On 20 December 1899 Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, breathed his last. He had been a generous supporter of the National Trust, and Hardwicke’s loyal friend, so it was natural that Hardwicke should be appointed one of three honorary secretaries of the Duke of Westminster Memorial Committee.
Although John Ruskin had been in declining health for some years, it would nonetheless have come as a blow to Hardwicke when he learned that the Professor had died on 20 January 1900. A Memorial Service was held at Westminster Abbey, but although the Abbey was offered as his last resting place, Ruskin had declined to be buried there. His last wish was to be interred in the churchyard at Coniston, near Brantwood, which for so long had been his home. Hardwicke had revered Ruskin, crediting him with being the inspiration for all that he had achieved; in conservation; in education; in the promotion of local industries, as well as in the creation of the National Trust. Edith Rawnsley once again designed the pall, to be made, at the Keswick School of Industrial Arts; with the needlework and embroidery being undertaken by Marian Twelves and her co-workers.
A permanent commemoration of some kind was obviously called for, and Hardwicke proposed the erection of a memorial at Friar’s Crag, Derwentwater, where, as a child, Ruskin had first experienced the wonder and mystery of nature. During the months following Ruskin’s funeral, much of Hardwicke’s time, when not occupied preparing addresses to remind his audiences of the importance of Ruskin’s teachings, was taken up with the drawing up of plans and fund-raising for the proposed memorial, a monolith of Borrowdale slate bearing a bronze medallion portrait of The Master. The Memorial was unveiled on 6 October 1900.
The Second Boer War was still being waged in South Africa. For more than 15 years Hardwicke had been Acting Chaplain to the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Border Regiment, the Keswick Volunteers, though during his tenure the regiment had never yet been involved in conflict. The Rawnsleys’ contribution to the war effort was mainly concentrated on charity and relief work; sending comforts to the troops abroad, collecting funds for families suffering hardship due to the breadwinner being killed or wounded while serving in Southern Africa, and contributing towards the needs of refugees who were displaced as the war dragged on. As usual, Hardwicke published poems in many newspapers celebrating heroic actions. His admiration of heroes and heroism was as fervent as ever, and the first edition of his Ballads of the War, containing more than fifty poems written during the first five months of the war, was published in March 1900. This volume, with a Prefatory Note by Arthur Conan Doyle, was one of the most successful of Hardwicke's published oeuvre and received critical acclaim in the press. A second enlarged edition followed, containing an additional forty-two poems, and photographs of some of the heroes commemorated; among them the young Winston Churchill. Hardwicke as a patriotic Englishman, continued wholeheartedly to support the war.
In addition to his involvement in charitable work connected with the conflict in Africa, in late March Hardwicke found time to attend the first annual meeting of the Cumberland Branch of the National Association for the Prevention of Consumption. At this meeting he was co-opted onto a sub-committee to assess possible sites for the building of a sanatorium. The following month he was in Manchester giving a talk to the Recreative Evening Classes Committee. In May, the Rawnsleys joined a motoring tour of Switzerland and Germany, including a visit to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play. While intensely moved by the experience, Hardwicke was worried that the inevitable commercialism associated with the Play was destroying the village and what it stood for.
Not long after Hardwicke’s return from the Continent, it became known that the British Electric Traction Company proposed to build an electric tramway between Bowness, Windermere and Ambleside. Local opposition was rapidly mobilised, and the scheme came to nothing, but the importance of the Lake District to the nation had been attested by the speed with which the issue had been publicised around the country. Hardwicke was rapidly coming to the conclusion that nothing short of ‘some nationalisation of this little twenty miles square of undisturbed recreation ground’ would keep it safe from developments of this kind.
Memories of the Tennysons was published towards the end of 1900, one reviewer remarking that ‘Canon Rawnsley naturally writes as a hero-worshipper’. Hardwicke had long wanted to write his reminiscences of the family which had meant so much to him and to his father and grandfather before him, and to which he was connected by marriage through his mother, the first cousin of Alfred Tennyson’s wife.
On 22 January 1901 the long reign of Queen Victoria drew to a close. As a lifelong royalist Hardwicke composed his customary sonnets and used the occasion of the Queen’s death to champion the idea of a National Valhalla. He no longer felt that Westminster Abbey was the suitable location for such a mausoleum and thought that perhaps Her Majesty’s death would be an appropriate opportunity for a national debate on the most appropriate way to commemorate its heroes and its leaders.
