Why have the Royal Parks and Kensington town hall not cleaned up Emmeline Pankhurst’s grave

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

The grave of Emmeline Pankhurst has been labelled a “national disgrace” after it was left filthy and with chipped stonework.

The suffragette’s great-granddaughter Helen Pankhurst has spoken out after a military grave restorer described the Grade II listed plinth as “an embarrassment” with the paving around it turning “black as night.”

Grave restorer Steve Davies told the Telegraph: “I can’t say it’s ever been cleaned.

“It’s in an awful state. The paving around it is as black as night, the lettering and the engraving are barely readable. To me, it’s a national monument and a national disgrace.”

Helen said: “Given what she stood for and its continued relevance today, it seems particularly important that the systems of the establishment try to support, rather than hinder.”

The grave was last surveyed in 2018 and it was reported to be very dirty and chipped but a Kensington and Chelsea council officer claimed the plinth did not need cleaning.

Steve offered to restore the iconic grave for free and Helen supported the move.

But the Royal Parks, which is responsible for the grave, refused to let Steve tend the grave as he did not have the appropriate qualifications.

It feared the sandstone grave could be easily damaged and details could be destroyed if it was not cleaned correctly.

Helen agreed graves needed to be managed in the right way but added: “I don’t know how they decide what they’re going to do, but clearly they’ve not done very much.

“I think it needs to be done. It needs to be done for anybody, but particularly if it’s a historical character and there are people coming to view it.

“It’s not a one-off. The Emmeline grave is particularly important, but this business about valuing the past and finding ways to protect, both through community and government support, to make sure that happens I think is critical.”

Brompton Cemetery manager Charli Kerr said: “We can confirm a member of the public has offered to clean Emmeline Pankhurst’s grave memorial in Brompton Cemetery.

“Although this is a lovely and generous offer, the grave is listed by Historic England and any works, including cleaning, must be carried out by a person with the appropriate qualifications and only after Listed Building Consent has been granted by the relevant local authority.

“For example, they should be a qualified stonemason or be in possession of the Heritage Skills CSCS Card. Unfortunately, the person who made the offer does not hold this type of formal qualification.

“Historic England publicly state cleaning was a major intervention for a historic monument, so it is our belief this should be done sparingly and only carried out by a professional.

“We have consulted with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Conservation Officer and they support our view that cleaning should only be carried out by a professional and that the statue does not require immediate cleaning.

“They also note that cleaning undertaken by a person who does not hold the appropriate qualification or competence could do more harm than good.

“We have been in contact with the family of Emmeline Pankhurst and have offered to support them in applying for listed building consent from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to carry out any works or appropriate cleaning, undertaken by qualified professionals.”

Pictured: Emmeline Pankhurst’s grave in 2010

 


 

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