Suffragettes February 10 1913




Early on Saturday morning an extraordinary outrage was discovered to have been perpetrated at the Orchid House in Kew Gardens, and there is no doubt in the minds of the authorities that it is the work of Militant Suffragists. The Gardens were closed as usual on Friday night, and were patrolled according to routine without anything out of the way being observed. One of the employees passing to his work at the heating apparatus in the small hours found that a large number of the windows in Orchid Houses 14a,14b, and 14c had been smashed. Mr Watson, the Curator whose house is at no great distance, was roused and came to the scene. It was ascertained that not only had the windows been broken the houses had been entered and the valuable contents on several of the benches treated in a most malignant fashion. The orchids in these houses are not the most valuable that are cultivated at Kew, but they were in exceptionally fine condition, many of them in bloom. In fact, so pleased were Mr. Watson and his staff with the excellent state which the rare plants had attained that a notice had been posted on the main gate recommending visitors to see these houses specially. Possibly this explains why the Suffragists maliciously selected this notably interesting display for the exercise of their wanton conduct. Whoever was engaged in the outrage had thrown down the pots containing the plants, trampled many of them under foot, destroyed labels, pulled of the rare blooms, and threw them away, and did other destruction which involves the loss not only of a whole season of work on the part of the experts who brought the orchids to their perfection, but a considerable monetary loss, amounting probably to a thousand pounds.

Mr Watson and his assistants at once took steps to prevent further harm being done to the contents of the glass houses. Fortunately the night was rather warm than otherwise and frost was absent, or probably all the orchids in these houses would have been killed owing to their susceptibility to injury in low temperatures. Matting was placed over the broken panes and the heat raised beyond the normal, and with the utmost despatch the glaziers engaged in the gardens were set to work to replace the broken glass. So quickly were the repairs effected that by the time the gardens were opened on Saturday morning no indications of the damage that had been done were to be seen outside. The authorities, however, decided that they would close the orchid houses and keep them shut against the public until further notice. Later in the day, when a Morning Post representative was in the gardens, it was noticeable how bitter were the comments made by visitors who desired to see the display of plants on the action of the women.

An inquiry into the circumstances was held by the police and the Kew authorities. Among the results arrive at is that the breakage seems to have been done by several persons, who probably made their way into the gardens from the direction of the Mid Surrey golf links, where the enclosing fence is quite low. It is not thought that they hid themselves overnight in the gardens, as not suspicious persons were found by the workpeople in the morning when a search was made. The night was very stormy, with a high wind blowing which would prevent the smashing of the glass from being heard at any distance. Apparently someone armed with an iron rod ran along the side of the glasshouse striking at the panes, and it is remarkable that one though struck did not break while those on either side were broken to pieces. Afterwards the house must have been entered, and by means of a key, for the door had been locked overnight. It is even suggested that an impression of the lock must have been taken with a view to the outrage. Whoever went inside behaved like one in a frenzy. The usual scrap of paper with “Votes for women” upon it was found. Thirty-eight large panes were broken, and one of the persons concerned must have cut his or her hand, to judge from blood marks on the glass. Mr. Watson is not prepared, we understand to estimate the exact amount of damage done, because he does not know whether any of the other plants have been injured by their exposure to the night air. Fortunately the great orchid house, where the most valuable of the specimens are kept, was left untouched, the smallhouses which were damaged being in the nature of passage ways leading to the main building. The attack must have been made between a quarter past one and half past three. At the first-named hour the watchman passed on his round as usual, and saw that the place was all right, and it was at half past three that the workman already mentioned observed, as he proceeded to his duty, what had taken place, Unfortunately no clue exists as to the identity of those who are guilty of the outrage, but the police have the matter in hand and are making investigations. The gardens were on Saturday, which was a remarkably fine day, looking extremely beautiful, suggesting, in the advanced state of the flowers and other growths, early springtime, and large numbers of the general public were present during the forenoon and afternoon.

See Mrs Pankhurst`s comments about the attack to Kew Gardens:~

THE MORNING POST FEBRUARY 11 1913 ………. Mrs Pankhurst on recent developments



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