Noel Rawnsley had volunteered for the army and was assigned to the staff of Sir Alfred Keogh, Director General of Army Medical Services, being sent to Belgium to work with the Red Cross. In a letter to Noel’s wife, Violet, Edith wrote, ‘how thankful I am & you must be too I am sure – that he has gone to help & succour to heal & comfort & not to fight’.

Hardwicke himself was infected with the war hysteria which swept the country immediately war was declared. He warned in one early letter to the Press of the danger of Germans, resident in England, acting as spies. He recounted an incident of an individual being shot for attempting to poison water supplies. Hardwicke also thought that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’. He very quickly changed his mind. He foresaw that the army would need ten times more than the 100,000 men currently being called for as recruits and considered that every unmarried man between the ages of 19 and 30, and capable of holding a rifle, should volunteer immediately. If enough volunteers were not forthcoming, the Government would be justified in introducing conscription. From the earliest days of the conflict, Rawnsley pointed out at every opportunity that this was a war that Britain could not afford to lose.

As a Residentiary Canon at the Cathedral Hardwicke spent most of the remainder of 1914 in Carlisle. The city, with a population of around 50,000, rapidly became a major transport hub for servicemen and women, and, as a recruiting centre for several regiments, was teeming with army personnel. Within the space of eighteen months, with the construction of a large Munitions factory at Gretna just outside Carlisle, the city was transformed into a bustling military town, adding an extra 20,000 to the resident population. At a gathering on 11 August 1914, attended by local politicians and businessmen, it was agreed that a League of Carlisle Citizens should be formed, whose members would make themselves available to assist the authorities in any way required. The Carlisle Citizens League rapidly became a hub for co-ordinating the numerous initiatives needed to support the war effort. Its varied responsibilities ranged from helping with the recruitment of volunteers; the organisation of housing for workers and service personnel; greeting and assistance for troops passing through the town; ensuring adequate medical provision, and fund-raising among other activities. Hardwicke was a key member of the League and much of his war-work was in connection with its activities.

With his considerable experience and expertise in fund-raising for the National Trust and other organizations, Hardwicke was the ideal person to stir the consciences of members of the public into contributing to the war effort. In the first month of the war he was already appealing to the ladies of Carlisle to meet the troop trains and to offer refreshments and ‘a welcoming smile’ to the soldiers. Thereafter, in a generous match-funding offer, Hardwicke and Edith offered £50 towards a motor ambulance from Carlisle if seven similar donations were to be promised, and he announced that he would arrange free transport to London for any cars donated to support the war effort. Offers were quickly forthcoming, and within two weeks funds for the purchase of two motor-ambulances had been raised, and three cars had been donated. On Hardwicke’s initiative, appeals for comforts such as clothing and food for the troops abroad were made on a regular basis. He also raised funds for causes being promoted by others; among them the proposal by Mrs. Edward Moul to establish ambulance buffets behind the Front, for wounded soldiers awaiting transport home.

The outbreak of war did not curtail Hardwicke’s continuing involvement with education. On 10 December 1914 he gave an address on ‘The Importance of Education’ at the Penrith Grammar School Speech Day. Comparing the educational systems in England and Germany, he voiced a warning on German militarism, and the hatred of the English which for the past thirty years had been nurtured in the German education system. German children, Hardwicke declared, were taught to believe in facts; never to question the decisions of the State; that Might was Right, and that war was a civilising agency. In some respects, he acknowledged, German children might be more knowledgeable, but in others, they lagged behind their British counterparts. The Teutonic education system, he considered, stifled individuality of character, with a resulting loss of any sense of initiative. By contrast, he maintained, students in England were taught to think for themselves, but to achieve this end, subjects such as Latin, nature-study, history and literature should be at the core of the curriculum.

Throughout 1915 Hardwicke continued to address school meetings; Crosthwaite Sunday School in January, Aberdeen Girls’ School and Keswick School in July, and Workington College in December, among others. In all these addresses he emphasised the lessons to be learned from the war. Germany had become pagan, had lost its faith in Christ and instead worshipped at the altar of force, power and world domination. England had a lesson to learn from Germany in its determination to work and not to shirk.

