In February 1904 Hardwicke was in London to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Society for Protection of Birds, as well as a meeting of the executive committee of the National Trust. With his active involvement in so many projects Hardwicke now found himself in the Capital on a regular basis, and London had become almost a second home. Since he was obliged to spend so much time there, he was no doubt delighted by the proposal to form a Cumberland and Westmorland Association of London. The project originated with a Mr. C. Maugham, a native of Cockermouth, but now living in Kent, whose idea it was to create a forum where individuals, living in and around London, but with connections to the two counties, could meet on a regular social basis. Hardwicke was asked to chair the inaugural meeting at the Holborn Restaurant on 22 March 1904.
He became a Life Member of the new Association, and though he did not fulfil the London residence qualification, he was nonetheless elected President. At the first Annual Dinner held at the end of May 1905 it was reported that nearly six hundred people had joined the Association in the twelve months since its formation.
In the last week of April 1904, Hardwicke attended the Carlisle Musical Festival; travelling on to Sheffield for the annual meeting of Ruskin’s Guild of St. George, and thence to Morecambe to preach a sermon at St. Lawrence’s Church as part of the town’s Musical Festival. That same month he published Sacrum Commercium: The Converse of Francis and His Sons with Holy Poverty, his own translation of what has been called one of the ‘jewels of early Franciscan literature’. This unlikely project was probably inspired by his visit to Italy six years earlier, following in the footsteps of St. Francis, and his growing friendship with Paul Sabatier.
Of all Rawnsley’s many and varied interests, his commitment to the work of the National Trust was possibly closest to his heart, and certainly the most time-consuming. The Trust’s Annual Report for 1903-1904 listed twenty properties already acquired, with new offers for purchase coming in all the time. Properties frequently came onto the market which the Trust had then to consider whether they might wish to acquire. In addition, in the absence of County Planning Departments, there were numerous renovation and development proposals made by local authorities, government departments, companies and private individuals to be examined to ensure that they were in line with the Trust’s conservation principles. The executive members were in demand to give talks across the country, and many individuals and organisations contacted the Trust for advice and help with local conservation issues. The National Trust, while already becoming quite an effective pressure group, remained at this time a largely voluntary organisation, with little financial clout and very much dependent on the goodwill of a small number of enthusiasts.
Gowbarrow Fell in the Lake District came on the market in 1904. The area was considered not only one of outstanding natural beauty, endowed with abundant wildlife, including red deer, but also notable for its important associations with Wordsworth, who with his sister Dorothy had in April 1802 strolled in the park. A momentous walk as it turned out. Dorothy recorded in her journal of 15 April that the beautiful and abundant wild daffodils had greatly moved her brother, who was inspired to write perhaps his most famous poem, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’. Hardwicke rapidly publicised the National Trust’s opportunity to acquire this priceless treasure. He announced that Mr. Henry Howard, owner of Greystoke Castle and Gowbarrow Park, had offered the National Trust the option to purchase Gowbarrow Fell for the nation, with about 740 acres of parkland. The land, on the shores of Ullswater, had formed part of a medieval deer-park. The park not only encompassed the magnificent 80-foot Aira Force waterfall, but also had fishing and boating rights over about a mile of the shore. The asking price was £12,000. The landowner, anxious to ensure that the estate was preserved, did not stipulate a time limit for the funds to be raised.
Such a sum would involve the National Trust in their largest-ever fund-raising effort to date, and some members of the Council, including Sir Robert Hunter, felt that the project might be too ambitious. In addition to this already generous offer, the Trust was offered an option, open for five years, to purchase a large adjacent meadow stretching right up to Aira Force, for a further £6,000. Despite Sir Robert's caution, the National Trust felt that such an opportunity should not be missed. In July 1904 the by now proven and efficient publicity machine was mobilised, with the usual newspaper appeals, lectures around the country, and the formation of local fund-raising committees; Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds among them. After eighteen months of concentrated effort Hardwicke was able to announce that the purchase price for Gowbarrow Fell had successfully been raised, with nearly fourteen hundred subscribers to the fund.
Hardwicke was not satisfied with the current ad hoc arrangements by which the National Trust simply waited for properties to come on the market and then, if deemed suitable for acquisition, set out to raise funds for the purchase. In the 1905-6 National Trust Annual Report it was announced that Canon Rawnsley and Mr. Stanwell Birkett, another Lake District resident, had together purchased two properties on Derwentwater. The first consisted of fifty acres on the southern side of the lake, and the second, of 310 acres of meadow land and fell at Borrowdale, including the Bowder Stone and Grange Fell. The Trust were given an option to purchase both properties.
