Photos uncovered by the National Archives show how the police spied on the suffragettes. These covert images – perhaps the UK's first spy pictures – have gone on display to mark the centenary of the votes-for-women movement.
Ninety years ago, a Scotland Yard detective submitted an unusual equipment request.
It was passed up the chain, scrutinised, reviewed and finally rubber-stamped in Whitehall itself. Scotland Yard duly became the proud owner of a Ross Telecentric camera lens. And at a cost to the taxpayer of £7, 6s and 11d, secret police photographic surveillance was born.
Within weeks, the police were using it against what the government then regarded as the biggest threat to the British Empire: the suffragettes.
Documents uncovered at the National Archives reveal that the votes-for-women movement probably became the first “terrorist” organisation subjected to secret surveillance photography in the UK, if not the world. [Privacy Digest]