Incumbent Alan Watts and his Daughter Helen the Suffragette

Written by Angi

Our researcher Angi has been looking into Alan Hunter Watts, incumbent at Holy Trinity from 1917 – 1924; here is a snippet:

One of our chancel chairs, in memory of Reverend Watts

Alan Hunter Watts was born in West Hoathly in East Sussex in 1852. His father was Henry Ludby Watts, a teacher of classics, and his mother was Margaret M Watts, nee Hunter.

On 19 August 1880, Alan married Ethelinda Woodrow Cassels at St Alphege Parish Church in Greenwich. He is now a Clerk in Holy Orders. She is a British Citizen, born in Oporto, Portugal. Her father, John Cassels, is described as a Merchant (deceased) and Alan’s father as a Gentleman (deceased).In the Census of 1881, the couple are living in Durham and Alan is the Curate of Bishop Wearmouth Church.

In 1891, Alan is now 39 years old. He and Ethelinda have six children, and he is Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Dartford, Kent. They live in The Vicarage with two servants, one a nurse and one a cook. In the Census of 1901 the family have moved again. Rev Watts has taken up a new position as Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Lenton, Nottinghamshire. They live at the Vicarage at 35 Church Street, Lenton, with three further children plus a maid and a cook. One name is missing from the list – a son named Alan Francis Cassels Watts, who may have been away on Census night, or he may have died.

In the Census of 1911, Rev Watts and Ethelinda are still at Lenton, living at Lenton Boscrege. The records show that the couple have 8 children living, one dead. Sadly, they lost another son in 1916. Ronald William Ailsa Watts, born in Kent in 1892, served in the 2nd Bn Worcestershire Regiment and died of wounds aged 23. His name appears on the War Memorial in Lenton Church and he is also mentioned in the Nottingham Roll of Honour.

Alan and Ethelinda’s firstborn child was a girl, whom they named Helen Kirkpatrick Watts, born on 13 July 1881 in Bishop Wearmouth in Sunderland.  Although there is no mention of her suffering from any disability on the Census returns, it seems that Helen suffered some hearing loss. Her friend Helen Blaythwayt said of her “She is a nice girl, but difficult to talk with because beside being very deaf herself she speaks so that it is very difficult to understand her.”

However, Helen did not let this hold her back and she grew up to be an important figure in the history of the Women’s Movement. She spoke at many public meetings on socialist and feminist topics. Crawford quotes her as saying ‘’Votes for Women’’ will not be won by drawing room chatter. It has got to be fought for in the market places, and if we don’t fight for it, no-one else will….The open air meeting is a symbol of the principles, the method, and the spirit of the most vigorous movement towards Women’s Suffrage in England today. The Suffragettes have come out of the drawing room, the study and the debating hall, and the committee rooms of Members of Parliament,  to appeal to the real, sovereign power of the country –THE PEOPLE.’’

After a meeting held at London,’s Caxton Hall on 24 February 1909 Helen was arrested and taken to Bow Street Police Station where she was charged with wilfully obstructing the police and she was sent to Holloway Prison for a month. This was mentioned in an article in the Nottingham Guardian entitled ‘At it again – A Nottingham Martyr’. She was arrested again after a demonstration in Leicester on 17 September 1909 and sentenced to five days in Leicester Gaol.

After leaving the Women’s Suffrage Political Union Helen joined the Women’s Freedom League. During the Great War she nursed at the Mineral Water Hospital in Bath. She then worked at the War Office and Ministry of Labour before emigrating to Canada, possibly to stay with her sister Ethelinda. (Another sister, Alice M Watts, is described in the 1911 Census as ‘Secretary, Suffragist Society’).

Helen eventually returned to Britain, leaving a trunkful of possessions and papers in Avonmouth Docks for many years. She died in Somerset in August 1972.

References

  • London Evening News, 12 March 1883 (British Newspaper Archive)
  • Census of 1891, 1901, 1911, 1931, Birmingham, England, Church of England Baptisms 1813-1912 (Ancestry.com)
  • Elizabeth Crawford ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866 – 1928, pub. 2001
  • https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/library-mid/2018/03/09/a-deaf-women-from-the-suffrage-movement
  • From A Deaf Woman from the Suffrage Movement, Helen Kirkpatrick Watts (1881-1972) by Hugh Dominic W Styles , 9 March 2018
  • Brighton and Hove Parochial Gazetteer, Vol 3, No 25 October 1917, November 1917, (Vol 3, No 36) December 1917 (Vol 3, no 37) (The Keep)

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