Riggside Farm had been purchased some years previously as part of the acquisition of Grange Fell by Hardwicke Rawnsley and Stanwell Birkett, with the intention of offering it in due course to the National Trust. After the money had been raised to enable the Trust to purchase the Fell, the Trust decided that they were only interested in acquiring the land, without the farm and farm-buildings. Mr. Birkett did not want to keep his share in the farm, so the Rawnsleys took over entire ownership in order to prevent its purchase by speculators. The rental from the farm was to be used to fund a university scholarship to the value of £50 for a pupil of Keswick High School. Any surplus income would provide bursaries to cover the entrance fees for students attending Teacher Training College, or for younger pupils unable to compete for the ordinary entrance scholarship. The Rawnsleys also stipulated that the student awarded the University Scholarship should be required, once he or she was in employment, to give an undertaking to repay some of the grant, so that other pupils of the school might benefit in future. A further stipulation was that a clause be inserted in the title deeds to the effect that the only new buildings permitted on the land should be those required either in connection with the farm and dwelling house already in situ, or for educational purposes. The Rawnsleys at the same time offered to pay for a School Roll of Honour at the end of the war.

Whether addressing York Convocation, his congregations at Crosthwaite or Carlisle Cathedral, or the numerous meetings at which he was asked to speak, Hardwicke made the most of every opportunity to reiterate the perils facing the country. He fervently believed that the Clergy should do more to remind their hearers of the reason why the war was being fought, and why it was essential that all classes should unite, in solidarity with those serving in the armed forces, in their endeavour to win the war. He was as critical of those who advocated an early peace at any price, as he was of those who were still prepared, despite their country being at war, to down tools and come out on strike on any flimsy pretext.

Fund-raising for the many social demands occasioned by the war continued: food and comforts for those serving abroad; help for those at home struggling to survive; provision for the countless refugees displaced by the conflict; and for the innumerable charities of all kinds constantly in need of money. Hardwicke canvassed tirelessly not only for the funds which he himself directed, including the purchase of an ambulance for Carlisle Council, but also promoted the efforts of other organisations such as the Carlisle YMCA, of which he was President, in their effort to raise funds to provide quiet huts and mobile hot motor baths for troops at the Front.

Hardwicke continued to bombard the Press with letters on a wide range of subjects, ranging from the distress caused to pheasants in various counties by the sound of gunfire from ships in the North Sea, to warnings that meat supplies were at risk because farmers were profiteering by sending calves and lambs for slaughter when they should be conserving stocks. He urged people to eat less meat and instead to consume more oatmeal porridge and vegetables. As the price of coal rose steeply he advocated the use of alternative fuels such as peat. His advice on the best way to make sandbags was disseminated, and he supported the supply of free non-alcoholic beverages to munitions workers.

In the summer of 1915, The European War 1914-1915 Poems, the last volume of poetry which Hardwicke was to publish, was dedicated to ‘The Soldiers and Sailors of the Allied Forces who are fighting in the greatest war the world has ever known and to the Memory of those who have fallen’. The volume contains nearly 150 poems, approximately one for every day of the war to date; following a roughly chronological order. War aroused his intense patriotism, and he saw heroes everywhere he looked. Essentially the book is an historical account of the war to date, in which is celebrated the bravery of ordinary citizens as well as soldiers. As in his many letters to the Press, the faith and hope inspired by Christ in these terrible events shines forth.

By now Edith’s health, which had been in decline for several years, was giving cause for major concern, and the Rawnsleys began to plan for retirement. In August 1915 they purchased Allan Bank, a substantial property above Grasmere, with 100 acres of park, woodland and pasture. In addition to the wonderful views of the lake and its surroundings, the house had a particular attraction for Hardwicke since William Wordsworth had lived there with his family from 1808 to 1811.

The Rawnsleys continued to be concerned about the welfare of their only son Noel. After a few months working with the Red Cross in Belgium Noel had transferred to the Royal Engineers Signal Corps and in March 1915 was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. They knew that Noel had been involved in the notorious Battle of Loos in late September, in which gas had been used for the first time. Unknown to Noel, Hardwicke went up to London to discuss with the Speaker of the House of Commons and Colonel Gerald Rawnsley the possibility of Noel being transferred back to England. The Rawnsleys were worried that their daughter-in-law, Violet, with four young children, was finding life very difficult without the support of her husband. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nothing came of this meeting, since Noel remained with his unit until he succumbed to pleurisy and was invalided home, having spent the best part of three years in the field.

