Bessie Surtees

Bessie Surtee eloped at 17, in 1772, in order to escape an arranged marriage. We explored her story and its relevance to the lives of young women today.

From March-May 2019 we worked with a group of young women from Children NE. Together we visited Bessie’s Surtees house and met Michelle Tones from Historic England to hear about Bessie and her story.

We were truly inspired by her story and wanted to find ways to bring it to life and make it relevant for today. Working with English Heritage staff, we got creative and started writing. Creating poetry and ‘A letter to Bessie’ exploring the themes of empowerment, love and equality.

Final Poem Presentation Group Shot

Presenting our final poems

Word art

Some of the word we felt described Bessie Surtees

‘I knew the story but I hadn’t really thought about how inspiring and powerful it would be for young women. But it was, and is.’

Young Person

Using words inspired by Bessie’s Story, we also created a window display for the house to be displayed at Bessie Surtees Open Night.

This project allowed us to creatively explore Bessie’s story, developing our artistic and writing skills whilst learning about the true story of a young woman overcoming difficult circumstances. This project created a connection to the past, allowing Bessie’s story to inspire and empower a new audience, and showing us all that we have the ability to make a change in our own lives and beyond.

‘Some of the girls have shown more confidence in these few sessions than in all the time we have known them. This is wonderful to see.’

Group Leader
Our Project Leader putting up the word art window display

Our Project Leader putting up the word art window display

‘Reaffirming the idea that women throughout history have done reckless things to make life better for us – we must continue to keep doing brave and wonderful things.’

Young Person