The Women's Social and Political Union protesters were met by a brutal response. After Prime Minister Asquith refused to see a WSPU deputation at 1.20pm, the Suffragettes stayed in Parliament Square and tried to enter the House of Commons. These efforts were met with violent aggression by the police, who beat and hit Suffragettes, and threw them into the hostile crowds for further ill-treatment.
Because of the expected large demonstration by Suffragettes, policemen had been drafted into Westminster from across London, including from rougher areas like Whitechapel. These policemen were unfamiliar with the Suffragette protesters and accustomed to violence. Perhaps even more importantly, the crowds of bystanders on Black Friday were markedly hostile to the Suffragettes.
The scene is captured in this watercolour painting by William Monk, recently uncovered in our stores. In anticipation of the move to our New Museum site, we're currently preparing all of our collections ready for transport to West Smithfield. Hidden
in one box we were excited to find this watercolour and pastel drawing of a
suffragette demonstration, showing police making arrests outside the Houses of
Parliament. On the reverse there was a handwritten note in pencil, which we
assume to be by the artist William Monk. It reads: ‘Suffragettes, sketched from