In late 1901, Hardwicke immersed himself in the fund-raising activities for the purchase, on behalf of the National Trust, of the Brandelhow Estate on the western shore of Derwentwater. If the negotiations were successful and the funds could be raised, Brandelhow would be the Trust’s first purchase of land in the Lake District. The owner of the estate had indicated in May that he was willing to sell it to the Trust for £7,000. The purchase of the estate would not only protect the land from development, but would ensure that more than a mile of foreshore along the lake would be freely accessible to the public, who would be able to land their boats on the shore and wander at will in the glorious countryside.
By this time the National Trust had perfected a successful fund-raising strategy. Newspaper appeals were made, lectures around the country given, and direct approaches made to wealthy subscribers. During June and July 1901 Hardwicke gave lectures to raise money in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Leeds, Bolton and Bradford among other places. He recognised that Brandelhow could well be the first of many similar opportunities and arranged for fund-raising committees to be set up in Keswick and some of the larger cities. Working men were particularly targeted by the Appeal, since Hardwicke considered that if the estate were to be purchased, they would probably be the main beneficiaries. By late September the necessary funds had been raised, and the purchase went ahead.
Ever since their first meeting, when Rupert Potter had rented Wray Castle for his family for the summer of 1882, the Rawnsleys and the Potters had kept up their acquaintanceship. The Potters frequently passed their summer holidays in the Lakes, renting Lingholm, near Keswick, on more than one occasion. Hardwicke was a regular visitor, and frequently sat for Rupert Potter, who was an excellent amateur photographer. Potter became a life member of the National Trust and, with his legal background in land and property, Hardwicke thereafter often sought him out for advice. As early as 1890, Beatrix, Rupert Potter's daughter, already an accomplished artist in the field of botanical drawing, had succeeded in selling some of her drawings to a publisher, to be used for Christmas and New Year greetings cards. Hardwicke had recognised her talent, encouraged her in her scientific drawing, and in her growing love and appreciation of the Lakes.
Encouraged by her success in selling some drawings, Beatrix thought she might try her hand at writing a children's story. Several years earlier she had created a picture letter for her godson, Noel Moore. She borrowed back the original, copied the black and white drawings and with them put together a little book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden. During 1900, Hardwicke, by now a well-established author, was asked for help in finding a publisher. However, despite his intervention and influence, the book was turned down by at least six publishers, among them the firm of Frederick Warne, already well-known in the field of children’s publishing. Warne, and all the other publishers approached, wanted coloured illustrations and a larger format.
At this point Beatrix lost patience and decided to publish the book at her own expense. In September 1901 she ordered 250 copies to be privately printed. Meanwhile Hardwicke, thinking that a rhyming version of the tale might be more successful than her original prose version, converted the story into rhyming verse, and re-submitted the manuscript to Frederick Warne as Peter Rabbit’s Other Tale: With Illustrations by Beatrix Potter & Verses by Her Friend Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley. This version was again turned down by Frederick Warne.
Hardwicke, whose interest in all types of music had first been awakened in him at Uppingham by Paul David, the Music Master, had become particularly interested in supporting competitive music festivals, which he considered to be of great educational value, especially in country districts with only limited opportunities for hearing live music. Throughout his career he had accepted invitations to attend or to take part in musical events and festivals and the New Year in 1902 found him presiding over the second day of the Cumberland Musical Festival at Workington for which he had donated two challenge shields for entries in the Junior Choir.
He later attended the two-day Westmorland Musical Festival at Kendal, a festival which had been inaugurated in 1885, and one which Hardwicke tried never to miss. North Country Folk Songs was one of the new categories of competition introduced in 1902. According to the rules, the songs had to be in dialect, unpublished, and handed down orally in any one of the six northern counties. Each entrant was required to sing their own chosen song, but the judge awarded prizes on the interest and originality of the song, rather than on the quality of the singing. Hardwicke’s entry, ‘The Helvellyn Shepherd’s Song’, was unfortunately disqualified, as it was judged already to have appeared in print a century before.
The various national bonfire celebrations which Hardwicke had helped to co-ordinate had given him the reputation of being something of an expert in the genre, and with the Coronation of King Edward VII imminent, he wrote to various newspapers to gauge the level of interest in a similar gesture, to mark the new reign. Evidently there was a favourable response, since a National Committee was established, chaired by Lord Cranborne, with Hardwicke taking responsibility for the bonfires in the North of England. He wrote to the new King to inform him of the proposed celebrations to mark his Coronation, arranged for 26 June. Unfortunately, just a few days beforehand the King was taken ill, had to undergo emergency surgery, and the Coronation was postponed.
