Tunnel Boring Machines
To build London’s super sewer under the River Thames, Tideway will be using a total of six machines which all need a name. Tradition tells us that to keep the tunnellers safe underground, a female name should be given to the machine before she sets off on her journey.
We want you to have a say on which women we should recognise as part of our work to clean up London’s river for generations to come. The names below all relate to the local area where our machines will start tunnelling from so which do you think should be honoured by Tideway?
Once the vote closes, the most popular names for each machine will be announced, follow @TidewayLondon for updates. We’ll then be creating resources to provide to local schools on why these women are so important to their community, and how that relates to Tideway.
Beryl Crockford, 1950 – 2016. A world-champion and Olympic rower who represented Great Britain from 1975 to 1986 and grew up in Fulham.
Beryl was one of the first two British women to become a rowing world champion in 1985. She first stepped on to the podium in 1981 in Munich, where her silver was the first world championship medal won by a British woman.
In 1982, Henley Royal regatta introduced an event that was tailor-made for Beryl. She won the final and her success set the scene for the introduction of events for women a few years later. When the Leander Club voted to admit women in 1997, she was the first to join.
She attended Gilliatt comprehensive school in Fulham and as a schoolgirl she joined St George’s Ladies rowing club in Chiswick before moving to Thames Tradesmen.
When Beryl hung up her sculls, she became a part-time national team coach, and in the 1990s transformed Lady Eleanor Holles school in west London into the most successful junior women’s rowing club in the country.
Beryl remained a fitness fanatic until the day she died in 2016, after colliding with a parked vehicle while on her regular 50km cycle ride in Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Christina Broom, 1862 – 1939. Born and raised in London to Scottish parents, she lived with her husband and daughter in Fulham and became the first female press photographer.
In 1903, following the failure of the family ironmongery business and other business ventures, Christina borrowed a box camera and taught herself the basics of photography. She then set up a stall in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, selling postcards of photographs that she had taken. Christina built herself a successful career, managing her stall until 1930 and developing the photographs from her basement in Burnfoot Avenue.
Christina was appointed official photographer to the Household Division from 1904 to 1939 and had a darkroom in the Chelsea Barracks; she also took many photographs of local scenes, including those at the Palace, as well as The Boat Race and Suffragette marches.
Christina died on 5 June 1939 and was buried in Fulham old cemetery. Her images are celebrated across London in various museums, and an exhibition was held in her honour at the Museum of London in 2015.
Rachel Parsons, 1885 – 1956. Engineer and advocate for women's employment rights, she set up the first women-only engineering company in Fulham.
In 1910 she was one of the first three women to study Mechanical Sciences at the University of Cambridge, although she, like all women until 1948, could not graduate with a degree or become a full member of the University.
When the First World War broke out, she replaced her brother as a director on the board of their father's Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company. In particular, she oversaw the recruitment and training of women to replace the men who had left to join the armed forces and campaigned for equal access for all to technical schools and colleges, regardless of gender.
She was among the founders of the Women's Engineering Society and in 1920 she was one of a group of eight women who founded the engineering company Atalanta Ltd in Fulham Road, where all the employees were women. She was found dead on 2 July 1956 and an ex-employee stableman Dennis James Pratt was convicted of her manslaughter.
Attracta Rewcastle, 1897 – 1951. First female commissioned officer in the Royal Navy. Born in Ireland but later lived with her husband, Cuthbert, in Wandsworth where he was a County Court Judge.
Attracta was a doctor, politician, and the first female Commissioned Officer in the Royal Navy. As a Doctor in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, she was paid less than her male counterparts in the Royal Navy.
After objecting the pay gap, Rewcastle was appointed to the Relative Rank of Surgeon-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the summer of 1940, and was promoted through the ranks until she was released in 1946.
After the war, Rewcastle served as a Conservative Party Councillor on Westminster City Council, and ran as the Conservative candidate for Willesden West constituency in the 1950 general election. In 1926 she married Cuthbert Snowball Rewcastle, a barrister and former Liberal politician, later to become a QC and judge. They had three children and lived in Wandsworth during his time at the County Court.
Charlotte Despard, 1844 – 1939. A key leader in the Suffragette movement and political activist, she lived in Wandsworth.
Charlotte regretted her lack of education, although she did attend a finishing school in London. Following her husband's death when she was 46, Despard was encouraged by friends to take up charitable work. She was shocked and radicalised by the levels of poverty in London and devoted her time and money to helping poor people in Wandsworth and Battersea. She lived above one of her welfare shops.
Despard was a very active member of the Battersea Labour Party during the early decades of the 20th century. She was selected as the Labour candidate for Battersea North in the 1918 General Election receiving 33% of the vote.
She remained actively political well into her 90s, addressing several anti-fascist rallies in the 1930s. In 1909 Despard met Mahatma Gandhi and was influenced by his theory of passive resistance. She died, aged 95.
In London, two streets are named after her, one in Wandsworth, and another in Archway, Islington. At the end of the latter is the Charlotte Despard pub, named in her honour.
