On 2 March, 1911, Emily Davison hid in a broom cupboard in order to be registered as resident at the House of Commons on the census. Nearly 100 years later, as the next census approaches, David Standen revisits Davison’s story
I’ve been hiding in the cupboard for the past hour. It’s cramped, slightly musty (old trainers), and I have the overwhelming feeling that I own far too many t-shirts. Hiding in a cupboard loses its sense of fun when you’re in your 30s – backache and boredom are the overriding experiences. Even my daughter has lost interest in finding me and has toddled off to pull dirty clothes out of the washing basket.
I should qualify that sentence by a stating that a) my daughter is only 15-months-old, and is therefore prone to doing those sorts of things; and b) I’m not the only adult in the house, so she’s unlikely to do too much harm either to herself or her surroundings while I’m cupboard-bound.
It’s not for fun that I’m doing this though – I’m trying to gain a sense of what it was like for Emily Wilding Davison, the famed Suffragette, when she hid in a broom cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the crypt of St Stephen’s Hall, on the night of 2 April 1911. Those of you unfamiliar with her name might ask why do this? The answer lies in the census.