Lenton Rise, TW9

Place Name

Remarkably, given the fact this street was only named in 1972 the reason behind the name has already been lost. But before we start speculating, the houses were built on the site of the Tower Garage and House, which had themselves been built over the Royal Laundry in 1926. The laundry was used to wash the clothes and linen of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Osborne House in Victorian times. So while neighbouring Tower Rise is obvious, the name Lenton is less so and the reason why the developers were so forgetful could be embarrassment (because the subject was considered a terrorist in her day). Lilian Lenton (January 5, 1891 – October 28, 1972) was a winner of a French Red Cross medal for her service as an orderly in World War I, but it was for her activities as a suffragette that she was most likely named here. Born into a working-class family in Leicester, she trained to be a dancer but, after hearing Emmeline Pankhurst speak, she “made up my mind that night that as soon as I was twenty-one and my own boss… I would volunteer”. She and another suffragette began a series of arson attacks in London, and was arrested in February 1913 on suspicion of having set on fire the Tea House at Kew Gardens. In Holloway Prison she held a hunger strike for two days before being forcibly fed, which caused her to become seriously ill with pleurisy caused by food entering her lungs. It took two doctors and seven wardens to restrain her. She was quickly and quietly released. Her case created an outrage among the public, made worse by the fact that the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, denied that she had been force fed and that her illness was actually caused by her hunger strike. However, Home Office papers show that she was force fed on 23 February 1913. A letter to The Times in 1913, from Victor Horsley, a leading surgeon, claimed “the Home Secretary’s attempted denial that Miss Lenton was nearly killed by the forcible feeding is worthless… she was tied into a chair and her head dragged backward across the back of the chair by her hair. The tube was forced through the nose twice… after the second introduction when the food was poured in, it caused violent choking.” To avoid more such political embarrassment, the Government rushed through its “Cat and Mouse Act” in April 1913, which stated that hunger-striking suffragette “mice” could be released on temporary licence to recover their health, when the security forces could re-arrest them. She continued to carry out arson attacks and became known as the the “tiny, wily, elusive Pimpernel”. During World War I she served in Serbia with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Unit and was awarded a French Red Cross medal. After the Russian Revolution she travelled in Russia with fellow suffragette Nina Boyle. She later worked in the British Embassy in Stockholm. She died the years this street was named, having never married.


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