Who was Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley?

Canon Rawnsley (centre) with Beatrix Potter and her family in 1887

Born in Oxfordshire in 1851, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (1851–1920) was one of the founders of the National Trust.

Social reformer

Rawnsley was a priest in the Church of England, and was convinced that social issues were religious at heart. Keen to seek solutions to the problems of a rapidly industrialising and urbanising society in Britain, he looked for inspiration in the work of William Wordsworth, the Lakeland poet, and John Ruskin, the artist and social critic.

Like Octavia Hill, Rawnsley began with work in the slums. In 1875 he was appointed chaplain to the Clifton College Mission where he lived and provided both education and recreation (including country walks) for residents in one of the poorest parts of Bristol.

Activist in the Lake District

Rawnsley continued his social work when he moved to the Lake District, where he became vicar of Wray in 1878 then vicar of Crosthwaite in 1883.  With his wife Edith, an artist, he set up the Keswick School of Industrial Arts and he helped to found the innovative Keswick High School. 

Rawnsley also began his work to defend the Lake District from slate quarrying and associated road and rail developments, and to ensure that people could get out and enjoy the landscape.

Founding the National Trust

His Lake District campaigns brought Rawnsley into contact with many influential figures and, with fellow open space campaigners Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill, he began to discuss the need for a national body which could hold land and thus put it beyond risk of development – something which other conservation bodies could not do.

Discussions led in 1895 to the establishment of The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. 

Rawnsley's legacy

Rawnsley is remembered chiefly for his preservation work in the Lake District and as a founder of the National Trust. However both Rawnsley and his contemporaries recognised this as just one part of a wider project to renew society.

Our places with Rawnsley connections: