For a man of his temperament, for whom his wife of 38 years had been a sheet-anchor in the storms of life, the future without Edith must have seemed for Hardwicke lonely and bleak indeed. However, the long winter of sorrow which he must have anticipated was to end in an unexpected early Spring. The Simpson family, old friends of long standing and now his neighbours in Grasmere, had been of great comfort to him in his bereavement, and he had come to rely on Mrs. Simpson as a wise counsellor and source of consolation. Eleanor had been a good friend and confidante of Edith’s for many years; she and Hardwicke shared many interests; and now that they were neighbours they were naturally thrown more together.
Their shared affection for Edith was already a bond between them, and the blossoming friendship and intimacy between the new neighbours quickly developed into something deeper.
On 1 April 1918, the forthcoming marriage of the Revd. Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley to Miss Eleanor Foster Simpson of The Wray, Grasmere, was announced. As it turned out, though the marriage was to be of tragically short duration, it was to bring great joy to both parties, and was the occasion of a new flowering in Hardwicke’s poetic style. A notebook in Eleanor’s hand still survives, into which she copied no less than 80 love poems addressed to her by Hardwicke during the first year after he retired to Allan Bank from Crosthwaite. These unpublished verses chart the gradual development of their courtship and the deepening of their relationship. There is a coherent thematic unity marking the writer’s progress from despair in bereavement, to intense joy at the thought of his forthcoming marriage.
Although the poems are addressed to Eleanor, Edith’s presence is always implicit in the background. It is their joint love and affection for Edith which has brought them together. Hardwicke still loves the departed Edith, for whom Eleanor also had a great affection, and it is Edith who is bringing them together. In poems such as ‘Love in the Ingle-Nook’, Edith’s physical presence is felt by both Hardwicke and Eleanor. His love for Edith and Eleanor is a continuum, with the earthly love of Eleanor being blessed by Edith’s love from heaven.
Further clues as to Eleanor and Hardwicke’s relationship during the months after Edith’s death are revealed in a series of letters written by Eleanor to her mother in early 1918, when Eleanor and her sister Gertrude were in London, helping out in communal kitchens as their contribution to the war effort. Eleanor wrote frequently about their new life in the city, and Hardwicke is often mentioned. It is clear from these letters that it was already common knowledge in the Simpson family that Eleanor and Hardwicke were, if unofficially, engaged to be married.
Enlisting his late wife’s blessing from the other side of the grave, Hardwicke, in the poem, ‘To Edith, on the Eve of Our Wedding’, asks her to ‘Smile on us! bless our pure companioning’. These poems demonstrate genuine feeling and are quite obviously written from the heart. Hardwicke’s love for Edith remained undiminished, but as he had lost her forever, he counted himself fortunate in having found another kindred soul who understood and accepted that love. Through their close family connections over many years; their many shared interests and the holidays the two families had shared; Hardwicke and Eleanor had had an easy understanding and close companionship, long before he retired to Allan Bank.
Eleanor, at the age of 44, had hitherto led a full and contented life, with many friends and interests. She had known Hardwicke for many years and, while aware of his weaknesses and foibles, she recognised, as Edith had done, that to be able to fulfil his potential he needed support and encouragement. She knew exactly what she was taking on. She recognised, as she wrote in her biography of Hardwicke, that ‘his nature had more than its full share of the universal need of sympathy. For him it was a fundamental necessity’.
Hardwicke and Eleanor were quietly married on 1 June 1918 at St. Oswald’s Church, Grasmere, by Eleanor’s brother, the Revd. Elliott Simpson, Rector of Overton in Flintshire. Eleanor was given away by her mother, with Gordon Wordsworth being Hardwicke’s best man. Members of Eleanor’s family, as well as Willingham and Alice Rawnsley and Hardwicke’s sisters, Frances and Ethel, were among the small congregation present at the ceremony. After the service, the newly-weds laid a wreath of laurel on Wordsworth’s grave with the inscription, ‘With gratitude for all we owe to the great and ever-living poet, from Canon and Mrs Rawnsley on their wedding day’. The honeymoon was spent in Wales and the south-west of England.
