The 1866 Petition – a follow up!

I have been busy researching the stories of those women active in the early days of the suffrage movement on the Isle of Wight for most of the summer. I have found out some fascinating things and with the help of a relative of one of the ladies I have build quite an interesting picture of these political pioneers.

So more on Ellen Cantelo 69, High Street Carisbrooke, Sarah James, St James Street Newport and Elizabeth Thompson of Carisbrooke and why did they sign the 1866 petition? If you missed the first instalment catch up here!

I initially thought that these ladies had been drafted into signing the petition because of the artistic movement on the Isle of Wight and that was how they had heard of the cause of women’s suffrage. I was very wrong! I was contacted by the wonderful and extremely knowledgeable Barry Cantelo over the summer – Ellen Cantelo’s great nephew. After being told off for pronouncing their surname incorrectly he filled me in on how the family were involved in politics!

The Cantelo family were part of the Chartist movement and were therefore politically knowledgeable, politically active and no stranger to a fight against the system. Ellen’s father (William) was a publican in  Newport, holding the position of Landlord of the Eight Bells and the Castle at times during his career. His 4 children John, William, Ellen and Elizabeth went on to have very interesting lives. John was a portrait painter, William was a part time publican and part time engineer and it is believed he invented the machine gun before Maxim ( then mysteriously disappeared. His daughters Ellen and Elizabeth (now Mrs Thompson) were those who signed the 1866 petition and Ellen went on to have a career as an artist and photographer.

Ellen was an accomplished water colourist and during a period in the 1860’s whilst living in London she was catalogued and became a member of the Royal Society of Water Colourists – which was about as high as you could get, as women were not permitted to join the Royal Academy. Ellen built her career as a Countryside painter and a number of her works are in store at Carisbrooke Castle Museum

On her return to the Island her artistic and enquiring nature led to her experiment with photography. She went into business with Mr Brading and formed Brading and Cantelo who photographed Island scenes some of which became picture postcards.

Ellen never married and passed away in 1898 while living in Lake after what appears to be a full and successful career. She left £253.00 to her sister Elizabeth Thompson (the other signee).

As for Sarah James, I have not been able to find anything specific but after chatting to Barry he believes there is a chance that she could have a connection to the Cantelo family too, perhaps a fiance or cousin of this politically knowledgeable family.

All in all a fascinating story of a very inspiring women, who was willing to challenge the stereotypes of the time to follow a career and succeed at the highest level. If i find out anything further, I will post again.

2 thoughts on “The 1866 Petition – a follow up!

  1. Michael Robinson January 2, 2017 / 7:15 pm

    I have recently moved to the Island and, as a freelance photographer, am interested in these women and their relatives for a photojournalistic story. If Hannah Griffiths is interested in some help in this direction, I’d be pleased to cooperate. Please email me.


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