Until the closing decade of the nineteenth century, Hardwicke Rawnsley had been best known as the ‘Defender of the Lakes’, through his involvement in the various campaigns against railway incursion; unsightly and uncontrolled development; the row over the reservoir at Thirlmere and so forth. From 1890 onwards he impinged on the public consciousness as a vocal County Councillor for Cumberland and campaigner in the cause of animal rights. At the same time, he was working behind the scenes towards the foundation of the National Trust.
Always in the background of Hardwicke’s consciousness, and particularly in connection with his work in the conservation of the landscape of the Lake District, hovered the spirit of William Wordsworth. Rawnsley never forgot the debt he owed to the poet; his idol, and to a considerable extent, his eminence grise. On 8 August 1895 Rawnsley had been present at the opening of a park in Cockermouth, given to the town by a Mrs Harris as a memorial to her late husband. The park commanded extensive views of the town and of the house in which Wordsworth had been born. It was agreed that a memorial to the memory of the poet and his sister Dorothy should be erected in the park, and Hardwicke willingly set about raising the necessary funds. The Wordsworth Memorial, a drinking fountain featuring a kneeling child pouring water into a stone basin, was unveiled by Hardwicke on 7 April 1896, the 126th anniversary of the poet's birth. A Reminiscence of Wordsworth Day, edited by Hardwicke, was published later in the year to commemorate the occasion.
Hardwicke never flagged in his endeavours to promote the name and fame of Wordsworth and his association with Lakeland, and when the Revd. Stopford Brooke agreed to purchase Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Wordsworth’s first home in the Lakes, Rawnsley was one of a small group of devotees who set up the Wordsworth Trust, a body which would oversee the management and development of the Cottage as a museum for the poet and a monument to his memory. In 1891 he was appointed a Trustee of the Trust and in 1917 became Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position he held until his death.
Wordsworth, Thring, Ruskin and Tennyson were undoubtedly Rawnsley’s role-models; those who exerted the greatest influence on Hardwicke’s development and beliefs and inspired him in his public life. To say that he hero-worshipped them would not be an under-statement. Heroes to Rawnsley they may have seemed, but he was equally admiring of the heroism of ordinary men and women going about their daily lives, an admiration he frequently expressed in verse. Indeed, his first published poem, ‘The Miner’s Rescue: Troedyrhiw Colliery, Rhondda Vale, Glamorganshire, April 20, 1877’, was published in pamphlet form at the same time as his A Book of Bristol Sonnets.
This obsession with heroes and heroism became apparent with the publication in 1896 of Ballads of Brave Deeds, dedicated to the painter G. F. Watts and his wife, ‘whose sympathy encouraged me to put on record in verse these deeds of heroism’. Ballads of Brave Deeds contains nearly forty poems, mainly concerned with events which had taken place in the previous decade. A few refer to bravery in battles and sieges, but most commemorate the actions of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. ‘Alice Ayres’ tells the story of a nursemaid who had died saving the three children in her care from a house fire in London, and whose last words had been that she ‘had tried to do her best’.
The ethos of the time, in educational circles at least, was the promotion of ‘muscular Christianity’, as it had been practised at Uppingham when Rawnsley was a pupil at the school. Hardwicke often preached about the need for Christian Manliness, the avoidance of ‘moral cowardice’ or taking the easy way out. In his book, The Ideal of Manliness, Malcolm Tozer selected Hardwicke, out of all the pupils who studied under Edward Thring, as the epitome of the man whose career exemplified those who were true to Thring’s doctrine.
On 11 May 1896, the Rawnsleys found themselves on their way to Russia to attend the coronation of Czar Nicholas II. They boarded the Midnight Sun at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the first leg of what had been advertised, at eighteen guineas per person, as a 26-day cruise, calling at Baltic ports and St. Petersburg, with an option to take the train on to Moscow for the Czar's Coronation.