During their honeymoon the newly-weds visited some sixteen National Trust properties, and duly recorded their impressions. The resulting volume, eventually published as A Nation’s Heritage (1920), was Hardwicke’s last book. Noel, Hardwicke’s son, whose relationship with his father seems always to have been rather ambivalent, had not attended the wedding, although he had by this time been demobilised and was working for a firm of ship builders on Tyneside.
Once returned from honeymoon, far from taking well-earned retirement in Grasmere, and in peace and quiet making the most of his new married life and writing his memoirs, Hardwicke immediately returned to his previous hectic routine. In the middle of July, he left for London where he was to address the annual meeting of the Secondary Schools’ Association. In his speech to the Association he urged that the English educational system should broaden its horizons and embrace the idea of a League of Nations. History textbooks were too prejudiced against other countries. It was high time for a change of attitude. A new world order was dawning, and Britain needed to accept a wider range of allies, whose history should be included in school textbooks.
In October 1918, Hardwicke, accompanied by Eleanor for the first time, returned to Carlisle for his period of residency at the Abbey. In October at the annual Doctors’ and Nurses’ Service in his sermon he recalled to the congregation that in the last year more than 10,000 patients had been cared for in Carlisle hospitals. On 3 November, a special Service of Remembrance was held at the Cathedral for the men of the Border Regiment who had given their lives in the conflict. This service, in which ministers of other churches in the city took part, was attended by the Mayor of Carlisle, and members of the City Council.
In addition to his responsibilities at the Cathedral, Hardwicke continued his usual prolific correspondence in connection with his diverse activities. With winter approaching, he drew attention in letters to the Press to the inhuman living conditions of prisoners of war, and to their maltreatment by the Germans. Nearer to home, he was actively involved in correspondence with the Ministry of Munitions in connection with the loan of a hut from the Gretna Munitions factory, to be used as a recreation building in the Fusehill district of Carlisle.
On the morning of 11 November 1918, the great news that the Armistice was to be signed at 11 o’clock spread like wildfire. The city sprang to life. Factory hooters and sirens were sounded; the Union flag was raised at the Drill Hall; shops and schools were closed, and many workers were given the remainder of the day off as a holiday. Just before the appointed hour the Rawnsleys accompanied the Dean of Carlisle and members of the Choir to the top of the Cathedral tower, and at 11 o’clock the Red Ensign was hoisted, and the National Anthem lustily sung. Hardwicke and Eleanor then made their way to the Town Hall to hear the long-awaited announcement that hostilities had ended.
On 29 December, Woodrow Wilson, by now President of the United States of America, made a short visit to Carlisle. Hardwicke and Eleanor had both met Wilson a few years earlier when the latter, at the time President of Princeton University, had spent a holiday in the Lake District. Of Scottish ancestry, on this occasion the President wished to visit the city where his grandfather had served as a Congregational minister, and where his mother had been born. The Rawnsleys were duly presented to the President at a reception given at the Crown and Mitre Hotel. Later in the day Mr. Wilson visited the site of his grandfather’s chapel, and attended a service at Lowther Street Congregational Church, before going on to Carlisle Cathedral. Here he was received by the Bishop, the Dean and Canon Rawnsley, and was given a conducted tour of the Cathedral’s historical associations with Scotland.
Early in 1919 the Rawnsleys were once more back in Grasmere. Hardwicke’s routine remained more-or-less unchanged. Attendance at meetings of Cumberland Education Committee and York Convocation, the writing of dozens of letters appealing for funds for various causes such as the purchase of books and magazines for the servicemen still in Germany, who, following the end of hostilities, now found themselves with time on their hands, kept him as busy as ever.