The hard work associated with finding a suitable site and building a sanatorium in Cumberland, initiated five years previously, finally came to fruition when the Blencathra Sanatorium was officially opened on 4 October 1904 by the Countess of Lonsdale. The Sanatorium project, under the auspices of the Cumberland Branch of the National Association for the Prevention of Consumption and other forms of Tuberculosis, had been one very close to Hardwicke's heart, and he had played a leading role as Chairman of the Action Committee set up to bring it about. The Committee had bought a farm and land 900 feet above sea level on the slopes of Blencathra as a site, and the total cost of the land, the design and the building of the hospital had been £8,600. The sanatorium, with beds for twenty patients, was still, however, £2,000 short of the target to meet the cost and pay off all debts. It was expected that the day-to-day running costs of the hospital could be met by groups such as Boards of Guardians or local Councils in the catchment area, who would each be invited to fund one or more beds. As a start Carlisle Infirmary and Keswick Urban Council had already indicated their willingness to become subscribers.
The Canon’s hectic pace of life continued unabated. A week after the opening of the Sanatorium he was in Sunderland for the unveiling of the Bede Memorial by the Archbishop of York. Hardwicke was very much in favour of a monument, but considered that Roker Point, on the north side of the River Wear, would be the best place for the Venerable Bede to be commemorated. Roker Point did not suffer from the industrial pollution that affected Jarrow, was easy of access, and had wide views over the land between the Tyne and the Wear where the Bede had spent most of his life. Hardwicke had evidently been involved in connection with this proposed Memorial for some time, as he indicated in his address that he had consulted many learned men as to the appropriate form such a monument should take, and he suggested that an Anglian cross of the type commemorating Acca of Hexham would be appropriate, going on to give details of inscriptions, illustrating the life of Bede, which would be suitable. The decision was made to go ahead with the project and a committee was formed with Hardwicke acting as adviser; a role which involved him in numerous visits to the chosen site during the ensuing months. To coincide with the unveiling of the Memorial, a lecture given by Hardwicke on The Venerable Bede: His Life and Work, was published as a pamphlet.
The National Trust celebrated its tenth anniversary in January 1905. In the space of a few short years it had established itself as the pre-eminent conservation organisation in the country, with its expertise and advice being widely sought, and its ability to secure sites of historic interest and natural beauty for the nation widely acknowledged. However, it now gradually became apparent that there were certain obstacles which prevented the Trust from carrying out its remit to the full. Hardwicke had previously complained about the ill-advised actions of the clergy and the Queen Anne’s Bounty Board in disposing of ecclesiastical treasures, but notwithstanding, it appeared that the practice had not been stopped, and he drew particular attention to at least two instances of this ecclesiastical vandalism. The vicar of a certain parish, no doubt in desperate need of funds, had made an application to the Bishop’s Court for permission to sell a beautiful sixteenth-century steeple-topped chalice; and another incumbent in Newcastle had applied for a faculty to sell the site of one of the city’s most ancient churches. Hardwicke also publicised the case of Kirkstead Chapel in Lincolnshire, the thirteenth-century Cistercian Cappella extra Portus. The building had fallen into disrepair and was no longer used as a place of worship.
The National Trust, while certainly willing to take on responsibility for the fabric of Kirkstead Chapel, could not make an appeal for funds unless the owner was willing to sell the building or the land on which it stood. The owner was more than willing to sell, but only if the Trust would purchase the whole estate of 1,500 acres of fen land and its associated farms and buildings. There proved to be no way out of this vicious circle, and as a result the National Trust could do nothing to save the building. With more than twenty years’ experience in the conservation of the nation’s heritage Hardwicke knew full well that these, and other, obstacles presented new challenges. No longer was it simply the landowner or speculative developer or industrialist who might despoil the landscape for a quick profit. As well as the ecclesiastical iconoclasts, the new enemies at the gate included telephone companies, hotel proprietors, advertisers, highway authorities and motorists as well as county, district and urban councils.