In Moscow the Rawnsleys were flattered to receive an invitation to the luncheon following the Coronation, addressed to ‘Canonicus Rawnsley’ and signed by the Czar himself. The Rawnsleys spent ten days altogether in Russia, before re-joining the Midnight Sun for the return voyage. Hardwicke was forever grateful that on their return to St. Petersburg, the librarian of the Bibliothèque Publique, even though the Library was closed, obtained the keys and opened the Library, so that Hardwicke could examine the ‘Codex Sinaiticus’, a document more than 1600 years old, handwritten on loose sheets of parchment, which included the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. The return voyage on Midnight Sun began on Monday 1 June.
There was a brief stop for sight-seeing in Stockholm, and at 4 o’clock on the morning of 4 June the ship steamed into Kiel Harbour, where the Rawnsleys disembarked. They travelled to Lucerne where Hardwicke had for some time been concerned about the wholesale destruction of the old city in the name of ‘modernisation’. He was most anxious to capture, before it was too late, the beauty of its ancient buildings and to learn their history. His resulting pamphlet, The Revival of the Decorative Arts at Lucerne: Two Walks about the Ancient City of the Wooden Stork’s Nests, was published later that year by no less a body than the Tourist Office of Lucerne, a flattering distinction unlikely to have been shared by many other Englishmen. By their return to England after a month’s absence, the Rawnsleys calculated that they had travelled something in the order of 4,500 miles, by road, rail and steamer. They were certainly by now hardened and inveterate travellers.
For the next few years events overseas were to a considerable extent to occupy Hardwicke’s time and thoughts; with the situation in the Balkan region, particularly the plight of the people of Armenia, being of prime concern. Devout Christians as they were, many Armenians felt threatened and persecuted under Turkish Islamic rule and lobbied European governments for protection. During 1894-1896, the Sultan, fearing the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, unleashed a series of massacres of Armenians living in Turkey. These massacres belatedly received widespread publicity and condemnation in the Western press. British public opinion was outraged, both by the atrocities, and by the failure of the British government to take effective diplomatic, or, if necessary, military action. Most saw the massacres as being no less than religious persecution.
Hardwicke travelled widely around the country to draw attention to this humanitarian crisis, writing letters and poems of protest, and raising funds to support the various charities set up to provide relief. He often stressed that the Armenians had always been devout Christians and urged that all possible avenues should be explored to stop what he saw as no less than an attempt to wipe out a whole nation because of their faith. He felt sure, nonetheless, that diplomacy would eventually win the day, and that military action would not be necessary. One of the main organisations set up in response to the crisis was the Armenian Refugees Fund of which, with Lord Carlisle and Lady Henry Somerset, Hardwicke was a founder member.
Hardwicke, although a convinced patriot, did not mince his words in denouncing the British Government for their lack of support for the Armenians. He was so incensed by what he considered official vacillation that, in both speeches and writing, his language was exceptionally intemperate. His indignation was vented in over 30 sonnets rushed into print under the title The Darkened West: An Appeal to England for Armenia (1896). The sonnets are not good examples of the author’s composition in this genre. Obviously dashed off in haste, the language employed is raw, violent and over-emotional and no doubt as a result will have caused widespread offence.
Certainly, the strength of the language was out of character. Whatever his motivation, there is no doubt that Hardwicke considered the Armenians as martyrs and heroes. Today this style of writing would be considered unacceptable Islamophobia. At the time, however, the popular European image of the Turks seems to have been that they were heathen savages capable of any sort of atrocity.
In addition to his pre-occupation with Armenia, Hardwicke was still involved in a multiplicity of other projects. In late 1896 he was present at the opening of the Victoria Working Men’s Club in Keswick; a club which he had been instrumental in founding; where working men could meet, converse, read and play games such as whist. Hardwicke himself subsidised the Club by paying the annual rent for the rooms. He was elected President and gave lectures to outside organisations to raise funds for its upkeep and expansion, but his well-meant efforts proved in the end to be in vain as the club closed a few years later. In January 1897 he was invited to act as literary adjudicator at the Workington Eisteddfod, and the following month, according to Edith, was occupied not just with his work for the National Trust, but also in lecturing in different parts of the country.
