404 Hampstead Garden Suburb Virtual Museum : Document : Irene Parley [SUFL26]
Irene Parley
Irene Parley

Overview for Irene Parley (nee Spong)

From approximately 1920 she lived at 10 Heath Close. In the 1911 Census her husband was at Holmcroft, 44 Hampstead Way? (his brother’s home). She was a Census protester.

Irene was a member of Spong family who lived in Muswell Hill. Her father founded Spong and Co Ltd, a kitchen appliance manufacturing company which produced labour saving devices such as mincers and coffee grinders. She, her sisters, and mother were all supporters of the WSPU and several of them were imprisoned during the women’s suffrage campaign.

On Census night, Irene was an evader. Her husband registered in Hampstead Garden Suburb in Hampstead Way. His details appear to have been written in later, probably so that Irene could be responsible for completing the form for the marital home, but her husband would be registered and so not liable to prosecution. She submitted a rebellious census return from 21 Dalmeny Road, Holloway which was the marital home, writing: “Until I receive the full rights of citizenship I shall refuse to perform the duties of a citizen. No vote, no census”.

She signed the form ‘Irene Parley’. The enumerator was less diligent than the one in Hampstead Garden Suburb, as he has just enumerated two people at the bottom of the form. There were not any apparent attempts to find out additional details.

Irene Parley née Spong, was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and sang professionally as a soprano, as well as teaching. She also put on concerts (with her sister, Annie, a dancer) to raise money for the WSPU, and gave elocution classes to suffragette speakers (so that they could project their voices over a restless audience!). She is said to have sung to suffragette prisoners in Holloway Prison from the roof of a house which the WSPU rented in Dalmeny Road. It is possible that the choice of the (rented) marital home, close to the prison was not accidental, but enabled her to assist at the WSPU house nearby where suffragettes were taken on their release from Holloway.

She was arrested at deputation on Parliament on 29/6/09 and was one of 14 women sent to Holloway. They petitioned the Governor to be considered as political prisoners. When petition refused, they broke the windows of their cells and disobeyed other prison regulations. This resulted in various periods of ‘close confinement’ in ‘punishment cells’. In response, they prisoners went on hunger striker. Irene is mentioned as one of several prisoners “all of whom suffered for many days to carry out the protest to the end”.

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Document, SUFL26