The Keswick Old Folks’ Reunion, as it had now been renamed, was held early in January 1920, with Hardwicke presiding, for what proved to be the last time. For nearly forty years he had, with very few exceptions, made the Old Folks’ meeting a permanent fixture in his diary. As usual he recited a dialect poem, on this occasion ‘Oor Jock he cam’ fra ower t’ sea’.
Hardwicke and Eleanor now resumed their old pursuits. The barbarous fashion for feathers as adornment continued to preoccupy the Canon, who fired a further broadside at The Times in support of a Bill to prohibit the import of plumage for millinery. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act finally reach the Statute Book a year after his death, an outcome which would certainly have rejoiced his heart. Eleanor’s play, The Mistress of Mosshead, the first post-war Grasmere Dialect Play, was performed in February 1920. Thereafter she became once more involved in local social activities; giving a lecture on ‘Village Plays’ in Windermere, and another on ‘Lake District Customs’ to the Keswick Literary and Scientific Society.
Following the recent successful experiment in Carlisle, where the State had taken over all the public houses, Hardwicke put forward a motion at the meeting of York Convocation in February 1920 advocating nationalisation of the whole liquor industry. This radical motion was followed up with an article on ‘Liquor Control and the Carlisle Experiment’, published in the Hibbert Journal in April. In the article, which proved to be the last of the journal articles he was to publish in his lifetime, Hardwicke set out the reasons for his belief that complete prohibition of alcohol would not be the solution. He did believe, however, that Carlisle had pointed the way towards state intervention. By allowing the government to take control of alcohol sales there would no longer be the incentive of personal gain to promote the sale of liquor.
Hardwicke had been troubled by stiffness in the lower limbs for a year or more, a condition which at times made it difficult for him to walk. The Rawnsleys, therefore, decided to take a holiday in France in late March, joining a group for a tour of Provence. Despite his lameness, Hardwicke acted as group leader on most days, visiting the rock caverns of Les Baux, and walking across the famous Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. On other days he spent his time writing. On their way home he and Eleanor made a pilgrimage to the battlefields of the recent war.
Arriving back in England about 23 April, Hardwicke went immediately to Oxford to see his sisters and to revisit Balliol, his alma mater. On the Sunday, St. Mark’s Day, he attended the service in Magdalen College Chapel. The following day he accompanied the Master of Balliol to Bagley and Cumnor, an area associated with Matthew Arnold’s, ‘The Scholar Gypsy’, a poem much beloved by Hardwicke. Together they visited the land which had recently been purchased by a group of Balliol alumni as a memorial to the Oxford men who had died on active service in the war, land which was later to be vested in the National Trust.
On 27 April in a ‘blizzard of icy sleet’ he travelled to York, in order to attend Convocation. Soon after arriving he fell very ill, possibly suffering a heart attack, and was unable to deliver his proposed motion on the ‘Establishment and Work of Advisory Committees’, which had been programmed for the second day. Eleanor was informed by telegram that her husband was unwell and immediately went to York to ascertain his condition for herself. She found him confined to bed, but still determined to fulfil a promise he had made to preach on 2 May at St. Clement’s Church, York, at the service of dedication of a window, given in memory of his old friend, Margaret Argles. On the appointed day, foolhardy, but true to his promise, he drove with Eleanor to the church, arriving after the service had begun, and rested in the vestry until summoned by the verger to deliver his sermon.
The following day the Rawnsleys returned to Allan Bank. Eleanor records that Hardwicke suffered a second heart attack during the night after they arrived home, but in the days that followed seemed to be making a slow recovery. Although confined to bed, he continued with his usual correspondence, dictating numerous business letters every day, writing poetry and sending ‘gay, rhyming postcards’ to his friends. Looking out on the garden from his bedroom window, he watched and listened for the calls of the arriving migrant birds, and was delighted when he heard the song of a pied flycatcher. He welcomed its arrival with a poem for the Parents’ Review. On 21 May he dictated his last letter to the Carlisle Journal, in connection with the proposed Carlisle War Memorial. On the same day he completed what proved to be his valedictory poem, ‘Praise before Work’, a tribute to the glory of bird song, God’s gift to man.