On 20 June 1897 Queen Victoria would be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, and Hardwicke, ever the patriotic royalist, was determined to ensure that the occasion would be suitably commemorated. In a short letter to The Times, published on 4 March, he drew attention to the fact that a Keswick Diamond Jubilee Bonfire Committee was planning a celebratory bonfire on Skiddaw. He posed the question as to whether there might not be a nationwide interest in arranging a signal line of bonfires from Land’s End to John o’ Groats as part of the national celebrations. The letter brought an immediate response from Mr. Victor Milward, M.P., who had been Chairman of the Worcestershire Jubilee Celebrations Committee in 1887. Milward had already been in contact with the Government and with the Royal Household about the possibility of the simultaneous lighting of bonfires the length of the country to celebrate the occasion, and, if the suggestion met with public approval, several members of Parliament were ready to put it into action.
Hardwicke’s suggestion likewise received strong public support from newspapers and individuals countrywide, and at a meeting in early April at the House of Commons, a Central Bonfire Committee was formed with Viscount Cranborne as chairman, and three joint secretaries, among them Canon Rawnsley and Colonel Milward. Eventually a list of over 2,500 official bonfires was compiled, with hundreds more unofficial local ones, the firing of which would be timed to coincide with the simultaneous lighting of the official beacons.
When the Jubilee celebrations were over, the Rawnsleys turned their attention to the affairs of their only son. As Hardwicke was frequently away from home, and Edith herself heavily engaged in church affairs and the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, Noel must largely have been left to his own devices when at home. He never accompanied his parents on their overseas visits, being presumably away at school. In 1894 he went to Rugby School to join his cousin Norman Fletcher, two years his senior. Noel, from the few surviving letters in which he is mentioned, appears to have been a ‘difficult teenager’ long before the term was invented.
Noel seems, unsurprisingly perhaps, to have been something of a solitary and withdrawn character, the antithesis of his father. In a later letter to Willingham, Edith mentioned that Noel had few friends at school. He did not appear to have been particularly academic, but enjoyed riding and the Rifle Corps.
By late 1897 it became manifestly apparent that Noel was very unhappy at school. He may possibly have been subjected to sexual bullying and was subsequently withdrawn from the school. For the next few years he seems to have led an unsettled life, unable to decide what he wanted to make of his future. He spent some time working on farms in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire, writing to his mother that if his parents would only lend him the money to buy one, he could easily manage the farms more effectively than they were being run by the current owners. He tried his hand at butter and cheese making; and thought of opening a dairy farm near London. He wondered whether a business could be started marketing Herdwick sheep for their mutton. Noel then opened a business in Carlisle hoping to supply large quantities of refrigerated meat to the ships of the White Star Line. This venture also seems to have been unsuccessful, and he eventually went to London as a freelance journalist, contributing articles to the Westminster Gazette, the Daily Mail, and the Manchester Guardian.
Hardwicke meanwhile, following his publication of the biography of Bishop Goodwin, found time to complete another biography, this time of a fellow cleric, Henry Whitehead, who had initially worked in Soho, but had eventually moved to the Lake District, taking up cures in Brampton, Newlands and Lanercost. Turning his attention next to local matters, on 11 April 1898, Hardwicke presided at the opening of the new Fitz Park Museum in Keswick. Nearly 30 years earlier the Keswick Literary and Scientific Society had opened a small museum, housed in rooms in the Town Hall. In 1896 the Society had been informed by the Keswick Urban District Council that they would have to find a new home for the museum as the space it occupied in the Town Hall was needed by the Council for other purposes.
