Another small milestone has been passed in the campaign to get Margaret better recognised in her home-town of Shrewsbury. The local civic society has formally honoured her, by installing a blue plaque on the house she lived in for twenty years with her mother.
The plaque is now securely attached high on one of the exterior walls of Shrewsbury College (Welsh Bridge campus), and can easily be seen by passers-by walking the river path.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in the afternoon of November 1st with a gathering of the great & the good.
A most moving speech at the ceremony came from James Staniforth, the Shrewsbury joint-colleges principal. He said that, in approving the project, he thought of his own daughters, who didn’t have to face the societal prejudices that women such as Margaret Rope had had to face one hundred years ago. Nevertheless, he said, it was well to remember the example set in the strength of lone women such as Margaret – and that the struggle for women’s equality was not yet fully achieved.
The event was timed to be part of the Civic Society’s celebration of ‘Extraordinary Women’.
The nationwide Extraordinary Women initiative was organised by the Heritage Days project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in Britain.
The eighteenth-century building now called Priory House is so-called because it’s on the site of an Augustinian Priory which was there in the middle ages.
It was the home of the Rope family from 1901. Mrs Rope and some of her children, including Margaret, moved in there two years after the death of Marga’s father Henry Rope.
On the house’s large kitchen table, Margaret is said to have created the designs for her first commission, the Great West Window at Shrewsbury Cathedral.
In 1911, when she was 29, Margaret started to rent a studio in London at the ‘Glass House’ run by Lowndes & Drury. However, she never seems to have taken up a permanent residence in London, and most likely lodged with her aunt, in Putney, whenever she needed to use the studio.
As Margaret Rope historians will know, any records relevant to her are very unclear, and no family documents exist from this period (except a family Christmas card made by Marga in 1915 – see pic right), so establishing exact dates for Margaret’s life at The Priory’, as it was called back then, is virtually impossible.
What we do know is that after 1921 she started to spend more time in Suffolk, where she was able to study the life of the convent that she was to enter in 1923.
Mrs Rope continued to live on at The Priory, and may even have run a home for girls there; the census records are frustratingly unclear!
In fact Mrs Rope seems to have been something of a revisionist in her traditional ways (much as her son Henry was), being remembered as ‘the woman with the lanthorn’: in the winter months, she would walk up from The Priory to Shrewsbury Cathedral (where she worshipped) holding a candle-lit lantern to light her way.
After Mrs Rope’s death in the early fifties, the building appears to have been bought by the local authority, became a school, and was absorbed into the complex of buildings in that neighbourhood run by the authority.
(Photos by Simon Caldwell St Gabriel Press)