Frances Grace Timewell

Today we have another post by Carol, our volunteer looking into women’s suffrage in Warrington. I will pass you over to Carol to tell you all about another great Warrington Suffrage pioneer:

Frances Timewell’s story is one of dedication to the town of Warrington. Born 1862 in the Southport area she later moved to Warrington and stayed here for the rest of her life.

In 1882 Frances entered the Warrington Training College located in the St Elphin’s area. Admission to the College was via the Queen’s Scholarship Examination held in England and Wales. Frances passed with flying colours. In January 1884 the Principal, Reverend Morley Stevenson, was so impressed that he invited Frances to join the Staff.  From that point onwards Frances was committed to the Training College. For the period 1882 -1883 she was Secretary for the Guild of Past Students   and Governess by the 1900s. From 1916 until her retirement in August 1919 Frances was Vice Principal, and integral to the production of the Warrington Training College Magazine. After her retirement in 1919 she went to live with her sister Mary Margaretta Timewell in Manchester Road. She remained devoted to the College and to Warrington.

Miss Timewell first appears in a Warrington Guardian article dated 15/06/1918. This was a brief report on the first meeting of the Warrington Women’s Citizen Association (W.W.C.A.) held at the Wycliffe Memorial Hall in Bewsey Street where Eleanor Rathbone was the main speaker. Frances took the Chair and “humourously alluded” to women’s progress since her youth. It is important to note that the Women’s Citizen Association was a national movement founded in 1917 and played a major role in the Suffrage debate. Not only was it influential in  the passage of the 1918 People’s Representation Act  but Eleanor Rathbone was also a key figure in setting up the national organisation. Warrington was at the centre of the political debate.

From Miss Timewell’s involvement in the movement it is clear that as an educated and eloquent woman she was concerned with Women’s Rights. The article lists their concerns – to foster citizenship, self-education in social, economic, and political rights, and to secure representation of women. There are several other W.W.C.A. news stories and Frances presided over another meeting held at The Wycliffe Memorial Hall on 13/07/1918. The topics covered ranged from representation on public bodies, war widow’s pension rights, equality of opportunity in the work place, the economic value of married women with children, action against the evil of drinking amongst women and the need to work amongst poorer women. Later meetings focused upon the upcoming 1918 General Election, child welfare, the child offender, education and public health. Rather interestingly there is a small report on the W.W.C.A. sending a deputation to the Watch Committee urging the need for Women’s Patrols in the streets. It would be interesting to follow up the Watch Committee’s response.

The article dated 15/06/1918 gives details of the Warrington office address which was 7 Palmyra Square. This is interesting as it brings Frances and the W.W.C.A. to life. Now we have photographs of Frances which were taken by The Birtles Studio, we can imagine her visiting the building in Palmyra Square, walking into the Wycliffe Memorial Hall and presiding over the meetings.

I found no other reference to Frances’s work until the reports of her death and funeral which outlined her interests and concerns. Sadly after a long illness Frances died at home on 29th June 1932 which she shared with her sister Mary Margaretta at “Pentillie” in Latchford. Her death was reported by the Warrington Guardian on 2/07/1932 and it lists her philanthropic concerns. These included the Nursing Associations of Warrington and Grappenhall, and the Infirmary Ladies Linen Guild which provided for mothers and babies in extreme poverty, the national lifeboat charity the R.N.L.I., and The Waifs and Strays’ Society which provided shelter, education and discipline within St George’s Home for Boys. Her organisational skills were also evident as she was one of the managers of the Ladies’ School of Industry in Smith Street. We also discover that Frances’ main hobby was painting and she was also “an organist of some attainment”. (Warrington Guardian 2/07/1932).  From the 1933 College Year Book there is a detailed account of Miss Timewell’s funeral, the attendees, church service and burial at Hill Cliffe Cemetery.

I must mention that I was lucky enough to contact Karen Backhouse, the Special Collections Librarian at Liverpool Hope University where the records for W.T.C. are located.  Through Karen I was able to access the College year books where I found pictures of Frances and some of her fellow staff.  Karen has also been kind enough to send further photographs and information. There is a report and a group photograph of the March 1931 Widnes, Runcorn and District Branch Meeting of W.T.C. Sitting in the centre front row is Frances and her sister Mary Margaretta is sitting on the far left front row. The two sisters seemed to be inseparable. It seems only right that we can see them together.

Miss Mary Margaretta Timewell

Mary was also a student at the College and a teacher at Hamilton Street School where she was the Girls Head Teacher from 1895 to 1925. On Frances’ death Mary or Etta as she is sometimes called composed a letter to students past and present thanking everyone for their sympathy and condolences.

I hope the blog has been interesting. I can say that Frances Grace Timewell, is an important part of Warrington’s history as her educational work, philanthropy and link to the W.W.C.A. are an expression of her commitment to Warrington.

This article was originally posted on Friday, June 8th, 2018.