Rustington cousins who founded ‘UK’s first female-ran business’ could get blue plaque

Rhoda and Agnes Garrett could be getting a blue plaque at their home in The Firs, Rustington, pictured.
Rhoda and Agnes Garrett could be getting a blue plaque at their home in The Firs, Rustington, pictured.

Could a blue plaque be in the pipeline for two cousins behind the country’s first female-ran business?

Prominent suffragists Rhoda and Agnes Garrett could be honoured with a plaque at Old Orchard House in The Street, Rustington, formerly known as The Firs, where they lived for a time.

An image in the press of Rhoda Garrett speaking in London in 1872. Rhoda and Agnes Garrett could be getting a blue plaque at their home in The Firs, Rustington

An image in the press of Rhoda Garrett speaking in London in 1872. Rhoda and Agnes Garrett could be getting a blue plaque at their home in The Firs, Rustington

The campaign has been spearheaded by Graham Lewis from Rustington Heritage Association, Ria Mills, the owner of Old Orchard House, and Graeme Taylor, who published a book on Rhoda in 2015.

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The decision should be made by Arun District Council’s planning department by December 5.

Graeme said he hoped the plaque would be unveiled on December 14, the 100th anniversary of the general election when women were first allowed to vote in the U.K.

Agnes was sister of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett, whose statue in Parliament Square is the first of a woman, and according to Graeme Rhoda was ‘probably the most prominent speaker’ on behalf of the suffragists ‘in the 1870’s up until her death in 1882’.

He said their interior design business was the first to be registered and run by women in the United Kingdom.

He said: “This was indeed a great achievement which involved 3 years formal training against a backdrop of horrendous prejudice. Some of the furniture they designed can still be seen at the National Trust Property, Standen House.”

Graeme said the two most iconic pictures of Suffrage meetings in the press portray Rhoda Garrett speaking.

The historian described Rustington as the ‘cradle of women’s suffrage’, citing one occasion when Rhoda and Agnes lived there. A petition for women’s suffrage was done and ‘virtually every woman in the village signed it’, he said.