Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley

Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, who was one of ten children, was born on 29 September 1851 near Henley. He was a great activist and his name is linked with many aspects of Cumbrian life. He became vicar of Wray Church, which is on the west shore of Lake Windermere near Ambleside in 1877. It was here that he became friendly with Beatrix Potter and it was he who encouraged her to publish her first book called The Tale of Peter Rabbit. A version of Peter Rabbit with pictures by Beatrix Potter and verse by Hardwicke Rawnsley is available at The Armitt Museum in Ambleside.

However, he is probably best known as one of the founders of the National Trust, of which he was it’s secretary until his death in 1920. Many Lake District properties were acquired after the establishment of the Trust. Beatrix Potter, who also fell in love with the unspoilt beauty of the Lakes became a major Trust benefactor. In 1883 held the living at Crosthwaite Church in Keswick and became a canon of Carlisle Cathedral.

He was a great traveller, historian and writer and he used these talents to campaign against any development which he considered harmful to the Lake District. He was influenced by John Ruskin, with whom he had become friendly whilst in Oxford. He also established the Lake District Defence Society, which today is known as The Friends of the Lake District.

In 1890 he was appointed chairman of the newly appointed trustees of Dove Cottage in Grasmere. It was due to the efforts of Canon Rawnsley, together with his creation of the National Trust, that much of Borrowdale was preserved from development. On his death, Lords Island, Calf Close Bay and Friar’s Crag were given to the National Trust as his memorial. He is buried in Crosthwaite churchyard. A small booklet is available in the church, which gives more detail about the life of this wonderful man and the things he campaigned for.

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