Frederic Yates, a well-known local portrait painter, died in March 1919. He had been a friend of the Rawnsleys; had executed portraits of several members of the family, including Hardwicke’s brother, Willingham, and his twin sister Frances; and had made several studies of Hardwicke himself. Although born in England, Yates had spent some years in America before finally settling in the Lake District, first at Ambleside and then at Rydal. He had met Woodrow Wilson when Wilson visited the Lake District in the early years of the century and the two had become firm friends. Yates painted Wilson’s portrait and was invited to his Presidential Inauguration in 1913, afterwards being presented with the ‘Old Glory’ Stars and Stripes national flag on which Wilson had sworn his Oath of Office. Yates died without making adequate provision for his wife and daughter, who now faced an uncertain future. Hardwicke joined others in appealing for funds for the family. He wrote to his many friends in America and cabled President Wilson, who was in Paris at the time for the peace negotiations, informing him of the death of his friend, and at the same time indicating that an appeal had been launched for funds to buy an annuity for Yates’ widow. President Wilson contributed £200, and within a month of the artist’s death more than £2,000 had been raised.
During this period Hardwicke was a signatory to a Memorandum to the Archbishop of Canterbury, calling for the establishment of Diocesan Committees to assist the Bishops in safeguarding church treasures, and calling upon them to employ specialists to advise on artistic and archaeological matters, an initiative which in the course of time led to every diocese having its own Diocesan Architect. Among his multifarious other commitments Hardwicke did not neglect his commitment to the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. He attended the annual meeting of the Cumberland Branch of the National Association for the Prevention of Consumption. During the war the Blencathra Sanatorium had been used to treat not only the sufferers from tuberculosis, for whom it had originally been set up, but also took in soldiers who had been gassed at the Front. In a gradual return to post-war normality, various leisure activities, suspended for the duration of the conflict, were once again resumed. At a meeting in Kendal it was agreed that the Westmorland Musical Festival should be revived the following year, and the Grasmere Sports were also to be re-started in August 1919.
While peace negotiations began immediately after the signing of the Armistice, the Treaty of Versailles, marking the official end of the war with Germany, was not actually signed until 28 June 1919, exactly five years to the day after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. There had been a widely held expectation that the peace would be marked by celebrations of one kind or another around the country, though what form these should take had not yet been determined. Hardwicke, in a letter to The Times on 17 February 1919, reminded readers that national bonfire celebrations had been arranged in the past to mark special occasions, and these had been organised via a central committee of the House of Commons. There was no reason why this idea should not be repeated once a date for the Peace celebrations had been decided upon. While there were obvious difficulties in arranging such a spectacle, the main problem being the lack of fuel, this deficiency might be overcome by using flares and rockets as an alternative to bonfires.
A national organising committee was promptly set up with Sir John Butcher as chairman and Canon Rawnsley as general secretary and treasurer. It was agreed that the Boy Scouts be invited to give their support and that the Overseas Club should be asked to organise similar celebrations across the Empire. In informing its readers of these decisions, at least one newspaper commented that any great bonfire night without Canon Rawnsley as its ‘directing genius’ would be tantamount to staging the equivalent of Hamlet without the Prince.
Even though no date for the celebrations had yet been decided, it was realised that there was likely to be little time to lose, and the planning for it now began in earnest. Hardwicke contacted the military authorities to ascertain how many flares and rockets could be made available, and at what price. He issued a circular to local authorities around the country suggesting that they form Beacon Committees, giving them a deadline by which applications for flares and rockets, with accompanying payment, should be sent to him at Allan Bank. With this project Hardwicke was absolutely in his element, but even for him the logistics were daunting. In addition to receiving and processing requests for rockets and flares, advice had to be prepared on how to position and fire the rockets to achieve the maximum effect; the safety precautions to be observed in their storage, transport, handling and use, and what to do if the fuses failed. Central delivery and collection points had to be organised at railway stations across the country. While a single flare could light up an area within a radius of three miles, it would only burn for a little over seven minutes. The proposal was, therefore, that at each location a rocket would be fired a few minutes before 11 o’clock summertime on the date designated, as a signal to light the first flare. Rockets could then be fired between the lighting of flares in sequence, in the hope that with about eight flares used at each location and correctly synchronised, the event could last for over an hour. Orders for 6,000 flares and no less than 34,000 rockets were duly received at Allan Bank.
