Suffragettes June 12 1914






Hitherto Westminster Abbey has been immune from desecration or violence on the part of militant Suffragists. Last night a bomb outrage generally attributed to these misguided women was committed in the nation’s sanctuary.

At twenty minutes to six o’clock, while many visitors and worshippers were in the Abbey, a bomb was exploded in the close proximity to the Coronation Chair in the Chapel of Edward the Confessor. Happily no one was injured, and the actual material damage done is but slight, consisting of the breaking off of a small portion of the Coronation Chair and the detaching of small particles of ornamental stone work.

Since the attempted outrage of a similar character at St. Paul’s Cathedral the explosion at St. John’s Westminster, the Abbey authorities have redoubled their precautions against attempts of the kind, and the vigilance exercise justifies the police in their belief that the bomb must have been placed in position only a minute or two before the explosion occurred. The hour at which the Abbey is closed to the public was approaching, and the last party of conducted visitors had left the shrine of the Confessor only a few minutes before. It was fortunate that they had done so, for the force of the explosion was sufficient to have caused the death or serious mutilation of anyone within close range.

The report was so loud as to be heard by Parliamentary journalists working in the rooms overlooking Palace Yard, and was at first mistaken for a peal of thunder. It is cause for congratulation that the damage was no greater than has been stated, though universal regret will be felt that any injury should have been done to so historic and interesting a national heirloom as the Coronation Chair, already ravaged by the ages. Fortunately none of the valuable stained glass in the vicinity has been touched, nor is there any evidence that the famous Stone of Scone – or Coronation Stone, as it is called – which is placed under the Coronation Chair, was in any way injured.

It is curious to note that at the moment this outrage on the Church and on the nation was being perpetrated, the House of Commons, not a hundred yards away was discussing the most efficient means of coping with the violent methods of militant Suffragists.

An eye-witness informed the writer that he was standing about twenty yards from the Coronation Chair when the explosion occurred. The noise, he said, was deafening, and a huge column of smoke shot right up to the roof. Thick volumes of dust and fragments of plaster descended to the floor level, enveloping everything, and adding considerably to the confusion and fright of the people in the Abbey, who were estimated to number from eighty to one hundred.

The people rushed for the exits, and quickly reached the street. The loud report had in the meantime brought a crowd of the Abbey officials and workpeople to the spot, as well as a number of police who were on duty in the precincts and in the neighbourhood of the House of Commons.

Orders were given immediately that all the entrances were to be closed and admission refused to the public, and the Abbey authorities, seeing the cause of the occurrence, communicated with the police authorities at Scotland Yard. Officers of the Criminal Investigation Department were on the scene without delay and, with the Dean, Minor Canon Westlake, Custodian of the Abbey, and some of the officials of the church, made an investigation. This was a somewhat prolonged process owing to the atmosphere being still so thickly permeated with dust.

It was feared at first, owing to the loudness and violence of the explosion, that very serious damage must have been done, and intense relief and satisfaction were felt when it was found that only a small portion of the carved woodwork at the back of the Coronation Chair had been blown away. The portion displaced extended about six inches along the top of the back and for three inches down the side. Some splinters were also knocked off the stone screen at the back of the Chair. Minor Canon Westlake afterwards informed a Morning Post representative that so slight was the damage to the Coronation Chair that it would be difficult for a casual observer to differentiate between the results of the explosion and the effects of old age and wear and tear. He thought the perpetrators of the outrage must have escaped with the body of visitors in the rush to the doors before the order to close the exits could be carried out.

At the conclusion of last evening’s examination the experts from the Home Office and Scotland Yard had not located the exact spot where the explosive was placed, and Minor Canon Westlake pointed out that it could not therefore be ascertained whether the bomb had been in a secreted or exposed position. If in a secreted position it would not point directly to the guilt of any member of the last party to visit the chapel.



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