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News > Archives > Mary Lockyer (OQ) - Crafting a Fabric Monument

Mary Lockyer (OQ) - Crafting a Fabric Monument

11 Jul 2024
Written by Xifei Zhang

The name Mary Lockyer does not ring the bell for many Old Queens. However, as a leader in the suffrage movement, social reformer and astronomer, she has achieved much in the field of science and politics. That is what led Sidmouth Patchers and Quilters (in collaboration with Mayes Creative, based in Cornwall) to craft a quilt in honour of her and to mark her key achievements.

At the top right of the quilt, you can see a picture of Mary. Born in Bridgewater, Somerset in 1852, she moved to London with her sister Annie to study astronomy and natural philosophy here at Queen’s, encouraging her to take courses in physics and applied mathematics at University College London just next door.

Whilst juggling her studies, she was active in the feminist movements that sprung up at the time and she herself achieved some remarkable things. For example, in 1880, she embarked on a groundbreaking campaign to establish College Hall in Byng Place (the first hall of residence for women students at University College and the London School of Medicine for Women). But this was only the start of her lifelong involvement in the suffrage movement. At the bottom right-hand corner, you will see Woolcombe house – Mary and Annie established a maternity and infant welfare centre here in 1916.

The other half of the quilt focuses on her later life in which she founded at the Norman Lockyer observatory (top left-hand corner) alongside her husband, Norman Lockyer. Her scientific pursuits were not limited to just astronomy, she enjoyed botany and collected botanic art. 

Some of the artefacts and photographs from Mary's life are held at Sidmouth Museum, where the completed quilt is due to be displayed in Autumn 2024, before finding a permanent home at the Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth. 

Mary’s story is only one of many women whose contributions have shaped our world today. We are very grateful to Carolyn and Sandra from Sidmouth Patchers & Quilters and Mayes Creative for sharing this with us, and the seven members of their team who worked on this quilt as part of a larger project looking into the life of Mary. This incredible project, which as uncovered so much about Mary's remarkable life, and allowed it to be shared with the wider community, would not have been possible without support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

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