Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragette banner returns to Manchester

media captionA piece of Suffragette history will soon be on display

A suffragette banner that stood alongside Emmeline Pankhurst has returned to Manchester after a fight to put it back in the hands of the people.

The purple banner, which dates back to 1908, has been acquired by the People's History Museum for £20,000 following a crowdfunding campaign.

It was shown at a rally when Mrs Pankhurst addressed 50,000 people in Heaton Park and the museum said its significance "cannot be overstated".

It will go on public display next year.

Jenny Mabbott, the museum's head of collections and engagement, said: "What makes the banner even more special is that it witnessed some of the key suffragette rallies that took place in Manchester, where the movement began."

Found in a cupboard

The banner, embroidered with the phrase First in the Fight, was first unveiled by suffragettes Mary Gawthorpe and Rona Robinson in Stevenson Square on 20 June 1908.

It had been stored in the cupboard of a charity shop in Leeds for around ten years but was rediscovered recently. The shop took it to auction house Gary Don Auctioneers to see if it had any value.

Liz Don, partner at the auction house, said it had been donated by an elderly gentleman whose mother was originally from Manchester but had moved to Leeds in the 1930s.

It was then sold for £16,000 including the buyers' premium to a private collector.

But, thanks to fundraising efforts and two grants, the museum has raised £20,000 to acquire the banner with a further £3,000 for its conservation.

The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund provided £10,000 towards the purchase and a further £8,000 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund's Collecting Cultures programme.

The Collecting Cultures programme provided £95,000 in 2014 for a five-year project to allow the museum to expand its collection relating to the campaign for suffrage from 1819 to 1969.

Any additional funds raised by the crowdfunding campaign will go towards an exhibition to mark the centenary of the first women receiving the vote, featuring the banner, which will open next year.

The People's History Museum holds one of the largest collections of historic trade union and political banners in the world and is the UK's leading authority on the conservation and study of banners.

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