The History of The National Trust in Cumbria
Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, vicar of Low Wray Church, and later Crosthwaite near Keswick, was a champion of the Lakes, always ready to battle or bully a committee, challenging and defying the builders of bungalows and railways.
In 1875, whilst working in London, John Ruskin introduced Rawnsley to his friend Octavia Hill, a social reformer. Rawnsley crusaded hotly for the formation of a National Trust to buy and preserve places of natural beauty and historic interest for the nation – an ambition he achieved in 1895, together with Miss Octavia Hill and Sir Robert Hunter, a lawyer. The Trust’s origins can thus be traced back to Ruskin’s influence.
In 1882 while staying at Wray Castle, Beatrix Potter was introduced to Hardwicke Rawnsley, who at the time was the vicar of the nearby Low Wray Church. His views on the need to preserve the natural beauty of Lakeland had a lasting effect on the young Beatrix, who had fallen in love with the unspoilt beauty surrounding the holiday home. She eventually moved to the Lake District, buying property from the proceeds of her little books, many of which were based on scenes in the Lake District. When she died on 22 December 1943, Beatrix Potter left fourteen farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, together with her flocks of Herdwick sheep. Beatrix Potter’s father Rupert was the National Trust’s first life member.
In 1902 the Brandelhow estate on the west shore of Derwentwater, 108 acres of pasture and woodland at the foot of Catbells, came on the market. Rawnsley launched an appeal, and enough money was raised – the National Trust’s first purchase.
Four oaks were planted at Brandelhow Wood, beside Derwentwater at the ceremony marking the National Trust’s first purchase.
The opening ceremony was performed by HRH Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, on 6 October 1902, a memorable day for the work of the National Trust in the Lake District. Through the efforts of Rawnsley and the National Trust, much of Borrowdale was preserved from development. After the ceremony, Princess Louise and the three National Trust founders each planted an oak tree. These trees and the commemorative stone may be seen at Grid Ref 249204.
The Trust’s most important work in Cumbria is the conservation of about one quarter of the Lake District National Park. Almost all the central fell area and the major valley heads are owned or held on lease by the trust, 91 farms, six of the main lakes and much of their shoreline are also fully protected. These 123500 acres are about a quarter of the Trust’s entire holding.
The Trust owns the bed of England’s deepest lake (Wastwater), and the summit of England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike).
One of the most significant aspects of Trust ownership is that since 1907 the Trust has the unique power to declare its land inalienable, meaning that it cannot be sold or mortgaged, thus ensuring that land acquired today will forever be held in safe keeping for the nation.
- Wikipedia – The National Trust
- Wikipedia – Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley
- Wikipedia – Octavia Hill
- Wikipedia – Sir Robert Hunter
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