The war placed restrictions on travel, but nonetheless Hardwicke somehow contrived to get about the country, giving talks on educational matters. During 1916, among other engagements, he spoke in Liverpool, Kirkby Stephen, Uppingham, Lancaster and London, and at many of these meetings he urged the need for major changes to the country’s educational system. He vigorously opposed the suggestion that young children should be given less schoolwork in order that they might be free to help on the farms. No blanket approval should be given for such a scheme, with every case being considered on its merits. In meetings of the Cumberland Education Committee he argued strongly against proposals from the Cumberland War Agricultural Committee that older children, from the age of 13, should be free to work on the farms. He also argued that it would be wrong for Cumberland to reduce the number of scholarships, in order to put the money to other uses in support of the war. Such short-term thinking would, he maintained, have long-term negative consequences.

He was supportive of providing loans to students in secondary schools whose parents could not afford to send them to university, such loans to be repaid when the students entered the workforce. He proposed that individuals and families should, as a fitting memorial to their loved ones killed in the war, consider endowing the un-endowed secondary schools with scholarships, to make it possible for poor students to attend university.

In addition to funding university scholarships, Hardwicke suggested the idea of gifts of land to the National Trust in memory of the fallen. This suggestion evidently met with approval, since several sites were quickly offered as war memorials, which after acquisition Hardwicke made a point of visiting. Among properties acquired by the Trust in this way was Thurstaston Heath, Birkenhead, given by Sir Alfred Paton and friends in memory of Sir Alfred’s brother, Captain Morton Brown Paton, killed in action on 7 August 1915 at Helles, in Turkey.

The Government had established a Liquor Control Board to ensure that excessive drinking did not disrupt the war-effort. The nationalisation of the brewing industry was begun in Carlisle in 1916, to coincide with the new ammunition factory coming into operation at Gretna. The Board nationalised the pubs in Gretna, took over four breweries and the licensed premises in Carlisle; reduced opening hours; controlled the issue of liquor licences, and opened new outlets serving food and non-alcoholic drinks only; to which they encouraged men to take their families. Over half the pubs were promptly closed, with the remainder brought under state control. These draconian measures were warmly welcomed by Hardwicke who attended the official opening of the new premises whenever possible and was often asked to speak at the ceremonies.

Back at Crosthwaite, Hardwicke continued his time-consuming appeals and letters to the Press on a multiplicity of subjects. Among the topics which engaged his attention were clothing and bandages for the wounded; the patriotic duty to purchase war loans; and the necessity of economising on clothing – at one meeting he proudly announced that he had not bought any new clothes since the outbreak of war and that he would not be doing so until peace was achieved. To ensure that there would be enough meat for everyone at affordable prices he suggested that every Carlisle citizen should have one meatless day a week.

The strain of her duties was telling on Edith’s frail health, and more than once she confided to Willingham Rawnsley how much she was looking forward to retirement and moving to Allan Bank. Failing health notwithstanding, Edith carried out her duties as before, while continuing to support Hardwicke in all his endeavours. Fund-raising activities were organised. An exhibition of paintings by local women artists, Edith Rawnsley among them, mounted in October 1916 at the Rawnsleys official residence in the Abbey at Carlisle and opened by Lady Carlisle, raised over £90 for the war effort. Noel, Violet and their granddaughter, Una, visited Hardwicke and Edith in early December. In company with other ladies, Edith arranged a sale of handmade clothes and toys which made over £130, with young Una, aged only 12, singlehandedly taking charge of a stall. The Rawnsleys plan was to stay at Crosthwaite overnight on the 24th for the Christmas service, dine with the Speddings on Christmas Day, and return to the Cathedral in the afternoon in time for the carols. In the New Year they intended once again to be back in Crosthwaite. In a letter to Eleanor Simpson, Edith lamented that when she and Hardwicke had dined with a Miss Leighton on the evening of 15 December, the house had been very cold.

