Sunday, 21 November 2010

Suffragette connections Part 3 - The Fabians

George Bernard Shaw appears to be another suffragette link.  With Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Shaw was one of the founder members of the Fabian Society.  Harriot Blatch is known to have been a member of the Fabian Society also, and counted Shaw and the Webbs as her friends.
Pitfold House, Haslemere, location of George Bernard Shaw's honeymoon (now my daughter's nursery!)

Shaw came to Haslemere on honeymoon in June 1898.  Shaw and his wife Charlotte stayed at Pitfold House, lent to them by the parents of Lord Beveridge.  At the time it was described as a comfortable small house on the edge of the moor overlooking Critchmere (Rolston, Haslemere 1850-1950, Phillimore, 1964).    Shaw was still recovering from an accident where he had injured his foot in April that year.  Trotter (The Hilltop Writers, The Book Guild, 1996) speculates that the location of the honeymoon in Hindhead may have  been made by Charlotte due to the 'health-giving properties of its air'.  Here Shaw had further accidents fracturing his bones, one of which he recounted in a letter to Beatrice Webb.  His medical advisors attributed the lack of meat in his diet to these bone fractures.  Shaw is reported to have retorted in one of these discussions ""death would be better than cannibalism" (Rolston, ibid).  It is not clear whether all the main Peasant Arts members were vegetarians, but Maude Egerton King certainly was, as her poem 'Vegetarianism' (King, My Book of Songs and Sonnets, 1893) explains.  
Hill Farm, Camelsdale, Joseph and Maude Egerton King's home from 1922, where George Bernard Shaw  addressed an audience in 1930

Shaw delivered his lecture 'Why I Am a Socialist' in the same year to the Microscope Society in Haslemere (Rolston, ibid).  It seems that Shaw was living in Haslemere between 1898 to 1900.  It would be reasonable to assume that Shaw was acquainted with Joseph King during this time, then if not before.  Later on in 1930 Shaw would address a gathering at Hill Farm, Camelsdale, Joseph King's home, to celebrate the elevation of two people to peerage (Rolston, ibid).  Therefore perhaps Harriot Blatch was introduced to the Peasant Arts movement, and Joseph King through the George Bernard Shaw.

The Webbs are said to have spent some of their summer holidays walking the hilltops around Haslemere, and were recorded in the area in 1894 (at Milford), 1896 (at Milford, visiting the Bertrand Russells), 1899 (at Hindhead visiting the Shaws), 1901 (at Friday's Hill, Fernhurst), 1902 (at Milford with the Bertrand Russells).  The Webbs only moved permanently to the area in 1923 when they moved to Passfield Corner, near Liphook.  There are no clear connections between the Webbs and the Peasant Arts movement, but visiting the area at the time, and travelling to Fernhurst for example at that time may have taken them down Kings Road.  It is not clear when Kings Road stopped being a dead-end and became a connecting road to Fernhurst and Midhurst.  However, in November 1903 King Edward VII came to Midhurst to lay the foundation stone of what would become the King Edward VII Hospital, the train brought him to Haslemere station from which he travelled in an open landau with four horses, along what was then called Foundry Road, and was renamed Kings Road in his honour.  Rolston reports that "the type of housing along that road attracted the comment from him that he had always heard of Haslemere as a pretty town, but now was disappointed."

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