Local Heroes to be Honoured - Annie Kenney


Oldham Council is set to commemorate two historically significant Springhead heroes.

A heritage sign has been installed in Springhead to commemorate Victoria Cross recipient Sergeant Thomas Steele and famous suffragette Annie Kenney.

Both figures were born in Springhead and made a significant impact across the world – the sign will lay a lasting reminder about their links with Oldham.

Annie Kenney, born in Claytons, Springhead in 1879, was the first ‘working class’ suffragette and a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) for the rights of women.

She started work in a cotton mill in Oldham at the age of 10, and went on to become a leader and organiser of the WSPU, touring England and Wales speaking at rallies on women’s suffrage.

A heritage sign has been attached to the “Welcome to Springhead” road sign on Oldham Road. It is also proposed to do the same on the other two “Welcome to Springhead” road signs.

Councillor Adrian Alexander, Chair of Saddleworth and Lees District Executive, told Saddleworth News: “We wanted to install this sign as a permanent symbol to remember them and where they were born.

“It’s amazing to have two figures from Oldham who were not just an influence to the world, but an inspiration as well.

“I hope everyone who drives or walks past the sign is reminded of the significant history Oldham holds.”

In honour of his outstanding bravery, and to commemorate 100 years since the events, Oldham Council is holding a ceremony at 11am, February 22, at St Anne’s Church, Lydgate.

At the ceremony a commemorative paving stone will be unveiled in honour of Sergeant Steele by Councillor Derek Heffernan, the Mayor of Oldham.

“They came from all walks of life but whatever their background each one showed incredible courage in fighting for our liberty.”



BBC News - Annie Kenney: Statue to mark 'overlooked' suffragette - October 2018

Picturd left - Annie Kenney (left) with Christabel Pankhurst in the famous "Votes for Women" image.

A statue design has been unveiled of the "underestimated" suffragette Annie Kenney, who was arrested after asking Winston Churchill about voting rights.

Along with activist Christabel Pankhurst, she was photographed holding a large "Votes for Women" banner in a now-famous image.

Kenney was the only working class woman to hold a senior position in the Women's Social and Political Union.

Oldham MP Jim McMahon said she "stepped up to change the world".

Mr McMahon, who represents the Oldham West and Royton constituency in which Kenney was born, said: "Without her and others, we would not have made progress in reforming our democracy."

Designed by sculptor Denise Dutton, the statue depicts Kenney in the Votes for Women sash and ringing a bell.

It will be unveiled on 14 December outside Oldham Town Hall to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave some British women the right to vote.

Born in 1879, Kenney was one of 12 children and worked in a cotton mill from the age of 10.

In 1905, she and Christabel Pankhurst - one of the daughters of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst - interrupted a Manchester rally to ask Winston Churchill, then MP for Oldham, and his Liberal Party colleague Sir Edward Grey if they believed women should have the right to vote.

They were thrown out and jailed, with Pankhurst accused of spitting at a policeman.

It was seen as a pivotal moment in the campaign for the vote, when the suffragettes moved towards more radical, direct protest.

Kenney was imprisoned 13 times and took part in hunger strikes.

However some researchers say her role was "often underestimated", compared with that of better-connected families such as the Pankhursts.

Following Kenney's death in 1953, a plaque was erected in her honour at Lees Brook Mill, where she worked as a child.

About £24,000 has been donated for the new statue, but the Annie Kenney Memorial Fund Committee hopes to raise another £6,000 to cover the total cost.