Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley at Wray Castle

Hardwicke Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust

Discover more about the fascinating link Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the Trust's three original founders, had with Wray Castle.

The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three extraordinary leaders. Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley were united by a belief that beautiful, natural and historic places were worth protecting for future generations.

Hardwicke Rawnsley, aged 26, moved to Cumbria to take up the position of Vicar at Wray Church, in the Wray Castle Estate and threw himself into life in the local community. He became increasingly concerned about the rapid scale of industrialisation in the Lake District, and was determined to protect its beauty.

An important meeting 

In 1882 a young Beatrix Potter holidayed in the Lake District for the first time as her parents rented out Wray Castle. The family entertained many eminent guests at the castle during that summer and Rawnsley was invited to one of their dinner parties. He was an authority figure of an entirely different sort to her parents and this meeting was the start of a great friendship between Beatrix and Rawnsley. 

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

A mentor for Beatrix Potter 

Rawnsley was the first published author Beatrix had met. He praised her little drawings and paintings, encouraging her interest in animals and plants. Through years of friendship and mentoring, he went on to help her publish her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Social reformer     

Rawnsley was keen to seek solutions to the problems of a rapidly industrialising and urbanising society in Britain. Whilst at Wray he 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. 

Beatrix Potter and Rawnsley’s shared legacy has played a huge part in shaping the Lake District that we know and love today.