International women’s rights activist Helen Pankhurst is the latest high profile name to join the growing campaign to save Dunford House at West Lavington.
It was launched when villagers discovered the home of pioneering politician Richard Cobden was in danger of being sold by the YMCA and converted into new homes.
It is now headed by Cobden’s great great great grandson Nick Cobden Wright, who has set up the Cobden Foundation in a bid to preserve the house as a conference and education centre.
Helen Pankhurst is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, who were both leaders in the British suffragette movement.
Campaigner Professor Anthony Howe, leading authority on Richard Cobden, who is also backing the campaign, said: “Dunford House should be preserved as it has played a highly significant part in the genesis and development of later Victorian and Edwardian feminism. Two of Richard Cobden’s daughters (Jane and Annie) were a leading suffragist and suffragette. Jane in particular was one of the first women members of the London County Council among other causes. The Dunford library contains volumes of books with the nameplate ‘The Daughters of Richard Cobden’.”
Putting her weight behind the campaign, Helen Pankhurst said the house should be preserved to help future generations understand how early day feminist activism contributed to the shaping of today’s world: “The Dunford House and estate were gifted to the YMCA in 1952 as a permanent endowment by the Cobden family. The Cobden Foundation charity is in discussions with the YMCA requesting they use their power of gifting and return it to the family so they can continue the legacy of their ancestors. I commend their intentions and join all feminists and historians in wishing it every success.”