After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the garden was opened last week at Emmeline’s former home
As the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which finally gave (some) women the right to vote, it’s been a busy year for the Pankhurst Centre.
The former home of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst - now the UK’s only suffrage museum - has commemorated this milestone with everything from a women’s literary project to a film screening of Suffragette and a book launch by Dr Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great granddaughter; who will also be speaking at the Fawcett Society Centenary next month.
Now, the centre can also add a new garden to its celebrations, after unveiling the tranquil new space at a ceremony last week. Pankhurst Trust patron Sally Lindsay, Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor June Hitchen and garden designer Janet Leigh were amongst those present at the launch - as well as some of the project’s 500+ supporters, who collectively raised over £24,000 on Crowdfunder (20% more than the original target) late last year.
In her design, Stockport-based Leigh aimed to tell the story of the incredible women who won the vote; as well as create a tranquil, therapeutic space for the women and children who use Manchester Women’s Aid, a domestic abuse charity located at the Pankhurst Centre.
The design and structure of the garden is based on Edwardian knot gardens, a reference to the era in which Emmeline lived in the house with her family, while restrictions then experienced by women are reflected in the box hedging. White, purple and green planting mirrors the suffragette colours - with many varieties having women’s names - while red accents symbolise the hardship, personal sacrifices and loss of life many endured in the fight for equality. A suffragette ironwork figure provides the centrepiece, and quotes connected to the movement are dotted throughout the garden.
Janet Leigh, garden designer, says: “It has been a privilege for me to honour the women who fought such a relentless battle for equality, a battle they would never truly see the benefits of. I am in awe of their dedication to keep fighting. A 100 years on, their work enables me to get up in the morning and do the job I do.”
Gail Heath, CEO of the Pankhurst Trust, says: “When we were planning how to mark the centenary of votes for women, a garden seemed like the perfect fit, providing both a lasting tribute to the work of the suffragettes and a living and breathing space of peace and reflection in the city. Janet has done an incredible job of translating the story of the suffragette movement into a wonderfully inventive and visually arresting outdoor space and we can’t wait to share it with everyone who visits us.
"We’d like to see this as one of the first steps in the Pankhurst Centre’s evolution into a major visitor attraction celebrating the significance and legacy of those who have fought for, and are continuing to fight for, female equality.”
Elsewhere, Emmeline has been the subject of a new documentary, an exhibition and even a new grave listing - while a statue of the ‘deeds not words’ advocate will be unveiled in St Peter’s Square this December.
The Pankhurst Centre is open on Thursdays from 10am-4pm and on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 1pm-4pm, but currently relies on volunteers. If its Heritage Lottery campaignis successful, and the building is restored and developed, the centre will become a museum and creative space that opens daily with an active programme of events and activities.
The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, M13 9WP