Open Spaces
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Open Spaces


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20 pages

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Octavia Hill (1838–1912) was an English social reformer who concentrated on the welfare of city dwellers. Hill was a co-founder of the National Trust, as well as the Charity Organisation Society (now known as Family Action), which pioneered the home-visiting service that provided the basis for modern social work in the U. K. One of her main beliefs was that urban workers should have ample open spaces to enjoy and relax in, and she campaigned vehemently against destroying urban woodlands. In her 1877 essay “Open Spaces”, Hill argues for the protection of green spaces and against the destroying of existing green, open spaces in London, including Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields—spots that remain open spaces to this day thanks to her efforts. Read & Co. Great Essays is republishing this classic essay now complete with the excerpt “The Open Space Movement” by Charles Edmund Maurice.



Publié par
Date de parution 14 août 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781528790659
Langue English

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First published in 1877

Copyright © 2020 Read & Co. Great Essays
This edition is published by Read & Co. Great Essays, an imprint of Read & Co.
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". . . So sing ho for the open spaces,
And aesthetes with kindly ways."
— H. P. Lovecraft, Arcadia

By Charles Ed mund Maurice
By Octavia Hill

By Charles Edmund Maurice
The period recorded in the following letters ( Life of Octavia Hill as Told in Her Letters, 1913) marks the inauguration of a movement, which Octavia considered almost as important as that housing work with which her name is especially connected—the movement for the preservation of open spaces. It will be remembered that, in her first efforts to deal with tenement houses, she had been particularly anxious to secure a house with a garden; and, failing that , she had devoted a large part of her energies to laying out a playground, and brightening it by May Festivals, in which efforts she had the hearty co-operation of Mr. Ruskin, who sent his own gardener to plan t the trees.
It was natural, therefore, that she should desire to keep open all outlets for her poor friends in Marylebone, which would enable them to enjoy the fresh air and o pen country.
Hence she became considerably alarmed, when she heard, in 1873, that some difficulties, which had hindered the destruction of the fields near the Swiss Cottage, had been removed; and that building plans were in preparation. The fields were dear to her, not only as the nearest country outlet for the Marylebone poor; but also as recalling her childhood, when they formed part of a wide stretch of open country where she and her sisters had played. She at once threw herself into the promotion of a scheme for saving these fields from the builder, and securing them as a recreation ground for the public. She enlisted the sympathy of Dean Stanley, Mr. Haweis and other well-known Londoners in the movement; while Mr. Edward Bond and Mr. C. L. Lewes and other Hampstead residents tried to stave off the encroachments of the builders from Hampstead. But the agent, who had the building scheme in hand, when he found that the purchase money was likely to be raised, succeeded in throwing such difficulties in the way, that the scheme was defeated; and Fitzjohn’s Avenue rose upon the ruins of the memories and hopes, which I hav e described.
About the same time Octavia’s attention was called to the attempt of some members of the Society of Friends to build over the Bunhill Fields burial ground; an attempt obviously dangerous to health, and shocking to the feelings of many whose friends and relations were buried in the ground. Again, after a struggle, Octavia was defeated in her attempt to save the whole of the ground.
These defeats convinced her of the desirability of rousing public opinion to the need of open space and fresh air for the poor; and it was while she was considering this matter that her sister Miranda read, to the pupils at Nottingham Place, a paper on the need of bringing beauty home to the people. This was a scheme, first, for decorating clubs and hospitals and other institutions used by the poor; secondly, for bringing first-class music within their reach; and, lastly, for preserving disused burial grounds and other open spaces. Octavia was so much impressed with her sister’s suggestions that she persuaded Miranda to read her paper again before a meeting of the National Health Society. How much the movement was in advance of the public opinion of that time was shown by more than o ne incident.
Even on the very occasion when Miranda read her paper to the National Health Society a pause followed the reading; and then a lady started up, and tried to turn away discussion from the subject of the paper by introducing a reference to some new invention, which she considered much more important to health than the securing of open spaces could be.

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