Whether as a result of that evening’s experience or not, Edith reported to Eleanor on 21 December that Hardwicke was in bed with influenza and a high temperature, even though the previous day he had seemed fine and attended several meetings. He had been ordered to stay in bed for a week, and all plans for Christmas had been shelved. In addition to nursing Hardwicke and keeping up her regular duties, Edith attended two services on Christmas Day. She then herself became seriously ill, and five days later Hardwicke, in a brief note to Canon Farrar, wrote: ‘My wife is in a very precarious position. I fear the worst, but I pray she may be allowed to pull thro’.

Hardwicke’s prayer was sadly not answered, and Edith died on New Year’s Eve, less than a week after being taken ill. According to Una, Edith ‘died alone with servants attending her’. She was 70 years of age. Noel registered his mother’s death on 2 January 1917, the cause being given as influenza and cardiac failure. Her body was taken to St. Kentigern’s Church, Crosthwaite, the same day. The funeral was held at Crosthwaite on 3 January. Hardwicke was too ill to attend. By Edith’s own wish there were no wreaths and no traditional muffling of the church bells. Mourners were asked simply to carry a single flower or a sprig of evergreen.

A Runic cross of Honister slate, similar to those which Edith herself had designed, was later sculpted to mark her grave, bearing the inscription: ‘Edith Rawnsley, a humble follower of Christ, a lover of the good, the beautiful, the true, entered the fuller life, 31 December, 1916’. Too little has been written about Edith’s outstanding talents, and the part she played in Hardwicke’s success in his many fields of activity. She was the rock on which his life was built. With his mercurial temperament, and prone as he was to depression and self-doubt, it was Edith’s firm common sense and tolerance which on countless occasions brought Hardwicke back from the brink of breakdown and restored his self-esteem. At moments of personal crisis, it was Edith who, understanding his weaknesses but having great faith in his abilities, encouraged her husband to continue with his chosen mission.

In the Parish Magazine for February 1917 Hardwicke announced his retirement, informing his parishioners that he and Mrs. Rawnsley had planned in any case to move to Allan Bank at Easter. Her death had made him realise that he was incapable of fulfilling both his parish and public work without his wife by his side. On 11 April, the Wednesday after Easter, presentations were made to commemorate the Rawnsleys’ association with Crosthwaite and Keswick. The various speakers outlined all the contributions that Hardwicke had made to parish life. The improvements and changes to the fabric of the church – a new vestry and baptistry, the installation of heating and electric light, and most recently, the re-hanging of the bells. Canon Rawnsley had been ‘the first to promote that useful institution the parish nurse, and they all knew what a great boon that had been to both rich and poor alike’. His work in connection with Fitz Park, Keswick School, the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, and education in general, were passed in review and he was congratulated for his support for church unity, and for all the other causes which he had espoused with such enthusiasm and devotion.

Hardwicke had requested that the only memento of his years in Crosthwaite should be a book with the autographs of all his friends, with a piece of silver from the Keswick School of Industrial Arts in memory of Edith. But in the event he was over-ruled and was presented with three silver steeple cups, a silver-gilt cup, and a silver tray, the latter in Edith’s memory. In thanking everyone for their presence and their gifts, he said that he was consoled by the thought of all the friendship which had been shown to him, and he freely acknowledged that he could not have done all that he did without Edith’s ‘constant endeavour and help in the background’. He preached his last sermon as Vicar of Crosthwaite on the first Sunday after Easter, on the topic of ‘Right Thinking’, and as a final farewell gesture, wrote a poem for inclusion in the next Parish magazine, ending:

I shall come back to rest
In your God’s acre blest,
Of all churchyards pre-eminently fair.

The institution and induction of the new Vicar, the Revd. W. E. Bradley, took place on 6 June, almost thirty-fours years to the day after Hardwicke’s own induction to St. Kentigern.

Before leaving Crosthwaite, Hardwicke gave a lecture in Keswick on ‘Reverence for Natural Beauty’, published in The Parents’ Review the following year. In the lecture he detailed his philosophy on the protection of the countryside and the reasons for respecting the environment. God has made the world beautiful in ‘order that men may be led by it themselves to beauty of life and reverence for that King in His beauty Whom we all desire to see in the land which is very far off’. He made it clear that knowledge and pursuit of such beauty is a religious duty: ‘God could just as well have made the world ugly, but He chose not to do so, and his reason for not doing so was to reveal His Will’. The study of nature brings together the many strands which were important to his own understanding of God. Education is at the core of this learning about the beauty of God’s gift and children must be taught from an early age that nature brings the beauty of God’s Will to life. External ugliness in the form of immoral literature, horror films, advertising boards, pollution of rivers, litter and so forth, disfigure this beauty. An ugly country is not one which will breed heroes willing to fight and fall for their homeland. True patriots who love their land will only be bred if they live and learn in a country where they are taught to understand the nature of what God has given them.

