Green history plaques commemorating women from Lancaster and Morecambe to feature around district after flood of suggestions from residents

Four green plaques marking the achievements of Lancaster and Morecambe women through history are to be commissioned after a survey led to an influx of names being put forward.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 3:04 pm
Emily Williamson, founder of the RSPB.
Emily Williamson, founder of the RSPB.

As we reported in March, Lancaster Civic Society, jointly with Lancaster City Museum, launched a survey to ask the people of Lancaster and Morecambe to give their opinion on which women they thought deserved to be commemorated.

This came after Rachael Bowers, manager of Lancaster City Museum, asked Lancaster Civic Society chairman John Regan why there were no women featured on Lancaster and Morecambe's green plaques.

Neither organisation anticipated the flood of suggestions which came through, with 438 people taking part in the survey and proving the strength of interest in the topic.

Rachael Bowers.

Additionally, more people took the time to email their suggestions, taking an original list of 21 possible candidates up to 40.

Some of the stories that unfolded during the campaign depicted many ordinary people achieving amazing things, such as the Canary Girls who worked at the munitions factory on White Lund during World War One and being poisoned by the TNT they were using; the telephonist who cycled to the telephone exchange in Lancaster from Morecambe – despite being blown off her bike several times – when the munitions factory exploded in 1917; the only UK woman lighthouse keeper at Cockerham Sands and Plover Scar lighthouses; and Heysham’s last woman cockle gatherer.

Lancaster Civic Society are now well on the way to being able to have four green heritage plaques positioned to commemorate women of the Lancaster and Morecambe area, with hopefully more in the foreseeable future.

Rachael Bowers said: "Some of the suggestions reflected the high regard which Lancaster and Morecambe’s citizens hold for living women – this was lovely to see but we will be focusing on those who are no longer living!’

John Regan.

"As we have so many strong candidates to choose from, we are prioritising the most popular women, some of which are listed below:

• Emily Williamson, founder of the RSPB - an offer to fund the plaque has been received;

• Hilda & Lillian Burkitt;

• Thora Hird;

• Mary Wilkinson;

• Beatrice Parkinson & Janet Raby;

• Sister Aine Cox - an offer to fund the plaque has been received;

• Noreen Murray;

• Jennie Harris - an offer to part fund the plaque has been received.

"We also asked if there was anyone we had missed out. One name was suggested by more than 50 respondents: Frances Elizabeth Johnson, the enslaved Black servant who lived at Castle Park, Lancaster, in the 1780s.

"She is therefore our people’s choice, and we are working with Lancaster Black History Group to ensure that she is remembered, and we have an offer to fund this memorial."

Each plaque will contain information about the person commemorated, and plaques will also have a scannable QR code allowing the public to read a fuller history on their mobile phone.

Green heritage plaques typically cost around £400 each, as well as the cost of securely attaching them to the premises, so Lancaster Civic Society are now seeking funds for these women’s plaques and will set up a crowd funding page to enable the people of Lancaster, Morecambe, and district to contribute.

John Regan, chairman of Lancaster Civic Society, said: "The society welcomed the opportunity of working with the museum. We were pleasantly surprised by the numbers of local people who took part in the survey and even more surprised by the number of deserving women.

"There are probably many others who are presently unknown but deserve recognition. Please let us know about them."

You can learn more about the Lancaster district's women in history here.