Shortly afterwards he took a turn for the worse. Dr. Percy Kidd was sent for from London for a consultation with the Rawnsleys’ own doctor. Hardwicke was delighted to see his old friend, but suffered a relapse soon after the doctor’s departure. The intellect was as sharp as ever, but the body was worn out. Two days later, on 28 May 1920, with Eleanor at his side, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley breathed his last, aged sixty-eight. The cause of death was given on the death certificate as morbus cordis and infective endocarditis pleuropneumonia, a form of bacterial heart disease. Hardwicke’s sisters Ethel and Frances; his brothers Walter and Willingham, and the latter’s wife, Alice; and his old friend Gerard Baldwin Brown, all came to support Eleanor, staying at Allan Bank for several days.
The funeral was arranged to take place at Crosthwaite. On Monday afternoon 31 May the cortège left Allan Bank. A horse-drawn hearse bore the simple coffin of unvarnished English oak with a small brass plate at the foot, simply inscribed, ‘H. D. Rawnsley Canon of Carlisle’. The coffin was covered with a red and purple embroidered pall and adorned with the Rose of Carlisle and the Canon’s badge of office as Chaplain to the King. Hardwicke made the familiar journey over Dunmail Raise and past Thirlmere for the last time, the hearse arriving at St. Kentigern’s about 7 o’clock in the evening. Here the coffin was received by Hardwicke’s successor as Vicar, the Revd. W. E. Bradley, and laid to rest in the chancel overnight.
The day of the funeral, 1 June, would have been Hardwicke and Eleanor’s second wedding anniversary. A Memorial Service, conducted by the Dean of Carlisle, Dr. Rashdall, assisted by the Bishop of Barrow and Archdeacon Campbell, was held in Carlisle Cathedral at 12.30. The service was attended by many dignitaries including the Mayor and Corporation in civic state. The choir sang a setting of Tennyson’s, ‘Crossing the Bar’, and the hymn, ‘Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow’. At the end of the service the ‘Dead March’ from Handel’s oratorio Saul was played by the cathedral organist.
The funeral service at St. Kentigern’s took place the same afternoon at 4.30. The Cross of St. George was flown at half-mast on the church tower and on adjacent buildings. The service was conducted by the Vicar, assisted by Dr. Rashdall and Archdeacon Campbell who had made the journey from Carlisle following the memorial service. No less than eighteen clergy were present at the funeral, robed and in the Sanctuary, including the Ministers of the Wesleyan and Congregational Chapels, with many others, unrobed, among the very large congregation. Twenty-two Brothers of the Greta Lodge of Freemasons, of which Hardwicke had been Grand Chaplain, were present in full regalia, as were members of Keswick School staff in academic dress and representatives of many of the organisations with which Hardwicke had been associated, including the National Trust. The Headmaster of Uppingham School was also present. Family members included Hardwicke’s brothers Willingham, Walter and John, and his sisters Ethel and Frances. Gertrude and Catherine Simpson, Eleanor’s sisters, also attended the funeral, but Hardwicke’s son, Noel, was absent abroad in Austria. Lord Stamfordham, the King’s Private Secretary, had written to Eleanor offering the King’s condolences, and apologising for the non-attendance of the royal representative, who had had to withdraw at the last moment due to a family illness.
Among the very large congregation were persons who though they had not personally known the Canon, had admired him from a distance and felt that they had known him through his writings. The Vicar reminded those present that Canon Rawnsley had promised his parishioners, when he announced his retirement, that he would one day return ‘to rest’. After the rousing choral service, the coffin was escorted to the graveside by eight ex-churchwardens and sidesmen, all except one in Freemason’s regalia. The Committal Sentences and Benediction were pronounced by the Bishop of Barrow and a half-muffled peal was rung on the church bells. Hardwicke was laid to rest in the churchyard which he had done so much to embellish and beautify, next to Edith as he had requested, in a grave lined with heather from the fells. In due course the inscription, ‘Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, 28th May 1920, A helper of his time, Canon of Carlisle, Chaplain to the King, and thirty-four years Vicar of this parish’, was added to the Celtic cross which marked Edith’s grave. Some years earlier, in 1912, Hardwicke had composed his own epitaph:
Here rests at last a man whose best
Was done because he could not rest,
His wish to work, his will to serve
Were things from which he could not swerve,
Till Death came by with gentle hand
And said— ‘Sleep now— and understand.’
