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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Lettice Floyd

The Floyd family were wealthy local landowners who owned several local farms including Arnold Farm in Cromwell Lane. They were social reformers and philanthropists and had a long association with Burton Green School.

Education in Burton Green can be traced back to the 1840s, when local children were educated by Mrs Chatterway in her cottage which was very near to Moat Farm, in Hob Lane. She was supported by Ann Floyd (1813-1884). 

In 1842 Ann Floyd's father, William Floyd (b1771) put up the money to build a purpose-build school, which was built on land donated by Lord Claverdon.  

This was the large brick-built building that we know today. The building was intended to be used as a school and also as a place of worship on Sundays.

This figure shows part of the Floyd family tree. 

Ann's brother, William (1807-1879), married Alison Clapperton who was the sister of Jane Hume Clapperton, the philosopher and social reformer.  

The Floyd family owned many farms and other properties in the area including Beanit Farm in Hob Lane, Arnold's Farm in Cromwell Lane, Beechwood House Farm in Tanners Lane, and Home Farm in Spencers Lane, plus several cottages around the district. 

In the 1800s the large field just behind Arnold Farm was known as Floyd's Close. 

The Burton Green School Log Book and Miss Floyd

There is a Burton Green School Log Book, which is effectively a diary of school activities written by the head teacher. The log book is now kept in the archives of the Warwick Records Office. 

The log book includes numerous references to a 'Miss Floyd'. One or other of the Floyd sisters visited the school occasionally, over a period of 36 years, the first visit being in 1875 and the last visit in 1910. 

Most of the entries simply say 'Miss Floyd visited', but there are a few more informative entries. These are some examples...

12 February 1881
"Miss Floyd and a lady-friend came in on Thursday and heard the children sing.
 Miss Floyd spoke to the children after school about the 'Missionaries'"

20 January 1883
"Miss Floyd came in today and heard the 1st Class read, 
she afterwards promised the children a Tea for Monday"

25 November 1887
"Miss Floyd visited the school on Friday morning and gave the children some apples"

20 December 1889 (Christmas)
"Miss Floyd and a lady friend visited on Friday morning & heard the children sing. Afterwards each child received a prize from Miss Floyd who also gave them a Christmas Card and an orange."

17 July 1908
"Miss Floyd invited all the children to tea at her house today"

William Floyd (1807-1879) had two daughters - Lettice Floyd and Mary Floyd. Most of the entries in the school log book simply refer to 'Miss Floyd' and it is not clear whether this refers to Lettice Floyd or Mary Floyd. A very small number of entries do include an initial - L Floyd or M Floyd, and on a few occasions both women visited the school together. There are some periods when we know that Lettice Floyd was working away from home but, in general, we do not know which sister each of the entries in the school log refers to.

An article about the Floyd family, written by Jean Musgrove, which was published by the Berkswell Local History Group, includes a paragraph about Lettice Floyd and states that she was an active supporter of the suffragette movement and that visiting Burton Green school was one of her activities:

Social Activism

Jean Musgrove's article does not give any further details about Lettice Floyd's activities in the suffragette movement.

In 1888 Lettice Floyd went to work as a nurse a children's hospital, and we know that from September 1895 to September 1898 she was working as a sister (in charge of a ward) at the Nottingham Children's hospital. Her time spent working in the children's hospital motivated her to become an active social justice campaigner.

In 1907 Lettice Floyd returned to Berkswell, and together with her sister, founded a local branch of the non-militant Women's Suffrage Society. But shortly afterwards, in 1908, the Berkswell branch was dissolved and its members joined the militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The first significant reference to Lettice Floyd in a national newspaper occurs in October 1908. This would have been three months after the Floyd sisters had entertained all of the school children at their house...

At their trial the accused were ordered to be of good behaviour for 12 months, otherwise they would be sent to prison. None of them would agree to be bound over to be of good behaviour...

After they had served their sentences...

This is from the women's suffrage newspaper 'Votes For Women'...

Lettice took part in a further demonstration and was arrested a second time, but not charged, a year later, on 'Black Friday', 13 November 1910. This occasion was notable for the violence which the Police used against the suffragettes. This is from Lettice Floyd's entry in the National Biography
She was arrested for a second time the following November after travelling to London to take part in the mass protest organized against the loss of the women's suffrage 'Conciliation Bill'. The demonstrators encountered considerable violence, the day becoming notorious as ‘Black Friday’, but no charges were brought, the government realizing that to do so would be to incur adverse publicity.

Lettice travelled to London again in March 1912 to take part in a further protest...

Lettice Floyd was one of those arrested and subsequently sentenced to two months hard labour...

According to her entry in the National Biography, on this occasion, in prison she went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed. 

Being forcibly fed was a very unpleasant experience, and came to be regarded as the hallmark of the suffragette martyr. 

After their release from prison, suffragettes who had been force fed or received other exceptionally harsh treatment were given a personalised Certificate of Thanks showing their name in a bold script and signed by Emmeline Pankhurst. This image of such a certificate is a screenshot from a BBC documentary (The Suffragettes).

Click to enlarge

This image is not original. but it is a reasonably accurate reconstruction of a Certificate of Thanks. 

The suffragette campaign was suspended at the outset of WWI. Women's suffrage was eventually granted, at the end of the World War, in 1918

Disposal of the Estate - Legacy - Margaret McMillan House

After the deaths of her brothers William (d1895) and George (d1922), and her elder sister, Mary (d1918), the entire estate, of Beanit Farm, Arnold Farm, Home Farm and other properties, was inherited by Lettice Floyd (1922). 

Lettice Floyd maintained ownership of the entire estate until her own death in 1934.

After her death the estate was divided into lots and sold at a public auction. Arnold Farm was sold for £1,600. The two cottages adjacent to Arnold's Farm which had also been part of the estate were sold for £450 for the pair. The sale of the estate fetched £13,810. 

Lettice Floyd's total assets amounted to £51,660.

As directed in her will, various bequests of sums of money were made to friends and acquaintances, but the majority was gifted to the Rachel McMillan Centre, a children's charity, and was subsequently used to build the Margaret McMillan House at Wrotham, Kent. This is a country retreat outside London where children from deprived backgrounds can go to experience adventure holidays and other activities.

Rachel McMillan (1857-1917) was a social reformer with a particular interest in children's welfare. Rachel McMillan had taught at a girls' school in Coventry for 3 years c1874-1876.

The Margaret McMillan House at Wrotham was opened by the Duke of York  (shortly to become King George VI) in May 1936 ...

The Duchess of Cambridge visiting the Margaret McMillan House at Wrotham, 12th June 2012.

For most of these children it was the first time they had seen the countryside. 

Talk by the Royal College of Nursing 

Lettice Floyd was featured in a talk given by the RCN Library and Archive Service, on 11 March 2021, and which was presented over the internet during the pandemic. 

The section about Lettice Floyd begins at 15 minutes into the talk..


There is a complete biography of Lettice Floyd here:

That biography is a verbatim copy of the biography of Lettice Floyd which appears in the book The Women's Suffrage Movement, A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, written by Elizabeth Crawford.

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