Hardwicke Rawnsley at Wray Castle
Born in Oxfordshire in 1851, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (1851–1920) was one of the founders of the National Trust with a link to Wray Castle.
Hardwicke Rawnsley, aged 26, moved to Cumbria take up the position of Vicar at Wray Church. In 1878 he married his wife Edith, a local woman from Ambleside. They lived in the vicarage at Wray and had a son, Noel, in 1880.
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.
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.
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.
Founder of 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.
The birth of a conservation movement
Beatrix Potter and Rawnsley’s shared legacy has played a huge part in shaping the Lake District that we know and love today.