By 1911 Hardwicke had written and spoken on countless occasions about the dangers to health posed by the modern predilection for processed foods. As early as 1906 at the ‘Keswick Old Folks Xmas Do’ he had explained to his audience that they and their forbears had lived longer than many of the younger generation because they had enjoyed a more wholesome diet. Haver bread and poddish, a local type of oatmeal porridge, had been the staple elements of the Cumberland farmstead diet until about thirty years ago, and the Vikings, ancestors of the Lakeland people, who were noted for their prowess and physical strength and stamina, had flourished on a similar diet. He was convinced that such simple and unadulterated foods enabled the better development of bones, brains and healthy teeth. The modern fashion for white flour and white bread, a fashion imported from America, particularly aroused Hardwicke’s ire.
He castigated the manufacturers of white bread, not just for removing essential nutritional elements from the flour during the manufacturing process, but also for adding unnecessary and unhealthy bleaching agents to create whiter bread. He called for a return to bread made with stone-ground flour using the old milling process, a goal easily accomplished if manufacturers would cease advertising what he anathematised as the ‘anaemic loaf’. He promoted haver bread not just as being healthier in developing teeth and bone but also as having the additional advantage of actually cleaning the teeth – a natural ‘tooth-brush’.
Towards the end of May 1911, Hardwicke attended York Convocation. The Shops Bill, which dealt with the permitted working hours and conditions for shop assistants and revisions to Sunday trading restrictions, was going through the Committee stage in Parliament. Hardwicke had been keeping a watching brief on the Bill and presented a detailed report to the May meeting of Convocation. There was considerable concern that the new Bill, if passed, would water down the existing legislation on which shops were permitted to open on Sunday, since it proposed that certain trades and small businesses should be exempted from some of the restrictions. This suggestion was anathema to Hardwicke and his colleagues in the Imperial Sunday Alliance, who maintained that no legislation would be satisfactory unless it safeguarded the right of shopkeepers and their employees to that one day of rest each week. He moved a resolution to this effect, which was duly passed by Convocation.
Hardwicke returned to his more mundane duties in the Lake District, and his continued involvement with the work of the National Trust. That land should be gifted to the nation had been one of the aspirations of the founders since the earliest days of the National Trust, so they were no doubt delighted to announce in early 1911 that two such gifts had been made. Tree Hill, near Sevenoaks in Kent, the first of these acquisitions, had been purchased by the Trust with funds given by Dr. and Mrs Jamieson Hurry in memory of Mrs. Hurry’s father, Arthur Hill, the half-brother of Octavia Hill. Tree Hill was declared open to the public on 27 May. The second property acquisition was of Coombe Hill, Buckinghamshire, purchased by Mr. Arthur Lee, M.P., and his wife, with the intention of bequeathing it in due course to the National Trust. It was formally handed over in 1918 at about the same time as the Lees also presented Chequers to the nation for use as a country residence for future Prime Ministers. With Coombe Hill, originally part of the Chequers Estate, the Trust was now in possession of thirty-five properties. By this time, Willingham Franklin Rawnsley, Hardwicke’s brother, had joined the National Trust’s Executive Council as a co-opted member. In recognition of her patronage and support of the National Trust, Hardwicke’s latest book, By Fell and Dale at the English Lakes, published in 1911, was dedicated to Princess Louise, the Trust’s President.
During the previous few months Hardwicke had been actively participating in the preparations for the national bonfire celebrations to mark the Coronation of George V, to take place on 22 June 1911. A National Bonfire Committee was organised, and the country was divided into districts, each being overseen by its own Secretary, with Hardwicke, as the obvious choice, to be entrusted with supervising the arrangements for the North of England. Across the Kingdom over 2,300 official bonfires were to be lit, seventy-nine of them in Cumberland and Westmorland. Keswick, in company with other towns and cities throughout the country, celebrated the Coronation in the accustomed fashion, with a day of festivities in which the Rawnsleys took a considerable part. Hardwicke, nothing daunted, though no longer a young man, himself set the torch to the beacon on Skiddaw. As the acknowledged expert on celebratory bonfires, Hardwicke compiled what amounted to a textbook on the subject and The Book of the Coronation Bonfires, being a ‘brief history of bonfires from Queen Victoria to the present day’, gives a detailed account of the organisation of the 1911 beacons and the location of all the 2,309 bonfires notified to the National Committee.
As Chaplain, closely involved with the Territorial Force, Hardwicke attended the East Lancashire Territorials’ Camp manoeuvres, taking place near Lancaster at the end of August 1911, for which some 6,000 men were deployed under canvas. In his address at the Church Parade he rebuked the men for the ‘filthy language’ which he had overheard when walking along the lines the previous night after ‘lights out’ had been sounded.
