VIDEO: Emily Davison statue unveiled in Morpeth

A stunning and thought-provoking statue to create a lasting memorial to Northumberland suffragette Emily Wilding Davison has been unveiled in Morpeth today.

Tuesday, 11th September 2018, 6:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th September 2018, 7:22 pm
School pupils and Penni Blythe at the statue unveiling ceremony. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The memorial in Carlisle Park was commissioned by Northumberland County Council and created by internationally-renowned sculptor Ray Lonsdale from County Durham.

It was unveiled by The Duchess of Northumberland and the county council’s civic head Jeff Watson this morning.

School pupils and Penni Blythe at the statue unveiling ceremony. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The steel statue, which is located near the entrance to the park opposite the former Morpeth Court House, represents a time in Emily’s life when she was on hunger strike in prison.

The county council contributed £50,000 towards the statue, with Morpeth Town Council contributing £5,000.

Civic dignitaries, other councillors, Emily Davison family members and members of the public were in attendance for the unveiling ceremony.

It included a performance by the all-women Werca's Folk choir, singing a song called Emily Inspires, and school pupils were present with banners they made to depict the suffragette movement.

Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at the county council, said: “There are a few historic heroes of Morpeth who are well-known and well represented in the town.

"William Turner has a memorial garden in his honour. Admiral Collingwood has Collingwood House. Emily Wilding Davison just had a grave.

“The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary since some women were granted the right to vote. Emily Wilding Davison campaigned passionately for this right and we as a council wanted to properly honour her memory.

“It was unanimously decided that a statue of Emily would be a fitting tribute to her and highlight the huge historical importance of her actions."

Morpeth Mayor Jack Gebhard said: "I’d like to thank sculptor Ray Lonsdale for this magnificent statue, which now stands pride of place in the park.

"I’d also like to pay a tribute to everyone involved in all aspects of Carlisle Park, which now looks rejuvenated and is a really special place to visit.

"The town council is really proud to support this project."

A militant fighter for her cause, Emily was arrested and imprisoned for her part in demonstrations and activities in support of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

She went on hunger strike in prison numerous times and was barbarically force fed on 49 occasions when a tube was forced down her nose or down her throat.

The statue depicts Emily defiantly tipping food out of a bowl she has been given, knowing that the consequences would be force feeding.

Emily Davison’s name became known around the world in June 1913 when she stepped onto the race track on Epsom Derby day and was struck by King George V’s horse, Anmer.

She never recovered from her injuries and died four days later in hospital. She was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth.

Philippa Bilton is a relative of Emily - first cousin, three times removed (her great great grandmother and Emily’s mother were sisters) - and she spoke on behalf of family members at the ceremony.

She said: "We as a family are very proud and emotional that this statue, the very first of Emily, has been unveiled today.

"It is an historic day, bringing modern history to life in the present and we hope, creating a legacy for the future.

"It has put Morpeth and Emily on the map locally, nationally and now internationally.

"What I love about these kinds of events is that the next generation is included. The young people I've spoken to are very knowledgeable and recognise there are things that still need to change when it comes to equality."

Penni Blythe, who was instrumental in organising the Emily Inspires! events in 2013, also spoke at the unveiling and her speech included reading a poem that can be found on the statue.

Mr Lonsdale said he put forward three ideas when he was asked to create the statue by the county council and the local authority chose the one it felt would have the most powerful impact.

He added: "It has been a pleasure to do the statue as it was a sort of different challenge for me - it's not often I get to sculpt an old style dress and a female figure.

"It is made out of a weathering steel similar to the Angel of the North. It will change to a reddy-brown colour over the next couple of months and will stay like that to be a protective coating.

"The statue shows that element of defiance, knowing she would suffer for it."

An interpretation panel has also been installed in Carlisle Park to help tell Emily’s story and a walking guide produced so that people can visit the many locations in Morpeth that have a strong connection with Emily, including her grave.