It so happened that Henry Hewetson, who with his brother Thomas had been a major benefactor to Keswick, had died the previous year and the Fitz Park Trustees, of whom Hardwicke was one, had been considering ideas for a memorial to the Hewetsons. They had already decided that a fitting tribute to the brothers, which could also commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, would be a new lodge in Fitz Park. It was, therefore, suggested that the proposed lodge would be the ideal site for a purpose-built museum, thus fulfilling two objects at the same time. This was duly decided upon, and the Fitz Park Trustees agreed to take on responsibility for the new establishment. Edith designed the elegant copper electroliers, made by the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, which still light the galleries in the thriving museum to this day.
A holiday in Italy in May and June afforded a badly needed opportunity for Hardwicke to recoup his energy. The Italian tour was planned to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, for whom Hardwicke had a particular devotion. After visiting Florence and La Verna the Rawnsleys went on to the thirteenth century monastery at Bibbiena, associated with St. Francis, where Hardwicke was able to stay the night. At Assisi the Rawnsleys made the acquaintance of Paul Sabatier, the foremost expert on St. Francis, with whom they struck up a lasting friendship, and following their return to England Hardwicke published three articles about the places they had visited and their associations with St. Francis.
In September 1898 Hardwicke was in Whitby for the unveiling of the Caedmon Memorial, a tribute to the first poet to write verse in English. The Rawnsleys had first visited Whitby in 1885 and returned there regularly over the ensuing years. Hardwicke had been instrumental in the construction of a number of memorials in the past, all, up to that time in the Lake District, but the memorial to Caedmon in Whitby, which had been entirely Rawnsley’s idea, was the first he was to instigate outside the Lakes, and thereafter Caedmon and his memorial was to become a frequent subject for lectures and articles.
Ever since his time as a curate in Bristol, Hardwicke had been concerned about the state of public health in many parts of the country. He had recognised the need to improve the poor housing and sanitation in Bristol and Keswick; to combat industrial pollution of rivers and to reduce the sickness and mortality rates among children. He had urged better facilities for pregnant women; organised public health lectures and striven to persuade members of the public to become involved in organisations such as the St. John Ambulance. As a County Councillor he had highlighted the need for a county-wide Medical Officer of Health and had publicised the danger to health caused by tubercular cows. On 31 March 1898 Hardwicke had organised a conference at the Keswick Hotel on the subject of ‘Tuberculosis and Milk Supply’. Medical officers of health, leading veterinary surgeons, farmers, and representatives of the local governing bodies of the county were invited to attend. A few weeks later the eagerly awaited findings of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis were published. There was still a widespread belief among the general public that tuberculosis was hereditary, but recent research had shown that this was certainly not the case, and the spread of the disease was to a considerable extent caused by inadequate hygiene. After the Royal Commission's results were published Hardwicke left no stone unturned in his efforts to publicise the recommendations of the Report and to support their implementation.
Filthy slaughter houses, inadequate hygiene in dairies, the absence of testing of cattle, and the failure to sterilise milk were not the only issues requiring reform. Another aspect of the spread of tuberculosis which attracted Hardwicke's displeasure was the public habit of spitting, particularly in railway carriages, which he considered not only to be unhygienic, but also as likely to spread disease, and the practice should therefore be banned.
One outcome of all this lobbying was the setting up, in the second half of 1898, of a National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis. On 2 March 1899 Hardwicke was invited by Lord Muncaster, Lord-Lieutenant of Cumberland, to attend a meeting in Carlisle to discuss the formation of a Cumberland branch of the new Association. In the course of the meeting Hardwicke indicated that he would be wholeheartedly in favour of the building of a sanatorium in the County, and he suggested that the slopes of Skiddaw would be a suitable location.
