Bodnant Hall, Gardens and suffragism

Question?   What has Justitia, the Mayor of Salford and female emancipation got in common with Bodnant Hall?

Bodnant Hall Gardens 2001 © Adèle Emm


  • Justitia was the nom do plume of Agnes Pochin née Heap, a supporter of women’s suffrage.
  • She was married to Henry Davies Pochin, one time was Mayor of Salford, and supporter of The Cause.
  • In 1874, stupendously wealthy soap-making industrialist, Henry, bought Bodnant Hall and moved in with his family. As a fanatic gardener, his legacy was designing the gardens now owned and administered by the National Trust.  Bodnant Hall is the Welsh family home of Lord Aberconway and, although you can see it across the garden lawns, it’s not open to the public.

However…. this is the end of the story not the beginning!    I’ve a curiosity addiction so can’t leave any stone unturned (seemingly a disgraceful addiction to mixed metaphors too).

I fell across Timperley-born Agnes Pochin (1825-1908) whilst researching female emancipation for my current book.   A friend of Lydia Ernestine Becker (previous blog), she accompanied Lydia on their first outing  to speak at Manchester Free Trade in 1868 for the Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage. This was a big deal especially as Agnes, married to the chair of the meeting, the  Mayor of Salford (Henry) meant she was accused of abandoning her children at home!  One of her daughters was Laura Elizabeth Pochin (1854-1933), who, it’s been suggested, wasn’t languishing at home in Salford, but snuck somewhere at  the Free Trade Hall listening to mum’s speech. Laura also embraced The Cause.

Leicestershire-born hubby Henry (1824-1895) was somewhat a genius who invented (amongst other things)  a way of making rosin (used in soap manufacture) white rather than a sludgy brown. He sold the rights to make his first fortune.  See his Grace’s Guide entry.   He, too, supported The Cause.

In 1877, nine years after the Free Trade Hall meeting, Laura Elizabeth Pochin married Charles Benjamin Bright McLaren, also in Grace’s Guide.

Now we get politically incestuous.   Charles was the son of Priscilla McLaren née Bright (1815-1906), sister to John Bright, an influential free trader and celebrated MP who sadly (boo hiss) did not support the suffrage movement.   This must have provoked a few family arguments as both sister Priscilla and younger brother did.    John’s brother Jacob Bright MP was very active in Manchester, and good friend of both Agnes Pochin and Lydia Becker.

We can trace Agnes’ life through the census records.  In 1871 she and hubby Henry are living at Barnes in London, nearer the centre of his political life in Westminster.   1881 also sees Agnes, now a proud grandma presumably helping out with Laura’s two children, an 8 month old and 1 year old toddler.  Husband Henry Pochin is at Bodnant Hall tending  his plants.   In 1891, both Agnes and Henry are in Wales with a ten year old visitor – no longer that baby in Barnes…   There are a heap (sorry) of servants.

Charles McLaren became the lst Baron of Aberconway. When Agnes died (12 February 1908), she left her estate, £16,818 9s 8d  to daughter Laura.

Agnes is buried in Bodnant Hall garden.     Click to see photographs via the National Trust site, of Agnes, Priscilla and Laura..


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