Councils in particular were now, in their enthusiasm for new bridges and road improvements, the perpetrators of many acts of vandalism. In the sacred name of Progress and Modernisation they obliterated roadside wastes, destroying in the process the undisturbed habitat for flora and fauna; cut down trees; widened streets and demolished or ‘renovated’ ancient buildings. The damage done was not necessarily deliberate vandalism but was often just the result of lack of knowledge and understanding of the consequences, or even simply thoughtlessness. Furthermore, Government support and legislation for the protection and conservation of the nation’s heritage were inadequate. The conflict between public interest and private gain was weighted on the side of private profit, and steps were urgently needed to tip the balance in favour of the public. For this to be achieved, legislation was required. Rawnsley, and others, tirelessly lobbied the powers-that-be during the remainder of the year.
It became increasingly obvious to the Council of the National Trust as well as to other interested parties, that even though the Trust had enjoyed considerable success in its efforts for conservation during its first ten years of existence, changes to the legislative framework in which they were constrained to operate, and additions to the powers accorded to them, were now a matter of urgency.
Towards the end of 1905, Canon Rawnsley once more put his name forward for election as Proctor of York Convocation for the Archdeaconry of Westmorland, and this time his candidature was successful. The Convocation usually met in February, May and November. At the first meeting he was nominated a member of the committee for the Reform of Convocation and Election of Proctors.
The following year opened with a visit to the Cumberland Musical Festival at Workington, where a Rawnsley Challenge Shield and prize money were on offer for the best Junior Choir under 15. With his excellent ear for the Cumberland dialect, Hardwicke acted as adjudicator in the Dialect Reading competition, and later in 1906 was elected President of the Festival, giving another challenge shield and prize money for the winner of the Mixed Choir competition. Attendance at these musical festivals filled a large proportion of his diary of engagements for 1906. He was a member of the organising committee for the Westmorland Musical Festival in April, and although the annual Keswick May Day and Bands of Hope Festival on 2 May was actually managed by Edith, Hardwicke conducted one of the bands. The Keswick Musical Festival, with Canon Rawnsley presiding, had been arranged for the following day. The year ended with the Barrow Musical Festival in November, at which Hardwicke was the adjudicator in the ‘Essay’ competition, for which the titles were – ‘Are Strikes Justifiable?’ and ‘The Teaching of John Ruskin’. In addition to the Cumberland Musical Festival, the Rawnsleys also attended the annual Grasmere Dialect play in early January. Staged by Eleanor and Gertrude Simpson, the 1906 production, entitled, Pace-eggin’ Time, included verses contributed by Canon Rawnsley.
As usual, the Rawnsleys paid their annual visit to the Continent in late May and early June, visiting Val d’Aosta and the Bernese Oberland. Eleanor Simpson accompanied them for the first time. Once again, Edith recorded in watercolour sketches many of the places they visited in the mountains.
Ever since the National Trust executive had come to the realisation that greater powers were needed to enable them more effectively to secure historic buildings and land for the nation, they had been working to determine how best this need could be fulfilled. The result was the drafting of a ‘National Trust Bill’ by Sir Robert Hunter, to be promoted in Parliament as soon as practicable.
Two new books, Months at the Lakes and A Sonnet Chronicle 1900-1906, appeared in the summer. The latter was the first volume of poetry which Hardwicke had published for six years.
The highlight of 1906, at least in clerical terms, came in October with the opening of the Church of England Congress in Barrow-on-Furness. The Congress was the annual meeting of clergy and laity to discuss religious, social or moral issues affecting the church and its members. It was not a legislative body per se but was nonetheless an important forum in the Church calendar. The previous Congress to be held in the North-West had taken place at Carlisle as long ago as 1884. This was, therefore, an important occasion for which preparations had been under way since early January. Hardwicke had been elected a member of the ‘Subjects Committee’ to assist in planning the programme, and Edith was asked to design the Congress banner. For this she took the opportunity to promote St. Kentigern (of Crosthwaite) who appeared in the centre, with a robin perched on his shoulder, and carrying a staff in his right hand. Ladies from the Carlisle Diocese carried out the embroidery.
The five-day Congress opened on 1 October. Hardwicke presented a paper on ‘Recreation’ in which he called for more effort to be made to ensure that children were given adequate facilities for sports and play, and to this end he championed the building of more playgrounds and gymnasia. There should be more emphasis, he said, on introducing to the elementary sector the esprit de corps, found in Public Schools, which was developed through games, with schools playing against each other in cricket, football, wrestling, and so on. He called for a revival of May Day Festivals and other pageants, which could be used to inculcate a knowledge of history as well as providing an opportunity for play and relaxation. Above all, he wanted children to be taught the recreative power of nature and the countryside, through such activities as the tending of small garden plots, and by teaching them how to see and absorb the beauty before their eyes. There was an urgent need to teach the fourth ‘R’, that of Reverence for fauna and flora and the marvels of the physical landscape.
