National Trust of England Established (1895)

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was incorporated on January 12, 1895.  It has become the largest and most influential preservation organization in England, in a sense the British equivalent of the U.S. National Park Service.  According to the Trust’s 2015-2016 annual report, the trust protects 775 miles of coastline, 248,000 hectares of land (1.5% of the entire land surface of England), more than 500 properties (structures and nature preserves), and nearly 1 million catalogued historical artifacts.  The Trust’s properties hosted more than 22 million visits during the year.

The National Trust owes its existence to the efforts of Octavia Hill, a pioneering social reformer of the late Nineteenth Century.  Hill came from a family of advocates for the poor, and she followed in their footsteps.  On behalf of fellow reformer John Ruskin, she managed a set of broken-down tenements in what is now the Marylebone section of London, where she rented to poor women and also provided them with job training, actual jobs and cultural exposure.  By the 1870s, she housed and watched over the social development of 3,000 tenants.

But she also realized that the poor needed parks and open spaces.  Actually, she understood that everyone needed such spaces, and that they were fast disappearing as London developed.  She reasoned that “a few acres where the hill top enables the Londoner to rise above the smoke, to feel a refreshing air for a little time and to see the sun setting in coloured glory which abounds so in the Earth God made” was a tonic for the harried life of the salesperson as well as the foundry or textile worker.  And she particularly abhorred the reality that city parks were becoming increasingly gated, available only to those who could afford to live around their perimeters.  One of her first projects was to stop a portion of Hampstead Heath, the renowned London park, from being developed.

Ken Wood, an area of Special Scientific Interest in Hampstead Heath, London (photo by Dudley Miles)

So, together with colleagues Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, she organized the National Trust as a public charity.  The trust’s purpose was to “promote the permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest.”  Anyone who has visited a park or country estate in England owes much to the passion and persistence of Olivia Hill.

References:

National Trust.  2016.  National Trust annual report 2015/2016.  Available at:  http://www.nationaltrustannualreport.org.uk/. Accessed January 11, 2017.

YMCA George Williams College.  Octavia Hill, housing and social reform.  Available at:  http://infed.org/mobi/octavia-hill-housing-and-social-reform/.  Accessed January 11, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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