The Pochins of Bodnant Garden

Henry and Agnes Pochin with daughter Laura and grandchildren

In 1852 Henry Pochin married Agnes Heap. Henry was the prosperous son of a Leicestershire farmer who had made his name and fortune as an industrial chemist and as a financier in the burgeoning coal, iron and steel industries. Agnes was the daughter of a Manchester manufacturer. They lived their early married years in Salford where Henry served on the Town Council (as Mayor in 1866) and where they were both active in their community, improving conditions for working men and women.

At the time of her marriage Agnes was already a figure in the suffrage movement. In 1853 she attempted to persuade MP John Bright to include a suffrage clause in his Reform Bill of 1853 and in 1855, under the name Justitia, she published The Right of Women to Exercise the Elective Franchise. In 1868 she addressed a ground-breaking public meeting at Manchester Free Trade Hall, chaired by her husband, out of which the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage was born. The following year Agnes and Henry organised a petition in  Salford, as a result of which 1,248 women were added to the Salford parliamentary register.

Visions and dreams

Describing her dream of equality for men and women at that meeting in Manchester in 1868, a passionate Agnes told the crowd: “We see our visions and dream our dreams, and the visions which haunt us are the chaining up of physical force within due limits, the gradual unveiling of that divinity in women which has already been revealed in an and, with eyes purified still further with spiritual euphrasy and rue, we faintly discern in the far distant future, right no longer struggling hand to hand with might, but right transfigured into righteousness and might transmuted and stilled into peace.”

In 1874, after many industrious working years in Salford, the Pochins moved to their 'retirement home' at Bodnant in North Wales where they focused attention on managing the estate and remodelling the garden on a grand new scale. They continued to fight the suffrage cause, Agnes serving on the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage and supporting the work of her daughter Laura.

Henry died in 1895 and Agnes in 1908. They never saw their garden develop to the world renowned place it is today, or saw their vision of equality come to pass, but they laid the foundations of both dreams. Their legacy in the garden is there for all to see; and Agnes' name takes pride of place among 58 suffragists recorded on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, which was unveiled in 2018.

Agnes Pochin of Bodnant Garden, centre stage of the Make a Stand exhibition in Trafalgar Square, February 2018
Agnes Pochin of Bodnant Garden, centre stage of the Make a Stand exhibition in Trafalgar Square, February 2018
Agnes Pochin of Bodnant Garden, centre stage of the Make a Stand exhibition in Trafalgar Square, February 2018