Blue Plaque to Commemorate Catharine Alderton, Colchester’s First Woman Mayor

Colchester Civic Society has just unveiled its latest blue plaque. This one, at 24 Cambridge Road commemorates Catharine Alderton, the first woman to become Mayor in Colchester. Having been elected as a Liberal councillor in 1916, she become mayor in 1923.
Catharine Buchanan Alderton (CBA) was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Robinson, minister of Lion Walk Congregational Church 1886 -1902. She qualified as a teacher and taught mathematics until her marriage to Archibald Alderton in 1897 – they had one son.
In 1923-24 she became Mayor of Colchester, the first women to fulfil that role. As a female Councillor she had not been allowed to attend the Oyster Feast which was an all-male affair. As Mayor she presided and used her freedom to invite who she wanted, male and female. She was succeeded by Catherine Hunt who did likewise. When the town reverted to male Mayors, a tradition had been established. It was to be thirty years before Colchester had another female Mayor.
In those days a Councillor became the Deputy Mayor after serving as Mayor, – not before as now. As Deputy to Catherine Hunt, Catharine Alderton also acted as her Mayoress, the first Councillor to fulfil that role.
Catharine twice stood for election to Parliament, once in Edinburgh South in 1922 and then in Hull North West in 1929, both times unsuccessfully. In 1928 she became an Essex County Councillor, the first women to hold that role. She was the first woman to serve on the Committee of the Essex County Hospital. She was President of the Women’s Liberal Federation in 1931-32. In 1944 she was awarded an MBE for services to local government. She was President of the National Congregational Women’s Guild of England and Wales in 1926-28 and 1928-30.
A full length portrait of her in her mayoral robes, badge and chain, painted by Frank Daniell, hangs in the Mayoral Suite at Colchester Town Hall. Alderton Road off Ipswich Road is named for her.
Her husband, Archibald served one three year term as a Councillor in the 1930’s.
When she was Mayor and up until the time of her death, Catharine and her husband, who predeceased her, lived at 24 Cambridge Road, Colchester.

A painting of Catharine Buchanan Alderton by Frank Daniell, which hangs in Colchester Town Hall. Picture: COLCHESTER & IPSWICH MUSEUMS SERVICE
The unveiling by William Alderton, great grandson of Catharine Alderton and Jenny Stevens, former Mayor of Colchester
Five former women Mayors,
from left to right, Sonia Lewis, Jenny Stevens, Mary Fairhead, Mary Frank and Janet Fulford

The Blue Plaque at 24 Cambridge Road

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