The postponement of the Coronation, for which the new date of 9 August was fixed, caused some headaches for the Bonfire committees, since all the beacons were already in place, and for various reasons they would have to be lit. Monday 30 June was agreed upon by the National Committee as a suitable date, but unfortunately, perhaps due to lack of co-ordination, some of the five hundred bonfires, considerably fewer than for the Diamond Jubilee, were lit ahead of time.
Although the funds for the purchase of the Brandelhow Estate had been raised by the end of September 1901, the opening ceremony of the National Trust’s first acquisition in the Lake District did not take place until 16 October 1902. One reason for the delay was that H.R.H. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, Vice-President of the National Trust, had agreed to perform the opening ceremony, and as this was to be a Royal Occasion, a good deal of preparatory work would have to be undertaken. The prospect of receiving Royalty generated considerable excitement in Keswick, as this would be the first time that a daughter of the late Queen had honoured the town with a visit. On the day of the ceremony the royal party arrived at Keswick railway station and proceeded to the Town Hall where a short speech of welcome greeted the Princess. The whole town was decked out in patriotic bunting, with the shops vying with each other to have the most impressive display.
From the Town Hall, at her Royal Highness’ request the party proceeded to the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, where the Princess was welcomed by Edith Rawnsley and the School’s Director, Mr. Herbert Maryon. During this brief visit the Princess made some purchases and placed an order for two large candlesticks. A short stop at the Ruskin Linen Industry followed, after which the party made its way to Brandelhow for the official opening ceremony. In his welcoming speech Hardwicke explained to the massed crowds that the estate had been purchased from the executors of the late Mr. Bell of Fawe Park (which had been the scene of one of the disputes over footpath access some fifteen years earlier). It had been the biggest fund-raising effort so far undertaken by the Trust, and by far its largest acquisition up to that time.
Hardwicke’s address, with an album of photographs of Derwentwater and the inevitable sonnet, were presented to the Princess in a silver ornamental casket made at the Keswick School of Industrial Arts. More speeches followed, the National Anthem, conducted by Hardwicke with the aid of a handkerchief, was sung, and three cheers were raised for his outstanding contribution in ensuring that the estate was now safe for ever in the hands of the nation. Throughout the proceedings the enthusiasm of the crowd was undiminished, even though rain and a howling gale had blown away the marquee. The ceremony was brought to a close with the planting of oak saplings by the Princess, her husband the Duke of Argyll, and the three founders of the Trust, Canon Rawnsley, Miss Octavia Hill, and Sir Robert Hunter. Princess Louise agreed to become President of the National Trust the following year.
At the annual general meeting of the National Trust a month later, in addition to an account being given of the acquisition of the Brandelhow Estate, the executive informed its members that they were in the process of purchasing two further properties, Prickly Pear Blossoms Park in Devon and the summit of Kymin near Monmouth.
After giving a paper on ‘Co-Education – Its National Importance’, at a conference in Manchester on 2 January 1903, Hardwicke went on to Liverpool to address the annual conference of the Co-operative Holidays Association. His message was that thanks to the Association, Blackpool now had a rival as a holiday destination for working class men and women.
Not long after his return home from Liverpool, Hardwicke and Edith for the first time attended the annual Dialect Play in the Drill Hall, Grasmere. Entitled, From Midsummer to Martinmas, the play was written, produced and directed by Miss Eleanor Foster Simpson (some years later to become Hardwicke’s second wife) and her sister, Gertrude Mary. The first performance of a dialect play, based on local characters and events, and performed by amateur actors from the community, had taken place in 1893 when Miss Charlotte Fletcher, daughter of the vicar of Grasmere, had written and produced The Dalesman. Miss Fletcher wrote a further three plays, but she had left Grasmere within a year of the first play being produced. In 1901 Eleanor and Gertrude Simpson had resurrected the notion of dialect plays, and had produced A Daughter of the Dales, also written by Charlotte Fletcher, and including a rush-bearing carol by Canon Rawnsley. By 1903 Eleanor Simpson had started to write her own plays, for which she was to gain a considerable reputation.