In the midst of all his peripatetic engagements around the country, Hardwicke still contrived to organise his diary around the concerns of his own parishioners. Prize givings; Speech Days; the New Year’s Day Volunteers’ Shooting Competition; lobbying for road and rail improvements in the vicinity of Keswick, and so on, were not neglected. One permanent fixture in the Rawnsleys’ annual programme was the ‘Old Folks Christmas Do’ at Keswick of which Hardwicke was not just the Chairman, but also usually one of the carvers as well. He had an uncanny ability to use such social events to put across a serious message in a light-hearted and amusing way, and nowhere was this more evident than at the annual Christmas celebration for the old people. At the 1906 ‘Do’, in his welcoming speech, he brought up his concerns about the increasing popularity of white bread, a trend which he thought had a deleterious effect on the health of the younger generation.
On their wedding anniversary in January 1907 the Rawnsleys had purchased Dunnabeck in Grasmere, a cottage surrounded by fields to which they could occasionally escape from their increasingly busy lives. They attended the prize giving for the Volunteers Shooting Competition; Edith presented the medals and certificates to those who had passed the St. John Ambulance examinations; Hardwicke continued with his monthly lectures for the men of the parish; chaired the opening of a new exhibition at the Fitz Park Gallery for which he and Edith had negotiated the loan of pictures from South Kensington; gave a lecture on Pompeii; investigated rumours about proposed mining operations near Coniston; complained to the Cumberland, Keswick and Penrith Railway directors about the filthy state of its carriages and the disgusting habit of people spitting in them, and chaired an inter-denominational meeting of the Lord’s Day Observance Society, among many other engagements. At the same time, he did not neglect the affairs of the National Trust, and when in London in April, was invited to preach at the Temple Church.
Over the years Hardwicke had made the acquaintance of many of the leading figures in the art world, including George Frederick Watts and Holman Hunt. For some time Hardwicke had been a member of a committee, set up under the chairmanship of the Earl of Carlisle, to raise funds to buy a Holman Hunt painting for the National Gallery. It seemed surprising that the artist was not at that time represented in any national collection. The Lady of Shalott, Holman Hunt’s latest work, was available for purchase for £7,000. For a number of reasons the appeal was eventually abandoned, in part because the asking price was considered too high, but also because, due to the artist's failing eyesight (he was now nearly eighty) the painting had been completed, under his direction, by an assistant in his studio. The Earl of Carlisle’s Committee, however, determined not to be defeated, to mark the artist's 80th birthday on 2 April 1907, finally succeeded, in acquiring for the nation an earlier painting, The Ship, for which the asking price had been eight hundred guineas. At the beginning of April Hardwicke was able to inform the newspapers that the painting had been duly purchased, and that the artist was overjoyed to know that it was to be given to the National Gallery.
The Rawnsleys took their usual annual holiday in Italy and Switzerland in May and early June, this time accompanied by Eleanor and Gertrude Simpson. Fond as he was of Switzerland it is not surprising that Hardwicke later accepted the offer of becoming vice-president of the English branch of the League for the Preservation of Swiss Scenery. On this holiday the party once again spent some time at Assisi, and then went on to Lucerne, where Hardwicke left the ladies to return to London in order to be present at the opening of St. George’s School, Harpenden, on 21 June, the co-educational school founded by the Revd. Cecil Grant, the erstwhile headmaster at Keswick School. Hardwicke was later invited to become a governor.
The 21 August 1907 was a landmark for the National Trust when the Private Member’s National Trust Bill was given Royal Assent. The 1907 Act dissolved the ‘old’ National Trust, which had been constituted under the Joint Stock Companies’ Acts and to date had remained to all intents and purposes essentially a voluntary association. In its place, a new National Trust was to be incorporated as a statutory body. The properties which had been acquired prior to reincorporation still remained inalienable, but the Trust was now authorised by Parliament to acquire and manage property and land on behalf of the nation, and was also empowered to sell land surplus to its requirements. The new constitution also authorised the Trust to make by-laws applicable to land in its ownership, such as Brandelhow and Gowbarrow. At the Annual General Meeting in November 1907 it was reported that the Trust held no less than twenty-eight properties and more than 2,000 acres of land. In less than twelve years Hardwicke and his fellow co-founders had seen the National Trust grow from the germ of an idea, to an organisation that was at last enshrined in law. All the hard work and long hours had at last borne fruit.