Blue Plaque for Dame Katharine Furse

Blue Plaque Clifton Hill House l to r Lt Cdr Sarah Royston, CPO Jane Haywood, L/S Alison Wilmott 'WWI' Shirley Melligan, front WWII Vet Connie Gregory 7.9.17

Unveiling the Blue Plaque

What a wonderful day we had at Clifton Hill House, Lower Clifton Hill in Bristol on Thursday 7th September 2017, as guests of Bristol University. This beautiful building built in the style of a Palladian villa was the birthplace of Dame Katharine Furse GBE RRC, the first Director of the WRNS and the founder of the Association of Wrens.

A preliminary visit to the house earlier this year (and tour of the beginnings of restoration in the large 18C garden) brought together the Blue Plaque panel from the Civic Society, the Head of External Estates and the PRO from the Association. After much research and word counting it was agreed that it would be appropriate to add to the naval titles held by Dame Katharine to show how her determination, perseverance, and great vision was also evident from her career, before 1917 and after 1920. And so it was that her VAD service as Commandant in Chief, and her role as the first Director of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are also listed on the Blue Plaque.

We were most fortunate to share the special day with another in-house occasion.for an open day to show the tremendous progress made in the ongoing restoration of the garden. Our location for meet and greet, and our display material was the period music room and adjoining drawing room. The gathered company of both garden 'friends' and Wrens, enjoyed the welcoming speeches from the Pro Vice Chancellor Judith Squires, and Alan Stealey, Head of the Restoration project. This was followed by a WRNS100 and AOW presentation by our President Commandant Anthea Larken CBE, and a brief address by Lori Streich representing the Bristol Civic Society who spoke enthusiatically about their pleasure in discovering so much about a significant Bristol born woman.

Luckily the good weather continued for the most important part of the day when we all gathered at the front of the building, alongside the steep winding hill, to witness the unveiling of the Blue Plaque by Commandant Larken. The deep blue curtains were drawn and the first view of the plaque was revealed to be an outstanding piece of craftsmanship by Wards of Bristol which will hopefully be a significant addition to future City guides. . 

The Association was represented by Vice Presidents, Trustees, Branch Chairmen, Bristol Branch members, local Informal Groups, HMS Flying Fox personnel, and Gloucester Armed Forces Careers Office. A most enjoyable day was had by all. We were well looked after by Bristol University hospitality staff who served a delicious fork buffet and desserts. AOW members will be pleased to know that 'The Wren' rose will be planted in the garden. 


Photos are by Gordon Young Bristol Civic Society  & PRO

Detail of Dame Katharine's Life