Margaret Rutherford, 1892 – 1972. English actress who lived in Wandsworth and first came to prominence following World War II. Rutherford was appointed an OBE in 1961 and a Dame Commander (DBE) in 1967.
Born in 1892 in Balham, Wandsworth, Rutherford was a talented pianist who first found work as a piano teacher and a teacher of elocution. She went into acting late in life, making her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925, aged 33, soon establishing her name in comedy.
In 1945, Rutherford, 53, married character actor Stringer Davis, 46, after a courtship that lasted for 15 years. The ex-serviceman and actor rarely left his wife's side, serving Rutherford as private secretary, gofer and general dogsbody. More importantly, he nursed and comforted her through periodic debilitating depressions. These illnesses, sometimes involving stays in mental hospitals and electric shock treatment, were kept hidden from the press during Rutherford's life.
Rutherford suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life and was unable to work.
Constance de Rothschild, Lady Battersea (1843–1931), was proudly committed to social reform and was a key figure in reforming women’s prisons saving young Jewish girls from prostitution.
In 1885, Jewish prostitutes believed that only Christian missions would give them food and lodging and that no Jew would help them. Horrified, Battersea engaged many among the liberal leadership of Anglo-Jewry in the fight to rescue Jewish prostitutes by founding the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women (JAPGW).
Constance had to overcome the resistance of the organised Jewish community, which was reluctant to even admit there was Jewish prostitution in England. She also had to overcome English feminists’ resistance to accepting Jewish women. Battersea’s own feminism, superior class status and her membership in the royal circle helped overcome initial resistance by both Jewish and feminist opponents.
Constance is buried in London, at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.
Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888 – 1959) was an English illustrator, and children's author from Battersea. She began her career at the age of 20, and painted and published into the early 1950s.
Born in Battersea, south London, she studied in the art department of Clapham High School and the Clapham School of Art. She briefly trained as a teacher, but turned to art instead. She was known for her children's books, postcards, calendars, and print reproductions.
Margaret launched her career at age 20 with an edition of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies.
In the 1920s, Margaret helped to popularise fairies in a long-running series of titles on the theme such as The Forest Fairies, The Pond Fairies, and The Twilight Fairies. During World War II, she donated posters to the war effort, and rode an old bike to conserve petrol.
Mary Tealby, 1802 – 1865. Founder of Battersea Dogs and Cats home in 1860 - the same year as Sir Bazalgette's new sewer system was built.
In the autumn of 1860 Mary Tealby established what later became known as the Battersea Dogs' Home. Tealby, widowed in 1862, was not a wealthy woman and much of the committee's early work focused on essential fund-raising. She was also active in visiting the premises regularly, and by 1861 had become a life governor of the home. The last meeting she attended was in December 1864.
She died in 1865 from cancer and exhaustion, aged sixty-three. The dogs' home committee recorded their loss, declaring Mary Tealby to be a ‘kind-hearted and generous lady’. For many years to come the reports of the dogs' home were dedicated to her as ‘the foundress and unwearied benefactress’.
Dame Millicent Fawcett, GBE (1847 – 1929) was an English feminist, intellectual, political and union leader, and writer who lived in Battersea. She is primarily known for her work as a campaigner for women to have the vote.
In 1884, in an act of great generosity, Millicent Fawcett and her husband Henry gave their house and garden on The Lawn (on South Lambeth Road) so that a park could be established for the residents of Vauxhall. The Friends of Vauxhall Park and the South London Fawcett Group have since planted a white mulberry tree to commemorate her.
Her memory is also preserved in the name of the Fawcett Society, and in Millicent Fawcett Hall, constructed in 1929 in Westminster as a place that women could use to debate and discuss the issues that affected them.
Millicent Fawcett died in London in 1929 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.
Dr Audrey ‘Ursula’ Smith (21 May 1915 – 3 June 1981) was a British cryobiologist, who discovered the use of glycerol to protect human red blood cells during freezing. Her work was done at King’s Hospital London, near Battersea.
From 1946 to 1970, Ursula had the goal of developing a viable technique for the cryopreservation of animal semen. She continued to successfully experiment with glycerol in cryopreservation, and discovered the first practical cryoprotectant molecule.
Ursula studied the use of glycerol to preserve blood during freezing, and also studied resuscitation of mammals from hypothermia.
She died in London in June 1981. According to her New York Times obituary, "her work in the development of techniques to protect frozen sperm cells from bulls has been credited with contributing to major advances in cattle breeding and animal husbandry".
Ada Salter, (1866 –1942). An English social reformer, environmentalist, pacifist and Quaker. She was one of the first women councillors in London (in Bermondsey), the first woman mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in the British Isles.
In 1897 Ada joined the Bermondsey Settlement where she worked as a sister to help people in the slums. There she met Dr Alfred Salter, who she married in 1900.
