Blue plaque to Wakefield’s first female Mayor unveiled

On Saturday, 24th September, Wakefield Civic Society unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate the life and work of Wakefield’s first female Mayor, Councillor Fanny Stott. The plaque was unveiled by the current Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor David Jones, at a garden party held in the grounds of the Stott family’s former home, Grove House, College Grove Road, Wakefield.

Fanny Stott – biography

Fanny Stott and her daughter Betty. Photo courtesy of Betty’s son, Charles Senior

Fanny Wordsworth Stott (1882-1961), born Fanny Wordsworth Haslegrave, was the daughter of Wakefield corn mill owner Joseph Haslegrave and his wife Fanny Wordsworth.

Joseph Haslegrave was a partner in the corn milling firm of Reynolds, Stott and Haslegrave Ltd, who had the West Riding and King’s Mills on the banks of the River Calder in Wakefield – close to where the Hepworth Gallery is today. Joseph Haslegrave was himself Mayor of Wakefield from 1890-91.

The family originally lived at Dirtcar (Durkar today) but had moved to Manygates House at Sandal by 1881, where Fanny was born, and to Stanley Hall by the time of the 1891 census.

Originally training as a nurse, Fanny married Edwin Percival Stott in July 1914 at Sandal Church – Stott was also a corn miller. Three years later in 1917, their daughter, Ida Elizabeth Stott, known as Betty Stott, was born.

In 1929, Mrs Stott was elected as a Conservative councillor for the Eastmoor and St John’s Ward. In recognition of her work for the city, in 1938, Mrs Stott was elected to the aldermanic bench, becoming Alderman Stott and then, in 1939, she became a JP.

On becoming the Mayor in November 1940, she asked her daughter Betty to act as her Mayoress – and at the age of just 23, Betty was to be the city’s youngest ever Mayoress.

Mrs Stott sat on many committees associated with her concerns for welfare, including the Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Advisory Housing Council, the Bede Home for Boys, the St John’s Home for Girls, the Victoria Nursing Association, the Clayton Hospital Ladies Linen League, the West Riding Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society and the Social Service Council. She was also Chairman of the Wakefield branch of the Civil and Auxiliary Nursing Reserve, Vice President of the Wakefield Soroptimist Club, President of the local branch of the College of Nursing, and President of the Wakefield, Pontefract and Knottingley branch of the NSPCC.

In addition to the above responsibilities, Mrs Stott was also a member of the Board of Governors of Wakefield Charities and had been President of the Women’s section of the British Legion.

She was also associated with a number of charitable causes. She raised money for people affected by the Blitz in London and, closer to home, people who had been bereaved in the Crigglestone Colliery disaster of July 1941 when over 20 men were killed. As well as attending many charitable events, she also used the garden of her family home at Grove House for events to raise funds.

Fanny Stott died in 1961. By then, she was living at Barnsley Road, Sandal.

The Blue Plaque

Wakefield Civic Society Blue Plaque to Fanny Stott

The nomination for the blue plaque was made by David and Eleanor Woollin. The Woollins purchased Grove House from the Council in 2020.

The house was originally designed and built for a Wakefield-based woollen draper by the name of Thomas Boston. Boston moved in when the house was completed in June 1877. Within a couple of weeks of moving in, Thomas unfortunately died, due to suffocation caused by inhaling toxic fumes which has escaped from the conservatory flue and into the bedroom.

In 1921, Grove House was occupied by the Stott family – Edwin Percy Stott, his wife Fanny and 3 servants.

In 1952 Grove House was sold to Wakefield Council for £3,900. They originally converted the property into flats where they housed Wakefield Council staff, and then more recently it was converted to an assisted-living care-home.

After 70 years of ownership, in 2020, Wakefield Council sold the property to the Woollins – they hadn’t moved far having lived just across the road, but they had to save Grove House from potential developers when it came onto the market. Having acquired the property, they started refurbishing the house and converting it back into a family home. They also undertook some research into the property’s history and it was then that they discovered the connection with Fanny Stott. They were so impressed with Fanny’s story that they decided to nominate her for a blue plaque and offered to donate funds to Wakefield Civic Society to cover the cost of the plaque.

However, rather than just unveiling a plaque, the Woollins wanted to continue Fanny’s earlier tradition of using the property’s garden to raise funds for a good cause and they decided to host a garden party which was attended by more than 50 people, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Wakefield and members of Wakefield Civic Society. Fanny Stott’s grandson (Betty’s son) Charles Senior also attended the event with members of his family.

Garden Party Guests – Photo by Shaun Walker

The event was very successful and over £750 was raised for charity. David and Eleanor have decided to donate the money to one of the current Mayor’s charities – the Dr Jackson Cancer Fund.

In addition to the cash donation, the Woollins had booked Wakefield’s tinyIDEA to provide pizzas for garden party guests. tinyIDEA use their proceeds to help alleviate food poverty in the Wakefield District.

Speaking at the event, Wakefield Civic Society President Kevin Trickett congratulated David and Eleanor on organising the event and thanked them for their donation to the Society to cover the cost of the plaque, which would be the 71st plaque unveiled by the Society. He also pointed out that the work David and Eleanor had done to refurbish the house made a refreshing change showing how Victorian properties could be brought back to life as family homes and preserved for future generations to enjoy rather than being demolished and replaced with rather anodyne modern houses.

The Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor David Jones also thanked David and Eleanor for their hospitality and support for the Mayor’s Charities. The Mayor drew attention to the efforts of his predecessor in raising funds for good causes, ‘cadging’ as Fanny used to call it, and mentioned some of the more unusual moments from Fanny’s life, including the time in September 1941 when she drove a tank into Wakefield from several miles outside the city right into the city centre while her daughter Betty, as Mayoress, followed behind in a second tank. Many thousands of people lined the route to cheer the procession made up of tanks from an army unit that was visiting Wakefield for four days. Fanny said how much she enjoyed ‘skidding round the corners’ – once she got used to it!

Left to Right: Eleanor Woollin, holding Monty, the Mayoress, Mrs Annette Jones, Wakefield Civic Society President, Kevin Trickett MBE, the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor David Jones, and David Woollin