Probate of Hardwicke’s Will, dated 13 August 1919, with a short codicil added a month later, was granted in September 1920 to the Public Trustee, who was to act as sole executor. The gross value of the estate was £60,511, net value £53,472. Over the years Hardwicke had acquired not only various real-estate properties but also a large collection of paintings, etchings, furniture, portraits, silver ornaments, books, manuscripts and objets d’art. He bequeathed Allan Bank and some of its contents, including Andrea Della Robbia’s, The Annunciation, to the National Trust, with Eleanor being given an annuity of £1,500 and a life interest in the property. To Noel he bequeathed designated individual items and the sum of £1,500, due to Hardwicke on the mortgage of a property at Seal, Kent; together with a freehold cottage in Barmouth and freehold land at Dockray. Dunnabeck was left to his sister Ethel, for her use in her lifetime and, after her death, to his granddaughter Una. Individual items, ornaments, furniture and so on were left to various individuals and organisations. He also bequeathed legacies of £1,000 each to Crosthwaite Church, Grasmere Council, and Carlisle Cathedral, these to be paid after Eleanor’s death. Eleanor also arranged for a sale by auction of the furnishings of their official residence at The Abbey in Carlisle.
In the days following Hardwicke’s death over one hundred obituaries were published in newspapers ranging from the Aberdeen Journal to the Devon and Exeter Gazette and, demonstrating Hardwicke’s extensive range of interests, in more specialist journals as varied as Building News, Estates Gazette, and the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. Many of these obituaries were assembled by Eleanor and pasted into albums, now held in the archives of Balliol College, Oxford.
Hardwicke had suffered from uncertain health all his life from childhood on; he was frequently unwell and prone to debilitating bouts of influenza in the winter months which would lay him low for weeks on end. His doctors often advised him to go abroad to a warmer climate for rest and recuperation. There is evidence to suggest that in addition to a certain physical frailty, Hardwicke was afflicted with occasional periods of mental instability. He suffered more than one nervous breakdown, and Edith had referred in her diary to his lack of self-esteem and to his fits of depression.
He had driven himself hard all his life, becoming involved heart and soul in countless worthy causes, for all of which he had been a most effective publicist and fund-raiser, giving generously of his own time and money to the causes he espoused. Never content simply to lend his name, he took an active interest in all the organisations he supported; attending meetings and giving lectures all over the country. He routinely burned the candle at both ends, staying up late at night to write sermons, lectures, countless letters to the Press, pamphlets and articles for learned journals. All this in addition to the day-to-day running of his parish at Crosthwaite, and his work as Hon. Secretary of the National Trust; while at the same time keeping a watching brief on the affairs of the Keswick School of Industrial Arts which he and Edith had founded. He was an excellent publicist, particularly for the National Trust and for his beloved Lake District.
All in all, the impression of Rawnsley gained from contemporary descriptions, is of a ‘lovable and ebullient personality, a gifted man of letters, a sympathetic friend, and a faithful priest and pastor – particularly in circumstances of trouble, sorrow or perplexity’.20 The general tone of the countless obituaries written following his death is that the good he achieved in his life considerably outweighed his failings. How then should Canon Rawnsley best be remembered? As parish priest, poet, memorialist, a founder of the National Trust and the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, Defender of the Lakes, an educational pioneer, an activist for public health?
As was made abundantly clear by the coverage given to news of his death, Canon Rawnsley had become a legend in his own lifetime. During his life, his boundless energy and enthusiasm, his stamina, both physical and mental, his ability quickly to absorb information, and his fluency in prose and verse had become a byword. Why then was Rawnsley so quickly forgotten after his death? Hardwicke was his own best publicist. In his lifetime, through his stream of letters to the Press, which, at a time when newspapers were more numerous and always anxious for copy, were almost invariably published; his popular books; his pamphlets; sermons and journal articles; his hundreds of sonnets dashed off and published for every occasion, Canon Rawnsley’s name would have been instantly familiar.
Once that stream of published writings dried up with his death, his name faded from public consciousness; a fate also shared by his mentor and inspiration John Ruskin. Other reasons might be adduced. Perhaps he spread himself too widely for people to appreciate his range of achievements. As the country became more secular, democratic and cynical in the aftermath of the First World War, Rawnsley’s theocentric and paternalistic point of view; his class-consciousness, his insistence on patriotism and respect for the Church and Monarchy, simply became unfashionable. Only in the Lake District is Rawnsley’s memory still cherished to this day. As with Ruskin, whose reputation a century after his death is belatedly being restored, perhaps the time has now also come for Hardwicke Rawnsley’s achievements to be accorded the recognition they deserve.
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