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Extraordinary Women - 2018


This year, to mark the centenary of when women first gained the right to vote, The Friends and St Nicholas Churchyard (in conjunction with St Nicholas Church) and will be hosting an exhibition and series of events in September (Open House London and Heritage Open Days) celebrating the lives of some of the Extraordinary Women who are connected with St Nicholas. The story will stretch from the glorious revolution of the 17th century to the genderquake of the 21st century, from court beauties to the first woman Bishop of London. The exhibition will be open to schools, youth and community groups and will draw on volunteers from all parts of the community. This is to support the work around the Heritage Action Zone within Sutton.

Our ambitions

We have 3 main ambitions for the exhibition, namely
  • To develop a strong sense of civic pride amongst visitors & volunteers that will contribute to social cohesion.
  • To foster an increased commitment by volunteers and visitors to care for a historical place.
  • To increase public awareness of how the monuments in St Nicholas Churchyard tell stories, of local & national importance, about the development of social justice & gender equality.

The importance of heritage to Sutton

We feel much of the need for the exhibition has been provided by the evidence collected as part of the development of the Sutton Plan and the creation of the Heritage Action Zone. ( is on the verge of significant change, and one of the 11 metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan as an area with the potential for new opportunity. The churchyard of St Nicholas Church is a major gateway for the High Street which is a Conservation Area at Risk. The project is to support Sutton Council's Town Centre Masterplan, which is designed to make Sutton a destination of choice over the next decade. The Sutton Council together with Historic England has identified the need for engagement with the local community to increase their understanding of Sutton's heritage and support groups that are committed to supporting this through events. Historic England wants the people of Sutton to feel confident in preserving the character of the town.

Measuring Success

We will measure the number of visitors and volunteers participating. We have gained experience of doing this last year in coordination with Jane Howard, Heritage Development Officer, Sutton Council. We will also work with volunteers from Carshalton College to take rerun a churchyard visitor survey that was carried out in February 2018. We estimate that the exhibition and events in the Extraordinary Women project will attract approximately 1,500 visitors. We will also be able to measure increase engagement on social media. Although Sutton is the fourth largest hub in South London with 25,000 people visiting each day we think that 80% of Exhibition visitors will be Sutton residents.

The Extraordinary Women

There are 7 main stories to be told.
  • Alice Stuard - 15th Century Feme Sole - she was a peasant woman who lived through the period of the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor dynasty. She left a will. And she allows us to link her to the medieval piscina in the Lady Chapel. This is the oldest surviving relic of the medieval church.
  • Sarah Glover - the first wife of the man who took the first printing press to America.
  • Dorothy Brownlow and Ann Brett - These are the daughters of the Lord of the Manor and their contrasting stories allow us to look at attitudes towards sex and the role of women which resonate with modern concerns over domestic abuse.
  • Cecil Talbot - She was the wife of the man who provided the advice in 1727 that slavery was legal in England.
  • Monika Mary Nightingale. A young woman whose life was changed by war.
  • The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally (former Rector of Sutton and first woman Bishop of London).

Opening Times

The exhibition is publicised as part of the national Heritage Open Days, Ride and Stride for Historic Churches and Open House London.  The exact hours of the exhibition are
  • Thursday 6 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Friday 7 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Saturday 8 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days & Ride & Stride for Churches)
  • Sunday 9 September: 1200-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Thursday 13 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Friday 14 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Saturday 15 September: 1000-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Sunday 16 September: 1200-1600 (Heritage Open Days)
  • Saturday 22nd September 2018: 10:00-17:00 (Open House London)
  • Sunday 23rd September 2018: 10:00-17:00 (Open House London)

Illustrated Talks

The exhibition will be supported by a series of short 30 minute illustrated talks on the theme of Extraordinary Women. 
  • Thursday 6 September 2018: 1 pm - Cllr Ruth Dombey - 100 years on
  • Friday 7 September 2018: 1 pm - Clare Parish - Girl Guiding Rocks
  • Saturday 8 September 2018: 1 pm - Alice Brown & Rachel Clark (Sutton Community Farm) - Extraordinary Women in Food and Farming
  • Thursday 13 September 2018: 1 pm - Janice Clarke - Mary Sumner
  • Thursday 13 September 2018: 2 pm - Cllr Jean Crossby - The Path to Survival
  • Friday 14 September 2018: 1 pm - Veronica Williams - Claudia Jones
  • Saturday 15 September 2018: 1 pm - Abby Matthews - Women in the Frame
  • Saturday 22nd September 2018: 1 pm - Olwen Edwards & Jackie McLoughlin - Helen Bamber