On behalf of the National Trust, Hardwicke now involved himself in the saga of Tattershall Castle and its famous fifteenth century mantelpieces. This saga had captured the public imagination and occupied the columns of the Press in 1911 to a greater extent than any earlier National Trust campaign to date. The Fortesque family had owned the imposing red brick castle in Lincolnshire for many generations but had never lived there, and by the time Lord Fortesque put it on the market in the early 1900s it was to a great extent an abandoned ruin. Many of the floors had collapsed, windows had fallen in and part of the Great Tower was being used as a cattle-shed. There remained intact, however, somewhere, the four magnificent mantelpieces. Speculation as to their whereabouts and their intended fate filled the columns of the newspapers.
Fortunately, the story did eventually have a happy ending. Earl Curzon of Kedleston bought the Castle in November 1911, albeit without the mantelpieces on which so many column inches had been expended. In May the following year it was announced that Lord Curzon, with the help of others, had tracked down the missing mantelpieces in London and had purchased them. He reinstated them, restored the Castle, which was opened to the public in 1914, and when he died in 1925 bequeathed Tattershall to the National Trust.
In late September 1911, while the excitement over Tattershall was still dominating the headlines, Sir Robert Hunter wrote to The Times to warn its readers that the threat to demolish Portinscale Bridge near Keswick would greatly affect a much larger section of the British public than would the demolition of Tattershall Castle. As early as 1907 the historic Portinscale Bridge, unusual in having two arches, had been under threat. A well-loved old friend to many Lakelanders, the idea of demolition of this beautiful ancient bridge was unthinkable. It was recorded that the main road between Keswick and Cockermouth had been carried across the river Derwent by a stone bridge at this point for at least 700 years, although the construction date of the present mediaeval bridge was not known. For some years Hardwicke, and other supporters of retaining the old bridge, had been aware of the novel technique of grouting pioneered by Francis Fox; a technique successfully proven in recent restoration work to the stonework of Winchester Cathedral. This process involved the injection under pressure of liquid Portland cement into the cracks and fissures of bridges, buildings, tunnels and so forth, which, once hardened, made the structure considerably stronger and more resilient than it had been when first built.
Eventually public opinion won the day and Cumberland Highways Committee, albeit reluctantly, recommended that the grouting proposal should be adopted. The work was completed in six months, within budget, and public traffic across the bridge was not halted for a single day.
The dispute over Portinscale Bridge was but a straw in the wind of change blowing across the Lake District. Hardwicke was coming to the opinion that urban, district and local councils were increasingly reluctant to look beyond their own borders and to consider the wider interests of people outside Lakeland when making decisions. They were altogether too parochial. He believed that some sort of Government agency was needed to protect the whole Lake District from the short-sightedness of its own councillors.
In March 1912, Canon Rawnsley, in recognition of his services to the country, was offered the appointment of Honorary Chaplain to King George V. He explained to his parishioners that ‘he accepted it gladly, for he felt it was an honour done not to him only, but to the Parish and to the Cathedral body of which he is a member’. The following month he attended the annual commemoration of Shakespeare’s birthday at Southwark Cathedral, for which occasion he had composed a special hymn three years earlier. The year 1912 marked the centenaries of Charles Dickens on 7 February and Robert Browning on 7 May, both anniversaries being occasions for celebration, with Hardwicke being present at both, and reading some verses at the Browning commemoration.
Immediately after the Browning centenary the Rawnsleys, accompanied by Eleanor and Gertrude Simpson, left for a holiday in Italy to enable Hardwicke to recuperate from the effects of the influenza that had struck him during the winter months.
April 15, 1912, the day of the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic on her maiden voyage following a collision with an iceberg, was a tragedy which deeply affected the whole country, and was widely commemorated in various ways throughout the nation. Both Hardwicke and Willingham Rawnsley were involved in memorial events. Hardwicke donated a brass tablet to St. Mark’s Church, Dewsbury, where the bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, and his family had worshipped. ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee’, words from the hymn played by the band as the vessel sank, were inscribed on the plaque. Willingham, for his part, was involved in fund-raising to create a small memorial garden court overlooking the river at Godalming, the home town of Jack Philips, the vessel’s radio operator.
In his comments on issues ranging from indecent literature to striking miners there is a sense that Hardwicke felt that the nation, both corporately as a whole, and individually through its people, was suffering from a fin-de-siècle moral decline. Selfishness and egotism had taken the place of self-sacrifice and brotherhood in the public conscience. Christ’s teaching on doing good to others had been forgotten, and the cult of ‘self’ had taken its place. Developing this theme in a sermon at Manchester Cathedral on 1 September 1912 he preached on the ideal of the ‘New Man’. Regretting the modern trend towards egotism and self, he reminded his congregation that the way to greatness was to be a follower of Christ, and to heed His precept that ‘greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’. This ideal of selfless love was a theme to which Hardwicke frequently returned, not just from the perspective of patriotism, but as a goal to which individuals could aspire for the regulation of their everyday lives. He used the sermon to demonstrate how greatness can be achieved by sacrificing oneself; citing the example of Octavia Hill, whose death had occurred a fortnight earlier; who had devoted much of her life to helping the poor of London.
