Lyall [née Rostron], Dame Beatrix Margaret
- Cordelia Moyse
Lyall [née Rostron], Dame Beatrix Margaret (1873–1948), social worker and local politician, was born on 27 October 1873 in Beddington Lane, Beddington, Surrey, the third of eight children of Simpson Rostron, barrister, and his wife, Christina Jane Riley. Educated at home, her parents' Christian faith, as expressed through various political and philanthropic activities, formed her as a 'Christian citizen' (Lyall MS DD/289/3/1). Her father was a churchwarden, magistrate, and the chairman of the local Conservative Party. Her mother ministered to the poor. As a child she readily helped with mothers' meetings and taught at Sunday school.
On 15 June 1899 Beatrix married a childhood friend, George Henry Hudson Pile (1872–1938), a solicitor. He assumed his mother's name, Lyall, by deed poll in 1914. They settled in Chelsea, London. Desiring to be of public service but considered too young for great responsibilities, she visited workhouse inmates and the penurious lonely and sick. While feeling diffident about public life, her competence and growing faith in her vocation of Christian service led her first to become a local leader of the Mothers' Union and then to establish a reputation as a forceful public speaker, especially on the subject of infant welfare.
During the First World War, Beatrix Lyall's gift of oratory was used by government departments to raise civilian morale. Her addresses to miners and munitions workers during night breaks were published by the British Women's Patriotic League. She was a member of the War Savings Committee from the end of the war to the committee's dissolution in 1921, and served as the only woman on the London appeal tribunal under the Profiteering Act. Her high public profile after the war led her local Conservative Party to ask her to stand as a candidate for the London county council (LCC). In 1919 she was elected councillor for East Fulham. In 1920 she became a magistrate and was made a CBE. In 1924 she was created DBE.
When Beatrix Lyall first entered the LCC women had to be content as back-benchers but her political career illustrates how far attitudes to women in public life changed after 1918. She served on several committees, and was chair of the parliamentary committee before being elected the first female vice-chairman of the LCC in 1932. During her years on the council she was 'a hard fighter' (Fulham Chronicle, 21 May 1948, 6) not only in representing her constituents' interests but also in espousing her own strongly held views. She was a member of the national council for the Conservative and Unionist Association, and of the executive of the Primrose League.
Running parallel to her political career was Lyall's work for the Mothers' Union both as the diocesan president for London from 1921 to 1936 and as a member of the Mothers' Union's central council. A central vice-president for eleven years, she was granted the honour in 1937 of being made a life vice-president. She was a speaker much in demand because she left the impression 'of a vital personality which had its springs in a sure and certain faith in God' (Workers' Paper, July 1948, 103). Through numerous newspaper articles and pamphlets she promoted the organization's view of Christian marriage and its condemnation of divorce. She played a constructive role on committees, although her enthusiasm for a cause made her sometimes too impulsive. Her undoubted talents and energy meant that she was twice nominated central president, an honour which she felt she could not accept because of domestic and other work commitments.
Despite the great sorrow of the deaths of her daughter and husband within a year of each other in the late 1930s, Lyall continued to be 'a tireless social worker' (The Times, 11 May 1948). During the Second World War she was the head of hospital supplies for south London, and sat on the executive of the National Council of Women. Latterly she lived at the Prince of Wales Hotel, De Vere Gardens, Kensington, London, where she died on 8 May 1948 having suffered a series of heart attacks. The bishop of Kensington officiated at her funeral, following which she was cremated at Golders Green, Middlesex.
- Hammersmith and Fulham archives, Lyall MSS, DD/289/3/1–3c
- The Times (11 May 1948)
- Workers' Paper (July 1948), 103
- Fulham Chronicle (15 Feb 1924)
- Fulham Chronicle (21 May 1948), 2, 6
- West London and Fulham Gazette (3 June 1938), 4
- b. cert.
- m. cert.
- d. cert.
- Hammersmith and Fulham archives, London, MSS
- LMA, London Mothers' Union MSS
- Mothers' Union, Mary Sumner House, London, MSS
- photograph, 1930–39, Hammersmith and Fulham archives
- two photographs, 1930–39, LMA
Wealth at Death
£20,379 3s. 9d.: probate, 14 Sept 1948, CGPLA Eng. & Wales