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In 1885, Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley (who collected rents for Octavia Hill as a young man) worked together to raise public awareness of the railway developments threatening the Lake District. This collaboration led to the foundation of The National Trust for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Natural Beauty, to hold land and buildings in perpetuity “for ever, for everyone”.
Today the National Trust has over 3.4 million members. It protects over 166 fine houses, 19 castles, 47 industrial monuments and mills, 49 churches and chapels and 35 public houses and inns.
The Trust also cares for forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves and villages. Protecting over 700 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in total the charity looks after 617,500 acres (250,000 hectares) of countryside, moorland, beaches and coastline.
Solicitor, civil servant and co-founder of the National Trust.
Hunter first enjoyed the hills of Surrey at 17, when his family left London for Dorking. At University College, London, he studied logic and moral philosophy. He was articled to a firm of Holborn solicitors and found the work uninteresting.
In 1866, Hunter won a contest offering prizes worth £400 for essays on the best means of preserving common land for the public. When a vacancy arose in 1868, the Commons Preservation Society made him their Honorary Solicitor.
His legal work led to the preservation of Epping Forest, which Queen Victoria opened in 1882.
In 1884, Octavia Hill asked Hunter for help to save Sayes Court, a manor house in Deptford. The owner wanted to give the house to the nation, but no organisation could accept the gift as a permanent public amenity. Robert Hunter was of the opinion that a new company should be established for this purpose. His proposal led to the creation of The National Trust in 1895.
In 1919, The National Trust acquired the property of Waggoners Wells, near Grayshott, Hampshire and dedicated it to Hunter’s memory.
Clergyman and co-founder of the National Trust.
After working with Octavia Hill in London, Rawnsley became Vicar of Ambleside in 1877. He became involved in campaigns to protect the local countryside and formed the Lake District Defence Society (later The Friends of the Lake District).
In 1883, he moved to Crossthwaite, just outside Keswick. As disciples of Ruskin, he and his wife organised classes in metalwork and wood carving, in the School of Industrial Art. This remained operational until 1986.
Rawnsley’s campaigns with Octavia Hill and Robert Hunter to preserve the Lake District from rampant development led to the creation of The National Trust in 1895, which could buy and preserve places of natural beauty and historic interest for the nation. He was Honorary Secretary to the Trust until his death.
In 1915, he retired to Grasmere, where he bought Allan Bank, a former home of Worsdworth. He bequeathed Allan Bank to the National Trust after his death.
In his lifetime, he wrote 30,000 sonnets, various books about the Lake District and a biography of John Ruskin.
In 1994, the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust (registered charity no.1018947) purchased part of the house, opening a museum that is entirely run by volunteers. It attracts visitors from all over the world.
In 2007, the Trust purchased the rest of Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and a fundraising appeal, the reunification project was completed in 2009.
Tel/Fax: 01945 476358
From 1st November 2017 to 14th March 2018 the museum is open by pre-appointment.
Open first Saturday of each month from 1pm – 4:30pm (last admissions 4pm).