A Cumberland branch of the National Association was duly formed, and Hardwicke elected a member of the Executive. One of his first acts was the setting up of a Keswick auxiliary of the branch, and at a meeting on 5 April he explained that the aim of the National and County Associations was to attempt, in the first instance, to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis, and thereafter, in the course of time to eradicate it altogether. These aims could be achieved by a better regulated meat and milk supply, and by ensuring that dairies and cowsheds were clean, ventilated, and provided with an adequate water supply and drainage. He made it clear to the meeting that if these objectives were to be achieved, then it was essential to harness public opinion, and thereafter Parliament would have to be convinced that legislation would be necessary. It was also highly desirable that an open air sanatorium for the poorer classes should be built, financed either by county funding or private subscription. He informed the meeting that £800 had already been donated towards the establishment of such a sanatorium and that two sites had been offered as possible locations. Although the idea of a sanatorium was agreed in principle, five years were to elapse before the Blencathra Sanatorium was actually opened.
Still in the field of public health, and in parallel with the campaign against tuberculosis, the Rawnsleys had been very much involved in the establishment of a Cumberland Nursing Association, formed as one of the local initiatives to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Association’s objective was to train and supply district nurses, who would care, in their own homes, for the poor who had been taken ill – an early District Nursing service. The first annual general meeting was held on 1 October 1898, and in an address at this meeting the Bishop of Carlisle acknowledged that it had been ‘mainly owing to the initiative of the Canon that the institution was established’.
In early December 1898 newspapers briefly reported that Hardwicke had declined the Archbishop of Canterbury's offer of the Bishopric of Madagascar. Before refusing the offer, he had evidently given it considerable thought, consulting many friends and colleagues, among them, Octavia Hill, with whom he was continuing to work on behalf of the National Trust. Her heart-warming response made clear her appreciation of Hardwicke’s worth. She had, she assured him, the greatest reverence for those who went to far-away places to help others, but suggesting that this route was not for everyone, considered that it was not the right road for him.
With the continuing hostilities between Turkey and Russia there was a real concern in the late 1890s that a major international conflict, involving Great Britain, France and Germany might break out at any time. At the Czar’s suggestion it was agreed to hold a peace conference in August 1899 in the Netherlands, the first Hague Convention. In the months before the meeting, Peace Committees were set up around the country and peace campaigns launched. The economic destructiveness of the ‘Arms Race’ was recognised by many, and now was the opportunity for ordinary people, as well as politicians and statesmen, to voice their concerns. Hardwicke was active in the Keswick Committee, and toured the North giving lectures on the Czar’s proposals. These committees and lectures culminated in a National Peace Convention held at St. Martin’s Hall, London, on 21 March 1899. Delegates from over 200 towns and cities attended, with Hardwicke present as a delegate from Keswick. The Convention agreed to present a Memorial to the government and Hardwicke was among the official deputation.
Rawnsley’s heavy workload on behalf of the National Trust, unremitting since the organisation’s foundation, continued unabated. At the suggestion of the Duke of Westminster, a working tour to promote the National Trust in America was arranged, and Hardwicke and Edith sailed from Liverpool on 27 September 1899. Because of the National Trust's association with The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts, and the assistance which the Trustees had given to Hardwicke, Octavia Hill, and others when the National Trust was first formed, the Rawnsleys’ itinerary was mainly concentrated in and around Massachusetts. In addition to giving lectures on the National Trust, Hardwicke took the opportunity to visit various co-educational schools, a concept in which America had led the way, and one dear to his own heart. He lectured at various colleges, including Wellesley, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, all three exclusively for women students.
By the time the Rawnsleys returned from America, the Second Boer War was already under way. It is somewhat ironic that the beginning of 1899 had seen Hardwicke supporting the Peace Crusade in connection with the danger of war in Europe, but after his return from the USA at the end of the year, he was encouraging recruitment campaigns for men to enlist in the army and the navy to fight at the Front in South Africa.
Until 1890 Canon Rawnsley had been primarily associated with affairs in the Lake District, but by the end of the following decade he had cast his net wider and become a national figure. As the century drew to a close, Hardwicke dedicated his latest volume of poetry, Sonnets in Switzerland and Italy (1899), to John Ruskin on his 81st birthday, the person ‘who taught me, amongst other things, that Nature has nothing fairer to offer to mind or eye than blossom-tide in Switzerland’.
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