Edith Pratt's history and legacy in Exmouth
A private woman with an incredible story, Edith Pratt was a pioneering figure who dedicated her career to supporting women’s rights.
Determined from the start
Born in Exmouth, Edith’s family owned their home at Prattshayes and land around Orcombe. She left home to read Medieval and Foreign Languages at the University of Cambridge, at a time when few women attended universities.
Initially considering work as a teacher, Edith’s attention was turned to the growing number of factories springing up across the country. Before the First World War, 3.5 million women were in full-time employment, with 2 million women in industrial jobs. Women were expected to work with very low pay in poor conditions and had little say in the matter.
There was a growing need for employing women in factories due to the outbreak of war, and with an increase in demand many new factories opened. It wasn’t long before Edith Pratt began to work as a Welfare Officer, a role that would see her improve conditions for women within the workplace and aid in changing women’s employment rights for the better.
At the outbreak of war, Edith was one of only 21 female factory inspectors. They focused on improving conditions, including access to facilities and increase in wages. Her work would have influenced the way factories were designed and built, and how employers would treat their female staff.
Each factory would have five to ten thousand workers and designed with working conditions in mind, so they now included facilities such as canteens, allotments, and some even had sleeping quarters.
Climbing the ranks
By 1915 Edith was working as a factory inspector for the Ministry of Munitions. Munitions work was dangerous with workers handling metals, chemicals and explosives.
In March 1917, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was established to support soldiers on the front line, the first to welcome women. Edith Pratt became Deputy Chief Controller (Overseas) while serving in France.
Edith Pratt photographed wearing Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps uniform during the First World War.
A Royal nod
Her time with the WAAC was enough to earn her a place on the very first OBE list, received from King George V.
But she didn’t stop there. She continued her career by joining the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). Here she reached the height of her career as deputy commander for the WRAF, where she was in charge of approximately 32,000 workers.
She died while living in London and was buried in Exmouth on her request.
Camping with the Pratts
The Pratts of Prattshayes had owned a large amount of land in and around Exmouth, including fields and land at Orcombe. From the 1920s, the family had hosted camping for children like the Bristol Children and Bristol Boys Brigade at Prattshayes.
When Edith Pratt left Prattshayes to the National Trust in 1960, she wished for the site to continue being used for camping. On land near Orcombe Point, the Exmouth Camp continues to be in use for school groups, while families and members of the public can stay or camp at Exmouth Country Lodge and Prattshayes Campsite.
Orcombe Point is the most westerly point of the Jurassic Coast. Discover the Geoneedle landmark, as well wildflower meadows playing host to an array of wildlife.
This working farm is owned by the National Trust and tenanted out. It often hosts events, including family muck in days and countryside ranger days.
Delve into the history of this characterful 16-sided house to discover how two women created a unique home and filled it with curios from their world travels.
From 19th century smuggling to cliff farming on the Weston Plats, there's plenty of history to discover at Branscombe, more recently including the salvaging of the Napoli in 2007.