The Simpson family resided at The Wray, in Grasmere. Frederick Simpson had married Harriette Abigail Elliott in 1870, and Eleanor, the third of their four children, was born at the Simpson family home in Harcourt Street, Brompton, London, on 28 September 1873. She inherited her grandfather’s creative talent, attending Wrexham Art School and became a noted water-colourist. The Simpsons moved to Grasmere in the early 1890s with their three daughters, Catherine Elliott, Eleanor Foster and Gertrude Mary all living at home. Their brother, Elliott, had taken holy orders and been ordained a priest, and left Grasmere after he married in 1903. Mrs Simpson was widowed in 1897, the year that Hardwicke’s name first appeared in The Wray Visitors Book. All three sisters loved amateur dramatics, music and singing, and with their many shared interests it is not surprising that there was an instant rapport between the Rawnsley and Simpson families, and Eleanor, within a few weeks of their meeting at the dialect play, was invited to stay at Crosthwaite Vicarage. Both Hardwicke and Edith became frequent visitors to The Wray, Hardwicke often leaving humorous ditties next to his name in the Wray Visitors Book.
The legendary energy and diversity of interests of ‘the Canon’, as he was now universally known, are well illustrated by his engagements in the second half of March 1903: On the 18th he attended a sale of work in Keswick to raise funds in support of the Keswick Choral Harmonist Society; on the 23rd he was at a gymnasium display at Keswick School, and the following day attended a meeting in Keswick of the Church Reform League. On the 27th he was present at a Bede Memorial committee meeting in Sunderland, and the same day gave a talk on ‘Literary Associations of the English Lakes’ at Sunderland Museum and Library; on the 28th he attended a conference in Durham on ‘The Training of Teachers for Secondary Schools’ and returned to Keswick in time to chair a meeting on the 31st, in connection with the restocking of Derwentwater with trout.
In addition to his diverse commitments in the north of England, the Canon’s role as Hon. Secretary of the National Trust involved him in attendance at meetings, lecturing, fund raising and campaign work, as well as in keeping a watching brief on potential threats to historic sites. In this latter role he felt compelled to raise concerns about the actions of certain Church authorities who, through ignorance, were making unwise decisions on the future of church buildings and treasures. He had learned that a parish church in Dorchester, Dorset, had given a Roman tessellated pavement, discovered in the church glebe, to the eponymous parish in Massachusetts, in return for a donation towards a new organ. This was seemingly not the first instance of this type of exchange between churches in the two countries. Hardwicke, as antiquarian and National Trust watchdog, was furious, and as usual, resorted to firing off letters to the press to raise public awareness.
In May 1903, following their attendance at the annual Keswick Bands of Hope May Festival, at which Hardwicke and Lady Mabel Howard led the May Queen’s procession to Fitz Park, Hardwicke and Edith set off for Switzerland for the sake of his health, accompanied this time by Gertrude and Catherine Simpson. Even though this was supposed to be a ‘health cure’, the Rawnsleys were as active on holiday as they were at home; staying in frugal and isolated small hotels; hiking in the mountains, often trudging through thick snow; visiting remote churches and monasteries, waterfalls and lakes, and scaling mountain peaks. Hardwicke, with his keen eye for detail and a seemingly photographic memory, absorbed all the different aspects of the scenery, its colours, flowers, trees and animal life; while at the same time noting the historical associations of the places visited. All this was brought to life for the reader in Flower-time in the Oberland, a sort of unofficial guide-book describing different parts of Switzerland in springtime which, lavishly illustrated with Edith’s pencil sketches, was published the following year, an enduring fruit of the tour.
On 11 July, a few weeks after their return from Switzerland, Hardwicke and Edith attended Noel's marriage to Violet Hilton Cutbill at the parish church in North Cray in Kent. Violet Cutbill, whose father was employed by a tea importing firm in the City, was born on 19 October 1876, one of a family of eight. The newly-weds made their first home at Laleham, near Staines in Middlesex.
Two days after Noel’s wedding Hardwicke was back in the north to give a paper in Carlisle at a Summer Holiday course on Nature Study. Lake Country Sketches, his latest informal guide to Lakeland, was published in the summer, and the remainder of 1903 was occupied with the usual round of lectures, meetings, and attendance at events such as the Grasmere Rushbearing Festival in early August, Grasmere Sports later in the month, the annual Carlisle Diocesan Conference in September, and various National Trust meetings, called to discuss among other topics, threats being posed to Stonehenge and to Cheddar Gorge. Towards the end of the year Hardwicke was invited to attend the opening on 3 November by the King himself, of the King Edward VII Sanatorium in Midhurst, Sussex.
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