The idyllic surroundings of Allan Bank soon began to work their healing magic. He was delighted during May, while sitting in his study listening to the birds, to hear a new sound, the call of a great spotted woodpecker, which he thought might have arrived from Russia or Siberia. He watched with delight as a nest was made and youngsters hatched. His new home, with its literary associations with Wordsworth and others, and its location in a beautiful situation overlooking Grasmere, was the perfect environment for him to recover from illness and bereavement, and to take stock of his new life. He was surrounded by old friends, not least among them the Simpsons, his nearest neighbours, at The Wray. Since they were frequent visitors to each other’s houses it was not long before Hardwicke had a gate installed in the wall between the two properties to facilitate communication between them.

Hardwicke, released from his duties as a parish priest, now had more time available to devote to his work for the National Trust. Nothing could have given him more satisfaction than the announcement in February 1917 of the acquisition of nearly 8,000 acres of Exmoor. Not only was this the largest gift ever made to the Trust, but the ground-breaking agreement through which the gift was made acted as a blueprint for the transfer of land and property to the guardianship of the Trust in the future. Sir Charles Thomas Dyke Acland, 12th Baronet of Killerton, who owned the land had agreed to lease it to the Trust for 500 years. The Aclands would continue to receive rents and profits, but even though the Trust would not actually own the property, the agreement would ensure that the land was saved for the nation.

Now slowly regaining his strength, Hardwicke, in addition to his work for the National Trust, resumed his many educational and fund-raising activities. On behalf of Charlotte Mason, he visited the schools in the Bradford area which had adopted her teaching methods, reporting back to her on their progress. He drew attention to the plight of English prisoners-of-war being sent by the Germans to the Russian Front. At a Newcastle hospital he opened an exhibition of handicrafts made by wounded soldiers.

In spite of his own conviction that it was the duty of every man to serve his country, and the encouragement which he had personally given to young men to volunteer, Hardwicke nonetheless felt strongly that it was wrong to treat bona-fide conscientious objectors as criminals. He was, therefore, a signatory to a memorial from the Church of England Peace League asking the Government to put a stop to the practice of consecutive prison sentences for those sincere pacifists who refused to undertake military service. Retirement from Crosthwaite notwithstanding, Hardwicke kept up many of his other ecclesiastical responsibilities; continuing to attend York Convocation as well as carrying out his duties as a Residentiary Canon of Carlisle Cathedral. For the Convocation he acted as Convenor of the Committee set up to investigate and report on the care of ancient churches. The scope of his interests and concerns remained as wide as ever. In November he addressed the annual meeting of the Cumberland Nursing Association in Carlisle, reminding those present that the rate of infant mortality was still unacceptably high and urging that something should be done to reduce it.

In their 1917-1918 annual report, the National Trust listed Peace Howe, a viewpoint overlooking Derwentwater near Grange in Borrowdale, as land they now owned in the Lake District. This tranquil hillside pasture above the village had been bought by Hardwicke and offered to the Trust soon after the outbreak of war, in anticipation of the eventual peace, as a memorial to local men who had served in the war. He envisaged it as a place of rest and quiet reflection for those who had been affected by the hostilities. A slate seat, still in place today, is inscribed: ‘This property was presented to the National Trust by Canon Rawnsley, in 1917’.

Hardwicke had little time for jingoism or for those who wanted Germany to be humiliated. Victory meant that all had to work for peace, and nothing would be gained by laying all the blame at the door of the enemy. Conciliation should be the watchword, and everyone must pull together to ensure that those men on both sides, who died in action, have not died in vain.

1917 was indeed a bleak year for Hardwicke. He had suffered a devastating personal loss with the death of his wife. He had given up some of his clerical responsibilities and moved away from Crosthwaite, for so many years his home. No longer a young man, at a time when the nation was still in the grip of war, he faced an uncertain future.

 Next: Second Marriage, and the End of the War (1918-1919)