Earlier in the year, at the annual general meeting of the National Trust, it was announced that the organisation now had responsibility for about fifty properties, to which in November 1912, Blakeney Point in Norfolk would be added. The gift was made jointly by the Fishmongers’ Company and a number of private individuals, the land being vested in the National Trust as a nature reserve, thus joining Wicken Fen which had been the first nature reserve to be acquired, thanks to the generosity of the banker Charles Rothschild, a noted entomologist. Blakeney is an unique landscape of tidal marshes, shingle beaches and sand-dunes, hosting an abundant diversity of animal and plant life. Birds, both migratory and resident, had made the area popular with naturalists, as indeed it remains to this day.
Early in 1913 Hardwicke attended the King’s Levée at Buckingham Palace and was presented to King George V by the Lord Chamberlain, in recognition of his appointment as Honorary Chaplain. Returning to the Lakes, in April of the same year he presided at the Keswick Musical Festival at which Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the adjudicators. The campaign to curb the publishing of offensive material, in whatever form, continued unabated during 1913 and 1914. In resolutions to York Convocation, sermons, lectures, and letters to newspapers, trade associations, magistrates, politicians, shareholders, and many others, Hardwicke continued to urge action, both voluntary and legislative. There were some successes, although how much of this can be directly attributed to Hardwicke’s intervention it is impossible to ascertain.
The year 1913 was something of an annus mirabilis for the National Trust, marked not only by further land acquisitions in the Lake District, but also by its first acceptance of a work of art. Frank Bramley, a well-known artist who lived in Grasmere, had decided to move south for the sake of his health. His large painting, A Grasmere Rush-Bearing, had been some time in the making. Depicting an actual rush-bearing ceremony at Grasmere, it was begun in 1901 and featured individual portraits of fifty-seven local men, women and children who had taken part, including Eleanor Simpson and her mother, who had all sat individually for their portraits. The painting had been exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1905 but remained unsold. On hearing that Bramley was to leave the area, one of the villagers, a Miss Badley, asked him if his painting could remain in Grasmere. The asking price was £2,000, but the artist was willing to sell it to the village for £500, on the understanding that it was held in trust. Miss Badley approached Hardwicke, indicating that she and her sister were willing to contribute a substantial portion of the sum if the remainder could be raised from the public. An appeal was duly launched and within a few weeks 215 people had donated the balance. The National Trust then agreed to accept the painting in order to ensure that it remained inalienable in Grasmere. It was agreed that this very large painting, measuring 10 ft. by 9.5 ft., should be hung in the Village Hall, and a local committee was established to take care of it. Eleanor Simpson and Hardwicke were appointed members of that committee. The unveiling ceremony took place at the Village Hall on 26 April 1913.
Hardwicke continued to inveigh against the menace of motor vehicles, and to draw attention to the damage they caused to the environment, particularly in the Lake District. Following the report from the Select Committee on Motor Traffic in the metropolitan area, he demanded that county councils and highway authorities in the provinces be given powers to curb the large-scale gatherings of motor-cars and motor-cycles participating in racing and reliability trials which were now becoming a common spectacle. It was not unusual for there to be gatherings of 200 such vehicles at a time. Not only was this practice dangerous and noisy, but it was also unhealthy because of the quantity of dust generated and dispersed into the atmosphere. Motor vehicles played a major role in the increasing destruction of roadside hedges, flowers, shrubs and ferns, mainly because the surveyors were only interested in ensuring the best conditions for motorists and took no account of any ensuing environmental damage.
During the preceding few years the National Trust land holdings in the Lake District had been increased by the purchase of woodland near the edge of Ullswater as well as of Grange Fell and Borrowdale Birches. Three significant acquisitions, the Druid Circle at Castlerigg Fell, the Roman Fort at Borran’s Field, Windermere, and Queen Adelaide’s Hill, Windermere, marked 1913 as the most significant year for the National Trust in the Lake District since its inception in 1895. Hardwicke was to mark the acquisition of these sites with a chapter devoted to each of them in Chapters at the English Lakes, published later that year.