The date eventually chosen as Peace Day was 19 July 1919, although celebrations were to be continued over the following three days. In the evening hundreds of beacons were lit simultaneously across the country. In Cumberland and Westmorland over fifty beacons provided an awe-inspiring show.
Hardwicke was more than fully occupied as organiser and co-ordinator of the nationwide ‘bonfire’ celebration, but even so he found time to participate in several local initiatives in Grasmere. Broadgate Meadow had been given to the people of Grasmere for use as a recreation ground and Hardwicke and others raised funds to enable the land to be laid out and suitably equipped. He agreed to chair the Grasmere Peace Day committee. It is more than likely that he was responsible for arranging for a wreath of roses to be laid on Wordsworth’s grave with the inscription, ‘With gratitude to the great poet who helped us to win the war’. A Thanksgiving Service in St. Oswald’s Church followed, ending with a procession through the village to Broadgate Meadow, where Hardwicke planted an oak tree on behalf of the village. A small stone memorial by the side of the tree bears the inscription, ‘This oak was planted by Canon Rawnsley on Peace Day 19 July 1919’. A full day of sports and other events took place thereafter.
War Memorial Committees were established across the country and Hardwicke’s expertise in churchyard adornment, and the design of crosses and other memorials, was in demand from many quarters. This activity was to prove a time-consuming one in which Rawnsley would find himself heavily involved for the remainder of his life. Convinced that there should also be a national monument, when Stonehenge was given to the Nation in 1918, he at once suggested it as a suitable site, proposing the erection of a huge stone Celtic cross as a national memorial to The Fallen. However, as he had done on numerous occasions earlier in the war, Hardwicke reminded the public that the erection of memorials carved in stone was not the only way of commemorating the dead; the donation of land to benefit future generations, or the funding of scholarships, to which the children of servicemen who had lost their lives might have first claim, would be equally appropriate.
In September 1919, Hardwicke was able to announce that Lord Leconfield had given the summit of Scafell Pike to the Trust in memory of the men of the Lake District who had fought and died in the war. This generous gift included all the surrounding land above the 2,000-foot contour line. These donations were the first of many.
One of the problems faced by many of those involved in the design and construction of war memorials was the over-enthusiasm of the public. Suitable materials were expensive and in short supply, and it was thought that inappropriate decisions might be made by individuals or families wishing to commemorate their fallen loved ones. As many of these memorials were likely to be erected in churches and churchyards, the Church of England was anxious to ensure that they were appropriate in design and would not cause offence. Hardwicke’s view was that expert advice should be sought on matters such as the most suitable material for any projected memorial; the type of lettering and the correct spacing of the letters; and he was happy to offer his advice. He was against the use of commonplace phrases such as ‘To the glory of God and in memory of…’ These were truisms and wasted words. He also felt that scriptural phrases such as ‘Greater love hath no man…’ were over-used and in danger of becoming platitudinous. It is hardly surprising that in view of his proven expertise and experience in this field, Rawnsley was invited to become convenor of the War Memorial Committee of the York Convocation.
Following the example of Continental war graves, Hardwicke was supportive of the idea of graves simply being numbered, with the names of the dead, corresponding to the numbers, inscribed on a wall or colonnade surrounding the cemetery. His advice was widely sought, but he did not live to discover whether-or-not it had been followed. In addition to giving general advice on design and artistic aspects of memorials, Hardwicke offered suggestions as to suitable masons or sculptors to undertake the work, and he himself took a personal interest in the design of the memorials in Keswick, Grasmere and at Uppingham. His last letter to the Press, written on 21 May 1920, concerned the discussions about the best siting for a War Memorial in Carlisle. He offered to double his subscription if a certain site, which he had thought appropriate, were to be chosen.
