Sheffield FridayNightRide

we have nothing to lose but our chains

2010/03/05 The Women’s Movement

Ride report Friday March 5 2010 The Women’s Movement in Sheffield
It was still light (hooray) with gorgeous pink striated clouds against an azure sky when I got to the meeting point at Weston Park. As the dusk drew in and then darkness fell the riders started gathering. Thanks to all who publicised the ride, loads of people new to the pleasures of nightriding, most of whom were women, got there and by 6.35 we were about 24 in number.
Meanwhile green, white and purple ribbons (the suffragette colours) were distributed and pinned on all, then Mick gave a brief intro on the theme of the ride, the route and the basic rules of FNR. Tony Cornah kindly agreed to be backstop and then the mob crossed the road to start the climb up Whitham Rd to turn right at Richer Sounds and then right again into Marlborough Rd. Some drivers seemed irritated to have to give way to the horde but generally a cluster like this is assertive.
Don’t forget the map to accompany this route is at
Once in Marlborough Rd we stopped in front of number 45 which is boarded up but still has a faded grandeur. This was the house that Adela Pankhurst lived in and we tried to imagine ladies in Edwardian clothes, coming in and out of the front door and the porch with the leaded lights. The rack of doorbells on the front is the evidence that its last use was as a multiple let and indeed Sam said that she had had a bedsit there!
So with this wonderful link between the past and present in mind we pedalled off down Harcourt Rd towards Crookesmoor Recreation Ground. The next stop was on Crookesmoor Rd with the Rec in view through the trees down the hill. Rachel read from a cutting of a newspaper of 1910 which had a report on the meeting for women’s suffrage that was held there. 5000 people were able to choose from 8 different platforms with Adela Pankhurt’s being the most popular, with Adela giving a very passionate, fiery speech.
And then into the town centre where we followed the route to Cathedral Square where we picked up some more people making us about 30 for the town centre ride.
Mick explained about how in 1908 Adela Pankhurst was ejected from Cutlers Hall before she had a chance to disrupt some bigwig bloke’s speech. We viewed the pillar box that had been firebombed in 1913 and then took a short ride along the tram route and left into Orchard Lane, left onto Leopold St and back to the top of Fargate where we stopped by the Big Wheel, which is roughly the site where the statue of Queen Victoria stood. Mick continued the story of how Adela, having been thrown out of the Cutlers Hall spoke from the Town Hall steps and then when hassled off there stood in front of the statue of Queen Victoria and continued to exhort on the cause of votes for women which all finished with a riot for an hour and a half in Leopold St, NB there had been a very heavy police presence.
From there down Fargate and into Chapel Walk with the torrent of cyclists having to make way for the occasional peds going against the current. We noted the site of a suffragette campaign ‘shop’ and then out into Norfolk St where we saw the locations of maternity and child welfare clinics, back into Surrey St where the women’s meetings held at Montgomery Hall were remarked upon as were the firebombing of the pillar boxes by the Town Hall.
Continuing into Barkers Pool we stopped again to talk about how this common space had been the location of many meetings and demonstrations for the cause of women’s suffrage before we went back own into Trippet Lane past the Foresters Hall by La Cubana, across Townhead St where there was once a Temperance Hall before we stopped again at the site of 36 Campo Lane (by The Wig and Pen). The significance of the last three locations was pointed out as was the house at 17 Paradise Square (see map).
We then cycled round Paradise Square (which looks much better when not a car park) and through an alley and St Peters Close back up to Campo Lane before descending to Queen St/Bank St via Figtree Lane where women Chartists had met and was the site for the first women’s hospital in Sheffield.
From there it was a spin out into Attercliffe via Exchange St to the other side of the inner ring road, under the parkway up to Broad St (site of another women’s suffrage ‘shop’), down Bernard Rd and then under the parkway again to turn right opposite the incinerator (where Tony and Polly had to return and Andrew kindly took on back stop duties) and down to Bacon Lane and over the canal onto Effingham Rd and follow the route towards the Don and then along the 5 Weirs Way. It was too muddy on the path through Attercliffe Cemetery so we carried on to Newhall St , turned right and stopped at the Greyhound on Attercliffe Rd.
Stacked the bikes in a great enclosed area where they were in clear view of the bar windows and we swarmed in outnumbering the customers there. We filled up its generous snug and drank, some ate, and we chatted and got to know each other a bit. The 80s Women’s Walk book was passed around and eventually got taken by somebody who is going to take it into a school for some kids, hopefully before it gets passed on to the Local Studies Centre at the Central Library.
Then we started again and Mick, engrossed in conversation with Julian, cycled straight past the Attercliffe Vestry Hall so we had to stop near the old Attercliffe School, turn round and go a 100 yds back. The Vestry Hall was the site of the first women’s welfare clinic (1933) which offered not just ante and post natal care but also birth control for women; v radical for its time in a district such as Attercliffe. Rachel noted that the birth control clinic was initially only open for about 2 hours a week and Mick added that he had read about 35 women used this service in the first year – NB Attercliffe was very densely populated up to the 1960s/70s.
It was relatively quiet on the roads so we went off planned route and cycled back down Attercliffe Rd, across the Bailey Bridge on the Don and into town where we missed out going up Snig Hill but stopped at the top of Waingate to note the women’s suffrage march which had stopped at Snig Hill for a meeting. Then we went straight to the old Post Office on Fitzalan Square where pillar boxes had been firebombed and Rachel read out a memoir from one of the Sheffield firebombers who noted the mayhem it had caused (the smoke pouring out of the slot coincided with a car backfiring!) and how the policeman who was at the scene first blamed it on the ‘London lot’ not the women of Sheffield.
From there we cycled down Pond St, used the cycle paths to get to Leadmill St and across to Granville Square to the start of Sheaf Way. From there it was up to the old TA barracks on Edmund St/Clough Rd where we noted the suffragettes’ disruption of a meeting where the then PM, Asquith, had his speech disrupted and the scrapping carried on out into the street.
Laurence took over point duties and led us through Sharrow and up onto Wostenholm Rd where we finally got to Wath Rd and really excitingly found 70 Wath Rd where the inaugural meeting of the Sheffield suffrgaettes had been held in 1907. And that was it; ride over at 10.45!! Some went home and the last half dozen finished in the Union emerging about midnight.

