The mob had actually gathered to attack a WSPU open-air gathering in nearby Wellington Square, but
the police advised them to postpone it. The mob were all worked up for a fight and
thus were looking for a suitable alternative target.
After a while, the police came and told the women that it was safe to leave to club, although the
mob was growing by the minute. As some left, they were attacked physically.
About 300 men had by then assembled. Miss Marchant, a mistress at Silverhill Boys' School,
was hit in the back and head, and her hat was ripped off, the pin tearing
out her hair. More police were now present, trying to hold back the mob which had gathered by
the archway at the station end of Havelock Road. The mob grew larger; some say there
were as many as 3,000. There were skirmishes up and down the road as men
attacked the escaping women, ripping their clothes and bruising them. Ladies leaving by motor
car suffered smashed headlights and windows. One young woman, Miss Pelly, was almost dragged
out of her car by the baying mob, but was saved by her mother and Miss Strickland. three
women took refuge in Green's Hotel, 1 Havelock Rd. The crowd followed and attacked the hotel
(pictured below the day after the attack), smashing its windows and glassware.
The landlord, Mr Wade, ordered the women to leave, fearing his hotel would be wrecked, but the
women, under great pressure, promised to pay for any damage. Wade insisted on a written
agreement, which was hastily drawn up. He later presented a bill for £12.5s 6d and was paid.
Led by NUWSS Hastings Branch Secretary Miss A. Kate Rance of 17 East Ascent, the women sued the
Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Hastings, under the Riot Damage Act, for recovery of the money
paid to Mr Wade. Click here to read the press report of the court-case.
It was suggested that the men were incensed by
the recent Levetleigh incident, in which an empty mansion recently
vacated by the local MP was burnt down, and suffragettes were suspected. If that was the reason,
the mob was ignorant of the finer points of the suffrage movement: the women they attacked
were the constitutional suffragists, totally opposed to violence.
Mrs Homer Pryce was already in delicate health, and she died eight weeks after the court case.
An announcement in the local paper suggested that the stress of the riot had contributed to her decline.
A NUWSS banner
Green's Hotel. The site now contains a modern office block.
SUFFRAGISTS SUE HASTINGS CORPORATION
from the Hastings & St Leonards Pictorial Advertiser 20 November 1913
SUFFRAGISTS v CORPORATION
SEQUEL TO ANTI-SUFFRAGE RIOT
POLICE FORCE INADEQUATE
At Hastings County Court on Tuesday, his Honour
Judge Mackarness delivered judgement in the case arising
out of Antis-Suffragists disturbances at Hastings on the 20th
The plaintiffs were Miss A. K. Rance, Madame Oosterveen, and Miss [sic] Homer-Pryce who were
represented at the hearing by Mr. F. W. Morgan, solicitor, Hastings. The defendants were
the Mayor and Corporation of Hastings. They were represented at the hearing by Mr. C.F Baker,
barrister. instructed by Mr. Percy Idle (Assistant Town Clerk of Hastings).
Councillors H. N. Collins, T. Reed, and W. Felton-Smith were present in Court as were also many Suffragist ladies, including Miss Rance, Mrs. F. Strickland, Mrs. F. C. Tibbs, and Mrs. Bowerman Chibnall.
His Honour said, that that was an action brought against the Mayor and Corporation of
Hastings by the ladies who were members of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies
founded over 40 years ago by John Stuart Mill, Charles Kingsley. and Mrs. Henry Fawcett.
The sum in dispute £12. 5s is small, but
THE PRINCIPAL AT STAKE
was important. The ladies claimed to recover under the Riot (Damages) Act, 1888, money
paid ito the landlord of Green's Hotel, Havelock-road, Hastings, in which they were compelled
to take refuge from a mob on the night of the 20th of May. The mob attacked the hotel and
broke the windows in the desire to get at the plaintiffs. The landlord was not prepared to
offer them protection unless they signed an agreement. That agreement they signed, and now
they claimed to recover the money from the Corporation. For the defence it was alleged that
there was no 'riot' within the meaning of the Act; and, secondly, there was no consideration
for the payment to the landlord, inasmuch as "there was a duty cast on him by common law to
afford accommodation to those who were willing to pay for it.
He (the Judge) thought that that last-defence was founded on a misrepresentation
of the duty of a landlord; he was bound to afford food and lodging unless there were
reasonable grounds for refusal. If there were elements of danger a landlord was legally
justified in demanding a pecuniary guarantee against the loss which the reception of the
traveHers might bring upon him. His Honour then passed to the more substantial defence.
The Act provided that where a house, shop or building had been injured or destroyed by any
persons riotously and tumultuously assembled 'such compensation as hereinafter mentioned
should be paid out of the Police Rate' to any person sustaining loss.
A house called Levetleigh had been burnt down and, rightly or wrongly, this was attributed
to the women called Militant Suffragettes. On the evening of the 20th May the Militants
had arranged to hold a meeting in 'Wellington-square which, on the advice of the Police,
they decided to postpone. He had no doubt that a disturbance was deliberately arranged to
break up the meeting. Not far from the square was Havelock-road, in which was situated
the Club to which the plaintiffs belonged: a club dissociating itself ostentatiously from
the Militant Suffragists. The meeting at the Club was addressesed by Mrs Strickland a member
of the [Corporation] Education Committee. The subject was 'But westward look! The land is
bright.' That was, hardly, he should think, a provocative subject, nor did it seem to suggest
what to many people seemed dangerous, the desirability of allowing women citizens a voice
in passing the laws they were obliged to obey. Notwithstanding, in view of the expected disturbance in Wellington-Square, Mrs. Strickland mentioned it to the Police. A constable went to the club. Mrs Strickland's arrangements were, he regretted, not adequate. It was known to the police that there was a deep feeling throughout the borough. They were warned by messages and anonymous letters that people were coming from all parts; the watchword of the crowd was "Remember Levetleigh".
He had no doubt that the plaintiffs suffered loss by a riotous and tumultuous mob within the
meaning of the Act and were entitled to recover compensation. He gave judgment for plaintiffs
with costs on the higher scale on the ground that the matter was one of public interest
and of importance to persons concerned for or against the enfranchisement of women citizens.
Ladies in Court cheered and there were cries of "Votes for Women." The Judge retained his
impassive demeanour, and tiny demonstration was suppressed by cries of "Silence."
Mr. Percy Idle asked for leave to appeal. This was granted.
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