Women's History Month

To celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day this March we wanted to share some of the history of Hereford Cathedral’s links to the suffrage movement. We are welcoming local historian Clare Wichbold MBE to College Hall on Tuesday 14 March for a special talk.

Find out more here about the talk and how to book a ticket.

For anyone who has visited our College Cloisters, you may have walked past no.7 and noticed a purple plaque outside. This plaque refers to Revd. George Herbert Davis and his wife Ethel May Davis, who were both prominent local supporters of Votes for Women. Reverend Davis travelled widely around the country to speak on women’s suffrage, sharing a platform on many occasions with significant figures in the suffragette movement. Ethel was Secretary of the Hereford Branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, known as the WSPU. She organised meetings and spoke at events across Herefordshire, and protested about the mistreatment of women at Hereford Assizes on 10 February 1913.

Much of our information about came about from the Eastern Cloisters project, A National Lottery Funded initiative.  Researcher Jess Stallwood shares:

The history of women in the Cloisters increased dramatically by the nineteenth century. Around 1830, the average age of the Vicars Choral had fallen, nine were young men and naturally were inclined to marry. At the end of 1832 Henry Pearce (born 1795, admitted 1818, died 1849) brought his wife to live in the College, an action which was disliked, causing him to miss out on promotions and bear the brunt of other Vicars’ grudges. The dispute continued for some time and when Pearce died in his room the Vicars quickly sold all his belongings. However, by the latter half of the century, attitudes towards wives living in the Cloisters were more accepting and the space became more domestic. Francis Havergal is recorded in the 7th April 1861 census as living in the College Cloisters with his wife Isabel, whom he’d married the year before. They welcomed their first child, Bertha, followed by twin boys, Ethelbert and William in January 1863, a daughter Mary in 1867 and another daughter Helena in 1870. This newly established presence of women in the Cloisters is represented visibly in a photograph of Vicars Choral and their fashionably dressed wives, taken by the prominent local photographers WH Bustin & Son (c.1890s).[1]


[1] WH Bustin & Son, Large Group Outside College Cloisters, Photograph, c.1890s, HARC G36/056/04

To celebrate Women's History Month we are welcoming Clare Wichbold MBE for a talk on this fascinating period of history. Clare began uncovering stories about the significance of Hereford to the suffrage campaign when she was working on the Eastern Cloisters Project. Clare has since written Hard Work - But Glorious: Stories from the Herefordshire Suffrage Campaign. The book was highly commended in the 2022 Alan Ball Local History Awards. This is the first book devoted to exploring the story of the women’s suffrage campaign in Herefordshire.

We are excited to welcome Clare to share her knowledge at her talk titled: 'I Feel Sorry For The Vicar'. Tickets are available via the website. Clare will be selling signed copies of her book during the event. This talk will take place on Tuesday 14 March at 7pm in College Hall.