On the first anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, Canon Rawnsley preached at a special service in Carlisle Cathedral. In his sermon he reminded the congregation that the proposed League of Nations was not only bedevilled by squabbles between the different countries who were already signatories, but also by the reluctance of the United States to join the League. One could only hope and pray that common sense would prevail. However, it was not only the quarrels between nations which were a cause for concern. At home, industrial unrest and the quarrels between master and men, were creating major political and social upheaval.
He was to return to this theme a few weeks later, again at Carlisle Cathedral, this time choosing as his subject ‘the nobility of work’. This was a topic to which he repeatedly returned at meetings of York Convocation. Industrial strife was evident in many quarters and he did not believe that the Church was taking a sufficiently active part in defusing the situation.
In September 1919 he announced the formation of a new vigilante society, the Society for Safeguarding the Natural Beauties of the Lake District, himself taking the chair. Its membership was to be chosen from people living in the district willing to keep a watchful eye on any proposals which might damage the amenities of their neighbourhood, whether occasioned by deliberate mischief or simply from thoughtlessness. Eleanor’s sister, Gertrude, was appointed Hon. Secretary. Hardwicke had earlier supported the idea of a National Trust Vigilance Society for Beautiful Scenery in Great Britain, the idea being to ensure that once the war ended there would be no damage done to places of beauty as the country tackled the Herculean task of rebuilding.
On 10 December 1919, he read a paper to the Carlisle Citizens’ League and suggested the formation of a society whose members would work not only to preserve, but to increase the beauties and amenities of the city. During the war years the League had amply demonstrated what could be achieved by working together in the public interest, and Hardwicke proposed that they should capitalise on this momentum. He considered that it was the patriotic duty of every citizen to foster a love of the homeland. His reasoning was that all children were born with a ‘natural aptitude for love of the beautiful in form and colour’, but if this were not nurtured, it would, in the course of time, be killed by unlovely surroundings.
Such a new society would encourage a patriotic love of the city. Whilst more effective town planning would in the long-term bring improvements, in the short term such simple measures as fitting window boxes and planting flowers and shrubs would do wonders to improve the urban environment. Trees could be planted to enhance the beauties of the parks and other areas, and Hardwicke specified certain parts of the city centre where he suggested that tree planting would make all the difference. Education of public opinion to love and care for the amenities of the city would be the first and most important step. The citizens should learn not to despoil the city by dropping litter and throwing rubbish into streams and rivers. He listed the objectives that such a ‘Beautiful Carlisle Society’ might wish to adopt, such as the creation of gardens; the planting of trees on waste ground and open spaces; the encouragement of children to appreciate and to love trees and flowers; the planting of flowers adjacent to public buildings and factories, and so forth. Evidently the League members were convinced by Hardwicke’s arguments, since after some discussion they agreed to form a Society along the lines which he had suggested
In addition to all his preoccupations at home, Hardwicke maintained a watching brief on events taking place across the Channel. The fighting was over, the guns were now silent, and the peace accord signed, but a new spectre had arisen in many parts of Europe, that of famine. Hardwicke wrote that he was haunted by stories which reached him from Vienna. He had heard ‘of long processions of starving people bearing tiny coffins to the cemeteries’ and had seen ‘pictures of the emaciated skeletons of little children lying on their beds waiting for death to befriend them’. In letters to the Press he urged the public to support the new Save the Children organisation which had been formed in May 1919.
Although the war was over and the Peace Agreement signed, the peace in Europe had certainly not brought prosperity in its wake.
Next: The Final Year (1920)
- Hits: 20