Ada had always insisted on living in the slums, among the poor and was equally insistent on staying in Bermondsey, a place she had fallen in love with despite its drab poverty. Alfred, who was such a brilliant doctor he could have made a fortune as a consultant, therefore set up a GP's medical practice in Jamaica Road.
In 1909 Ada was elected to the borough council, becoming the first woman councillor in Bermondsey, first Labour councillor in Bermondsey, and one of the first women councillors in London.
Ada was appointed Mayor of Bermondsey in 1922, making her the first woman mayor in London and first Labour woman mayor in Britain.
She believed that fresh air and contact with nature improved people not only physically but mentally and morally.
In 1942, Ada and Alfred were bombed out of their home in Storks Road after refusing to leave Bermondsey to its fate, as others did. She died, cared for by her sisters, in Balham Park Road, Battersea.
Eileen Gray CBE, (1920 – 2015). An international bicycle racer, born in Bermondsey, who founded the women's cycle racing association.
During WW2 Eileen was an engineer, a protected occupation which allowed her to look after her hospitalised mother. While a quality controller in an engine factory, a rail strike disrupted her travel and she took up cycling, commuting through bomb-damaged streets. She then joined the Apollo cycling club; other nearby clubs would not admit women.
In 1946 Gray competed in a women's race in Denmark, in Britain's first women's international team. In the Women's Cycle Racing Association, she promoted the cause of women's cycle racing.
In 1976 Gray became president of the British Cycling Federation, (now known as British Cycling).
Eileen was also a Conservative councillor between 1982 and 1998 in Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and was mayor of the borough for a year from May 1990.
She was a torchbearer for the 2012 London Olympics.
Selina Fox, (1871 –1958). A pioneering doctor who set up Bermondsey Medical Mission for the poor and disadvantage residents (mainly women and children) in Bermondsey. It still continues today as a charity.
Dr Fox founded the Bermondsey Medical Mission in 1904. The small clinic and eight-bed hospital provided medical and spiritual care to the most vulnerable women and children in the area.
The hospital continued to provide care to the people of Bermondsey throughout World War I.
In 1929, HRH Duchess of York (the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) opened a new premises for the mission which included an outpatient hall, surgery, dispensary, consulting rooms, an operating theatre, twenty-bed ward and staff accommodation.
The original Bermondsey Medical Mission Hospital was reopened to provide a home for the elderly in the 1950s. The site was renamed ‘Lena Fox House’ in honour of the Mission’s founder. Dr Selina Fox died in the hospital that she had founded in 1958.
Agnes Beckwith (1861 – 1898). An English swimmer who made history in 1861 by swimming five miles of the Thames from London Bridge to Greenwich. She was only 14 at the time.
The daughter of a professional swimmer, Agnes’s swimming skills were being showcased by the age of five.
In 1875, at the age of fourteen, Agnes made swimming history by diving off a boat at London Bridge and swimming five miles to Greenwich. The journey took her one-hour seven minutes.
Agnes completed numerous record-breaking swims in the Thames. Her 20-mile swim in 1878 received huge press coverage. This time she swam from Westminster to Richmond and back to Mortlake.
In 1885 she was appearing at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster. She was billed as "The Greatest Lady Swimmer in the World" and her poster boasted of appearing for the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Annie Scott Dill Russell (1868 –1947). The first female scientist to work at the Greenwich Observatory and worked as a 'Lady Computer'. She worked for the Astronomer Royal William Christie, and paved the way for women in science.
Annie studied at Cambridge University in 1889 as the top mathematician of her year. However the restrictions of the period did not allow her to receive the degree she would otherwise have earned.
In 1891 Russell began work at the Greenwich Royal Observatory, serving as one of the "lady computers" assigned to the solar department at a salary of four pounds per month. This was a special department set up in 1873 to photograph the sun.
Annie married a fellow astronomer in 1895 and was required to resign from her job due to restrictions on married women working in public service.
She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in November 1916, ten months after the bar on female Fellows was lifted. She had first been nominated for election 24 years earlier.
She returned to the Royal Greenwich Observatory as a volunteer during World War I, working there from 1915 to 1920. The crater ’Maunder on the Moon’ is jointly named for Walter and Annie Maunder.
Mary Lacy (1740 – 1801). A British sailor, shipwright and Deptford property developer. She was arguably the first of her gender to have been given an exam and a pension from the British admiralty as a shipwright.
Mary ran away from home dressed as a boy at the age of nineteen in 1759, and worked as a servant for a ship's carpenter of the British navy under the name William Chandler until 1763. She then studied as an apprentice to be a shipwright. In 1770, she took her exam as a shipwright, arguably the first of her gender to have done so.
Mary documented her exciting years in the Navy as she pretended to be a man, ‘The History of a Female Shipwright’. She went on to marry on leaving the Navy and became a house builder in Deptford.
Her career in house-building as a woman, was as unusual as her career in the Navy for a woman, but she had great success in her later years too. Mary built Nos 104 – 108 Deptford High Street, and her own house at No 110.
Mary died in 1801 and was buried at St Paul, Deptford, Kent, on 3 May 1801.