Felixstowe Bath Hotel suffragette arson commemorated

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Media captionThe Bath Hotel attracted the rich and famous from London

Two women once branded "terrorists" have been honoured in a seaside town 100 years after being condemned for burning down a hotel.

Suffragettes Evaline Burkitt and Florence Tunks were convicted of arson after setting fire to the Bath Hotel in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on 28 April 1914.

It was part of the campaign to get the vote for women, which happened in 1918.

A plaque was unveiled on what remains of the building, at the site of the former Bartlet Hospital.

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Image caption The fire destroyed the hotel although an annexe survived to become part of the Bartlet Hospital
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Image caption Florence Tunks and Evaline Burkitt were jailed after a hearing at Bury St Edmunds Assizes court

Dick Moffat, author of the book A View of Felixstowe from the Bath, said: "At the time, people might have viewed them in the same way that today we might view terrorists and arsonists.

"I applaud the suffragettes' cause, but I don't approve of them burning down the most important building in Felixstowe's history."

'No peace'

The hotel was built in 1839 at a time when planners were attempting to establish the Suffolk town as a spa resort, and it had hot and cold sea water baths. No-one was in the hotel at the time of the fire.

Burkitt, who was 37, and Tunks, who was 22, were jailed for two years and nine months respectively following a trial in May 1914, but released under a general amnesty not long after the outbreak of World War One in August 1914.

Image caption The plaque was unveiled by the Felixstowe Society on the 100th anniversary of the fire

The cost of the damage was £35,000 at the time, estimated to be the equivalent of £2.6m today.

Phil Hadwen, from the Felixstowe Society, said: "The two women had come to Felixstowe and it was interesting that they had set fire to a pier in Great Yarmouth pier earlier in the week.

"All the suffragettes wanted to make a name for themselves and the two big targets in Felixstowe would have been the pier and the Spa Pavilion, but they hired night-watchmen, so the Bath Hotel, which was still closed for the season, was the target.

"They left a few clues: labels on the bushes saying 'votes for women' and there was a banner that said 'there will be no peace until women get the vote'."

Mr Moffat said: "Towards the end of the 19th Century, other prestigious hotels had popped-up, so it's difficult to quantify the effect the arson would have had on the town."

The Bartlet Hospital was built on the Undercliff Road site between 1923 and 1926. It was closed in 2006 and is being converted into flats.

Image caption Gipping Homes is building 33 flats on the hospital site including 12 in the original hotel annexe

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