I waited keenly for this biography, the first since Rawnsley's wife, Eleanor, published an appreciation of her husband's life. Publication was delayed as the publisher unfortunately pulled out. However, the final book, published by the writers, is probably better than expected. It is filled with photographs and is a detailed and erudite tome.
The talk was really interesting, Rosalind Rawnsley gave some insights into the Rawnsley family, including her father's stories about his grandfather. It was fascinating.
Rawnsley is remembered today as a co-founder of the National Trust, and this was an amazing achievement, but there were so many other accomplishments too: the Right to Roam, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, and the protected heritage of buildings and landscape that we take for granted today.
Hardwicke Rawnsley was a conservationist, Rosalind Rawnsley speculates that he was maybe the first conservationist. Rawnsley's hero Wordsworth was definitely a preservationist.
Rawnsley devoted his life to improving the plight of the less fortunate, recognising the benefits which workers in polluted towns and cities would gain from access to the countryside. He used his prodigious energy and powers of persuasion to ensure that access to nature remained open to all. Taking his inspiration from Wordsworth he battled to prevent the spoiliation of Lakeland.
Rawnsley was the mentor of Beatrix Potter and encouraged her to publish her first book -The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
In its obituary notice, The Times wrote that "It is no exaggeration to say – and it is much to say of anyone – that England would be a much duller and less healthy and happy country if (Rawnsley) had not lived and worked."