigade was able to to put out the fire without considerable damage being done, three second class compartments were completely burnt out which others being affected. Indeed, the Gazette commented that 'no doubt the total destruction of the entire train was the ambition of the ghouls who perpetrate these senseless crimes.'

Clearly, the attack had been prepared. On board the train was found a large number of partially burnt candles, four cans of petroleum, three of which had been emptied, a basket containing cotton wool and 'packages of literature dealing with the women's suffrage movement.' Furthermore, clippings of recent 'suffrage outrages' were found, as well as postcards addressed to the Rt. Dis-Hon. McDinna Kenna and Rt Dis-Hon H.H. Asquith, both of which had 'various phrases that were far from complimentary.' Lastly, 'women's footprints' were found in Fairfax Road, from where the Suffragettes had entered the siding by 'removing a paling from a fence nearly six foot high.'

While some railway workers were on duty in the area, and hopes of catching the perpetrators was initially high, at the time of the article being published on the 1 June no one had been caught or charged.


  1. I suspect that today I would be deeply unimpressed by anyone burning trains (or anything else), however just their cause. Had I been around in 1913, with the same general outlook on life (ridiculously hypothetical at that suggestion may be) I would probably have supported the non-violent suffragists and been apalled by force-feeding of women prisoners, but nevertheless condemned violent direct action.

    If you want an enjoyable way to find out more about the Suffragette campaign, and you have time amidst your studies to read fiction, then I can heartily recommend Anthony Quinn's historical novel "Half of the Human Race". I'm about half way through and loving it. There's plenty of cricket too. I think it is there to represent the male establishment against which the women's suffrage movement was pitted, but no doubt the publisher's marketing department will have welcomed an angle to "spin" the book to potential male readers!

  2. As far as I can see nobody was ever charged over the carriage fire, but the obvious suspect is German born actress Kitty Marion who was convicted for starting a fire at Hurst Park racecourse (near Hampton Court) on 8 June 1913. As with the carriage fire a quantity of suffragist papers were left at the scene.

  3. David, many thanks for the comments. On the first point, I think I owould agree. Thanks for the tip on the novel, it is on the list of 'Things to do' when the PhD is over :)

    Bill, that is interesting, (especially as I live not a minutes walk from the Hurst Park course). I think you may be onto something about who it was. I guess, ultimately, we'll never know.