By now firmly established as the nation’s foremost conservation organisation the National Trust was increasingly being offered opportunities to purchase land and buildings around the country. Minchinhampton Common in Gloucestershire, Finchampstead Ridges in Berkshire, and Box Hill in Surrey were three examples. By the outbreak of the Great War, the Trust was responsible for about sixty sites. To the list of enemies of conservation Hardwicke now added those, both individuals and syndicates, who were rifling the treasures of Britain’s buildings and selling them to America. There was a brisk trade overseas for such historic items. It was not only the grand or ancient mansions such as Tattershall Castle which were under threat. Rawnsley cited the panelling in the Globe Room at Banbury and the ceiling of the Star Hotel at Yarmouth as examples of the type of items prized by American collectors.
On 6 November 1913 the National Trust suffered a serious loss with the unexpected death of Sir Robert Hunter, who had been Chairman of the Executive Committee since its inception. Just six weeks earlier he had accepted Queen Adelaide’s Hill on behalf of the organisation, and only the day before his death the Trust had announced the acquisition of Box Hill in Surrey. Sir Robert had retired four months earlier from his post as Solicitor to the General Post Office. To the end a modest and unassuming individual, at his own request he was buried in an unmarked grave in Haslemere churchyard. Sir Robert Hunter had given much of his life to public service in many different fields. He was knighted in 1894 in recognition of his services to conservation, appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1909 and elevated to Knight Commander in the same Order in 1911 in recognition of his services to the General Post Office. In addition to his active roles in the Commons Preservation Society, the Kyrle Society and the National Trust, Sir Robert was elected first President of the Federation of Rambling Clubs in 1905. Hardwicke was shocked and saddened by the sudden death of his long-term colleague and friend.
In the early months of 1914, in spite of the preparations for potential conflict which had been going on for several years, most members of the general public, if they thought about it at all, considered that the immediate danger lay in a possible civil war in Ireland, rather than in any confrontation with Germany. The Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland, introduced by Asquith’s government in April 1912, had become the most hotly debated political controversy of the time. Hardwicke himself was a committed Home Ruler but he believed it foolhardy to try and force Ulster to become part of a united Ireland. However, if the government did try to force Ulster into accepting such unification, civil war seemed inevitable. Hardwicke feared that the use of force would scupper the notion of union for generations to come. He was convinced that the Province would, if given time and not subjected to coercion, in due course voluntarily agree to become part of a united Ireland.
Edith’s health was now giving grave cause for concern, especially her increasing lameness caused by the arthritis which made it more and more difficult for her to participate in the active life and the long walks which she and Hardwicke had hitherto enjoyed. In May 1914 the Rawnsleys, joined by Eleanor Simpson, travelled to Acqui in Italy for Edith to obtain treatment at the Spa. They were away from England for two months, with Hardwicke leaving Edith and Eleanor in Italy while he visited the Austrian Tyrol, in connection with his research into the background of the German miners who had lived and worked in the Keswick area during the reign of Elizabeth I. Despite the difference in age, Edith and Eleanor were very close friends, with many shared interests, and they passed this time together sketching and painting in watercolours. Eleanor’s letters to her mother frequently mention Edith’s treatment at the Spa, which did result in some short-lived improvement. In Edith’s last surviving letter to her husband, written in the course of the journey home through Switzerland, she wrote: ‘I am dreadfully stiff & lame in the evening & had much pain at night – better today – we shall see but it seems as if damp weather affects me’.
On 28 June, while the Rawnsleys were still away in Italy, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. From Innsbruck Hardwicke wrote to The Times telling its readers how moved he had been at the sight of soldiers and others in the congregation at the service he had just attended, crying as they sang the Austrian National Anthem in tribute to the murdered heir apparent. He made a plea to his fellow churchmen at home that they sing the noble hymn tune, “Austria”, at services the following Sunday, to show solidarity with the Austrians. He was not alone in having no inkling that the assassination of the Archduke would become the spark to ignite the apocalyptic World War. After returning to England, Hardwicke preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral on 19 July on what he referred to as ‘A Great National Peril’. Taking the opportunity to deliver a withering attack on the decay of morals and standards in British life, he reiterated his concern that the future of Britain and her Empire was at stake. Referring to the concerns he had expressed in his ‘New Man’ sermon in Manchester two years earlier, as well as to his protests against the problems arising from indecent and damaging literature and films, the lack of Sunday observance and the increasing problem of excessive alcohol consumption, he lamented the decline in home and family life that he saw all around him. The home was the centre of society, its foundation, and gave it its meaning and strength. If that foundation were undermined, all that Britain stood for would collapse.
This sermon was widely reported in the newspapers, but any further developments were overtaken by events. On 4 August war was declared between Britain and Germany. The Rawnsleys, with Noel and Violet and their children, happened to be at home at Crosthwaite. Una, Hardwicke’s granddaughter, remembered that the consensus in the family was that the war would only last for four to six weeks.