Hardwicke Rawnsley - One man and an island

What drives a person to dedicate his life to safeguarding the nation’s countryside for the benefit of future generations? That’s exactly what Hardwicke Rawnsley did, alongside Octavia Hill and Sir Robert Hunter, when they founded the National Trust in 1895.

Hardwicke Rawnsley was a bold and energetic campaigner who dedicated his life to writing rousing letters to the national press, organising petitions and leading action groups. He cared deeply about the natural beauty of the Lake District, in fact it was on hearing of the private sale of Grasmere Island in 1893 that Rawnsley felt driven to form ‘some sort of association, or trust that should exist solely in the interests of the public for the purpose of holding lands in their natural beauty in perpetuity for the people.’ 

Rawnsley recognised that no organisation existed to protect it from private ownership and potential development.  In November that year the first official meeting took place between Rawnsley and the other National Trust founders Octavia Hill and Sir Robert Hunter. Just over a year later on 12 January 1895, the National Trust was founded.

" It is notorious that during the last two years the top of Snowdon, the island in the middle of Grasmere lake, and the Lodore Falls have all come into the market. Had such a Trust as that now proposed been in existence, each of these places might have been obtained for the nation."
- Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley

This year, in a fantastic turn of fate Grasmere Island has been given to the Trust, which we think would delight Rawnsley if he were still around today. This year at Allan Bank, his home in Grasmere, we are exploring the role that he played in the formation of the National Trust and ultimately the birth of the international conservation movement.

You can find out more by visiting us anytime this year or coming along to one of our scheduled activities.