Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Was famous suffragette behind painting at auction house?

Champery 1885

Antiques dealers Jon White and Steve Bucknell are appealing for information about the creator of a water colour picture who they believe may have been a famous suffragette.

The picture, Champery 1885, recently bought locally is currently on display at Old Bank Antiques in Royal Wootton Bassett.

Signed by an Ethel M J Smyth, it shows Champery in Switzerland with mountains in the background including its bell tower which still exists today.

Jon said: “It’s possible this is an unknown work by the well-known suffragette Ethel Smyth who was a great friend, and possible lover, of Emmeline Pankhurst and she was also the first female UK composer to be honoured as a dame.

"She was famous for her opera The Wreckers. She was a militant suffragette and also composed the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement The March Of The Women.”

Jon, and dealer Steve Bucknell who sells items from Old Bank Antiques, are appealing for more information about the mystery artist.

“This is potentially very exciting,” Steve said. “The painting is not an accomplished work of art and we’ve been unable to find readily available information about whether or not this amazing woman also enjoyed water colour painting. However it would not be unusual for a lady of that era to dabble in water colours.

“The other intriguing fact is that she is known to have had an affair with a man called Henry Brewster who, during this period, lived close to Champery in a place called Nyon on the shores of Lake Geneva. The affair ended in 1885 when Ethel returned to England. It’s believed Henry was her only male lover as most of her relationships were with women.”

Jon and Steve are appealing for any information which may shed some light on the picture and its origins. It was bought from a local auction room in a job lot at a recent sale.

Old Bank Antiques was opened last year in the building which was formerly the HSBC bank, at 143 High Street, Royal Wootton Bassett. It’s a small centre selling portable antiques including jewellery, silver flatware, coins, toys and collectibles. Steve is one of the dealers who rent cabinet space within the business.

Anyone who can shed any light on whether – or not – this mystery water colour is by the famous suffragette can contact Jon White on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.