Emily Davison Sculpture – Morpeth

Between 2012 and 2018 there was a project in both Epsom and Morpeth aimed at giving a proper visual memorial to the suffragette Emily Davison, this campaign marked the 100th anniversary of her death in 2013 as well as capitalising on the events of her life and her notoriety to gather in funding from a diverse range of people and organisations to make the project a success.

A prominent place within a public town centre park was selected as the new home for her memorial in Morpeth which is only a ten-minute walk from her final resting place in St Mary’s Churchyard a quarter of a mile to the south. The figure, who in her own time was decisive and radical would be given a spot where people can reflect on who she was, and the reasons that she was such an important woman in our history.

Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) was quite prominent in the British Suffragette movement, she was known as a militant activist in the fight for giving the right to vote to the half of society who had previously been disenfranchised.

Emily wilding dvison
Ray Lonsdale, 2018, Emily Wilding Davison, Carlisle Park, Morpeth – Picture: Photo By Amey

Emily was born in Blackheath, London in 1872 to Charles and Margret Davison, a retired merchant and shipbuilder daughter. After going to school in Kensington, Emily achieved a degree in literature from Royal Holloway College in 1896.

During her short life, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union through which she became engaged in a number of acts of civil disobedience, her actions made her infamous for her dedication to her cause. Her acts as a suffragette included window-smashing campaigns, sabotage and general civil disobedience and arson among other things.

During the early twentieth century, in 1908, Davison worked as a governess for Sir Thomas Bateman who owned Longhirst Hall close to Morpeth. She continued her activism for a few years while she was in Morpeth culminating in setting fire to a pillar box which resulted in her being arrested and imprisoned in 1911. After eighteen months in prison, she was released following a hunger strike which left her seriously unwell. A few months later, Emily died after running onto the racecourse at the Epsom Derby in 1913, which resulted in her being struck by the King’s horse.

The death of Emily Wilding Davison had the effect of rallying many of the other suffragettes to the cause with Emily being held up as a martyr, her bravery and sacrifice is even still celebrated more than a century later.

Because of her connections with Morpeth, her body was returned there for burial in St Mary’s Churchyard, around half a mile from the town centre. The grave is well kept and is still regularly visited by people who were interested in movements like the suffragettes.

Doing some research I discovered that the Emily Davison Memorial Project is a quite o prominent movement who were responsible for getting together a team to design a sculpture in Epsom commemorating Emily and her life.

Emily wilding dvison
Ray Lonsdale, 2018, Emily Wilding Davison, Carlisle Park, Morpeth – Picture: Photo By Amey

The commission for the sculpture in Morpeth was given to Ray Lonsdale, a prominent northeastern sculpture whose sculpting medium is usually steel. In a video posted on Facebook of the unveiling in 2018, Ray expresses that he was delighted to have been chosen as the artist for such an important and iconic work of public art.

The statue which commemorates Emily’s life was unveiled in September 2018 in a garden in Carlisle Park in Morpeth. It has since become an iconic landmark within the town as well as a site of pilgrimage for those visitors who take a special interest in the suffragettes.

Public interaction and perception of the sculpture is interesting, it appears to be almost universally revered within the town of Morpeth and often ends up with people taking photographs of her and with her. As well as posing, people also come and sit close to her or examine the sculpture itself.

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