Brilliant. Thanks to all for a splendid ride

Sheffield FridayNightRide
Friday March 5 2010 6.30 pm
The Women’s Movement in Sheffield
Meet Gates to City Museum, Western Bank for the 12 mile route
Pick up point: Cathedral Square, High St 7.15 pm for the 9.5 mile route

“Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” -Susan B. Anthony (1896) US Suffragette
This FridayNightRide is to celebrate International Women’s Day (Monday March 8 2010) by cycling to locations in Sheffield associated with the struggle for women’s emancipation. The main focus is sites to do with the struggle for Votes for Women but it also goes past other relevant sites e.g. the first women’s clinics in Sheffield.
I have put places of interest with some explanation of what happened or what was at the site on a map at,-1.472898&spn=0.03737,0.111151&z=14&msid=108285123450551660446.00047ca308d4e99adb3ca
Heads up! In total it is 12 miles at a leisurely pace with stops to talk and listen. It is all on roads or metalled trails or paths and should suit any bike.
NB: if you’re on your way and want us to wait or if you can’t make the start and want to join some time then PHONE Mick on the mobile number below.
Route. We head off to Crookesmoor to see Adela Pankhurt’s house then into town via Crookesmoor Recreation ground to start a circuit around central downtown taking in sites of meetings, offices, speeches, riots and fire-bombings – we spin off to Attercliffe to the site of the first Women’s Welfare Clinic and then back into town to see sites of more mayhem befoe we go to the hall where the PM of the time was heckled and had his meeting disrupted before we get to the house where the first meeting of the Suffragettes in Sheffield was held.

As most of the ride has Edwardian connections the wearing of cycling tweeds and bloomers or somesuch is encouraged or perhaps the colours purple, white and green – the colours of the suffragettes – or green, white and scarlet – the colours of the suffragists.
In the 20 years before WWI the hottest domestic political issue was Votes for Women. Reasoned and reasonable arguments were felt to be ineffective and the campaign and dissent moved from petitions, rallies and meetings to also encompass disruption, rioting, vandalism and fire-bombings of post boxes. I think the epicentre for this movement in Yorkshire and NE Derbyshire was Sheffield where the youngest Pankhurst, Adela, organised the suffragette movement in the region and led by personal example.
The invention and mass production of bicycles preceded the car by about 25 years. So for 25 years pedestrians, horses (and carts), and bicycles shared the roads. The bicycle was affordable for many and it allowed people to travel much further than they were used to on their own or in groups, to places of their own choice that may well have been inaccessible before. Travelling ‘under one’s own steam’ became a leisure activity as well as a utilitarian activity.
The bike was liberating for men and especially women. Many (mainly male) critics warned of the health dangers of cycling for women (e.g. exercise that was too strenuous and fast for the gentler sex, the hazards of a machine that women would find difficult to control) which also reflected a concern about young men and women cycling off to places together where they could not be seen or supervised and all would be overexcited by the physical exercise and rubbing of the bike saddle – ooh, er, missus!
As side notes it is worth noting that the use of the bicycle (not the introduction of the car) led to the asphalting of roads and cycling caused some changes in fashion, e.g. bloomers were invented so women could cycle more freely and retain their modesty.
What the bike did do for both men and women was literally extend physical and geographical horizons and create the mind-set that one could travel individually and autonomously – and paradoxically that is an essential psychological and cultural mind-set for owning and using a car!
So on your bikes for this one!
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” Irina Dunn (1970), Australian educator, journalist and politician (men may dress in fish suits for this ride)
“We have nothing to lose but our chains!”
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