Who was the first British woman coroner?


It’s the job of the coroner to confirm and certify the death of an individual, conduct or order an inquest into the cause of death or confirm or investigate the identity of an unknown person.

The first woman to occupy the role was Lilian Hollowell.

Lilian was born in Suffolk in 1912 and after passing her Law Society final examinations in 1935 she was articled to a Suffolk solicitor.

In 1947 she began to deputise for the district coroner in Ipswich and was appointed to the post in 1951, the first woman coroner.

Members of the East Suffolk General Purpose Committee approved her appointment as coroner of the Suffok Eastern District taking over from Mr Percy Hayward for which she would be paid a salary of £150 per annum.  Mr Hayward was the solicitor with whom Lilian undertook her articles and resided with him and his wife at the start of her career.

Lilian was also employed as the clerk to the Ipswich Magistrates Court, one of only three women nationally at the time to be thus employed.

Speaking to some local businesswomen in 1952, Lilian was confident that equality for women had been achieved but women were not yet taking full advantage of their opportunities and there was still more to be done to achieve equal pay.

In 1953 Lilian was married to a local solicitor, Thomas Symes, and continued as coroner for several more years.