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‘God's earth will be sacred’: Religion, Theology, and the Open Space Movement in Victorian England



The Victorian open space movement is accounted for variously by nostalgia, progress, and a changed conception of national identity, but explanatory factors are generally understood in secular ways which take little account of the pervasive influence of contemporary Christianity. These explanations overlap with discussions of nineteenth-century leisure which stress its links with secularisation. Christianity however was a significant motivation for some open space campaigners whose theology explained how nature was to uplift those who experienced it. This paper considers the Commons Preservation Society, founded in 1865; the preservation of Epping Forest for recreation between 1865 and 1880; and the forest's management in the 1880s and 1890s. It argues that although histories of the Commons Preservation Society and the Epping Forest campaign describe them in secular, rational terms, many prominent campaigners were motivated by religion, in the sense of orthodox Christianity. Practical religion significantly affected the development of mass recreation for the poor in the forest. Explanations of the open space movement which ignore religion thus seem inadequate.



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1. Hill, Octavia, Octavia Hill's Letters to Fellow-Workers 1872–1911, ed. Whelan, Robert (London, 2005), p. 104.

2. Cited Harrison, Brian, Peaceable Kingdom: Stability and Change in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1982) p. 123; Haweis opened London graveyards for recreation, see Baigent, Elizabeth, ‘Haweis, Hugh Reginald’, in Matthew, H.C.G. and Harrison, B.H., eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford, 2004).

3. Chapter 3 in Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom; Reid, Douglas A., ‘Playing and Praying’ in Daunton, M., ed., The Cambridge Urban History of Britain (Cambridge, 2000), Volume 3, pp. 745807.

4. Cowell, B., ‘The Commons Preservation Society and the Campaign for Berkhamsted Common, 1866–70’, Rural History, 13 (2002), 146; e.g. Wiener, Martin, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit (Cambridge, 1981); Murphy, G., Founders of the National Trust (London, 1987, 2nd edition 2002), preface to 1987 edition; Marsh, Jan, Back to the Land: The Pastoral Impulse in England from 1880 to 1914 (London, 1982); Newby, H., ed. The National Trust: The Next Hundred Years (London, 1995); D. Cannadine ‘The First Hundred Years’, in Newby, National Trust, pp. 11–31.

5. See e.g. Readman, Paul, ‘Preserving the English Landscape, c.1870–1914’, Cultural and Social History 5:2 (2008), 209–10; Howkins, Alun, ‘The Discovery of Rural England’, in Colls, Robert and Dodd, Philip, eds, Englishness, Politics, and Culture, 1880–1920 (London, 1986); Reeder, David, ‘The Social Construction of Green Space in London Prior to the Second World War’, in Clark, Peter, ed., The European City and Green Space: London, Stockholm, Helsinki, and St Petersburg 1850–2000 (Aldershot, 2006) pp. 4167; Matless, David, Landscape and Englishness (London, 1998), especially part 1; Howkins, Alun, ‘What is the Countryside For?Revue française de civilisation britannique, 14: 2, (2007), 167–80; Mandler, Peter, ‘Against “Englishness”: English Culture and the Limits of Rural Nostalgia, 1850–1940’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (6th series) 7 (1997), 155–75.

6. See e.g. Howkins, ‘The Discovery of Rural England’; Howkins, ‘What is the Countryside For?’; Lowenthal, David, ‘Nature and nation: Britain and America in the Nineteenth Century’, History Today, 53:12 (2003), 1825; Readman, Paul A., ‘Landscape Preservation, “advertising disfigurement” and English National Identity, c.1890–1914’, Rural History, 12:1 (2001), 6183; Matless, Landscape and Englishness; Heathorn, Stephen, ‘An English Paradise to Regain? Ebenezer Howard, the Town and Country Planning Association and English Ruralism’, Rural History, 11 (2000), 113–28; Brace, Catherine, ‘Looking Back: The Cotswolds and English National Identity, c.1890–1950’, Journal of Historical Geography, 25:4 (1999), 502–16.; Hall, M., ‘Affirming Community Life: Preservation, National Identity and the State, 1900’, in Miele, C., ed., From William Morris: Building Conservation and the Arts and Crafts Cult of Authenticity, 1877–1939 (London, 2005), pp. 129–57; Robinson, Guy A., ‘A Kind of National Property?’ in Whyte, Ian D. and Winchester, Angus J.L., eds, Society, Landscape and Environment in Upland Britain, Society for Landscape Studies 2 (London, 2004); Smith, A.D., Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity (Oxford, 2003); Cannadine ‘The First Hundred Years’; Smout, Thomas Christopher, ‘The Alien Species in 20th-century Britain: Constructing a New Vermin’, Landscape Research, 28:1 (2003), 1120. Mandler, ‘Against “Englishness”’ provides a critical review. For a German comparison see Lekan, Thomas M., Imagining the Nation in Nature: Landscape Preservation and German Identity 1885–1945 (Cambridge, Mass., 2004).

7. Reardon, Bernard M.G., Religious Thought in the Victorian Age (London, 1995), p. x.

8. Reardon, Religious Thought; Hilton, B., The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1795–1865 (Oxford, 1988); Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, p. 786; Mole, David E.H., ‘The Victorian Town Parish: Rural Vision and Urban Mission’, in Baker, D., ed., The Church in Town and Countryside (Oxford, 1979), pp. 361–71. Parish work was linked to revalorising nature by Octavia Hill (Letters to Fellow-Workers, 1883 letter, pp. 176–7; ‘Open Spaces’, pp, 105–151 in Octavia Hill, Our Common Land and Other Short Essays (1877), p. 140).

9. Offer, Avner, Property and Politics 1870–1914: Landownership, Law, Ideology and Urban Development in England (Cambridge, 1981), p. 346. In H.G. Wells's utopia, for example, leaders were to be spiritually pure and religiously reverent (H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (London, 1905) cited in Offer, Property and Politics, pp. 334–5).

10. Wolffe, John: God and Greater Britain: Religion and National Life in Britain and Ireland 1843–1945 (London, 1994); A.D. Smith, Chosen Peoples; Donald Horne, God is an Englishman (Sydney, 1969).

11. Lefevre, G.J. Shaw, English Commons and Forests: The Story of the Battle for Public Rights (London, 1894), 2nd edition; Eversley, Baron, Commons, Forests, and Footpaths (London, 1910).

12. Letter to Emma Baumgartner, 19th Aug 1860, cited in Darley, Gillian, Octavia Hill (London, 1990), p. 69.

13. Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, pp. 125–6; Bruce, Steve, Religion and Modernization: Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis (Oxford, 1992); Bruce, Steve, Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (Oxford, 1996); Bruce, S., God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford, 2002); Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’; Erdozain, Dominic, The Problem of Pleasure: Sport, Recreation and the Crisis of Victorian Religion (Woodbridge, 2010).

14. Meller, Helen E., Leisure and the Changing City, 1870–1914 (London, 1976), p. 239.

15. Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, p. 1; Harvey, D., Consciousness and the Urban Experience: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanisation (Oxford, 1985), pp. 54–5; Offer, Property and Politics, p. 336; Hale, Piers J., ‘Labor and the Human Relationship with Nature: The Naturalization of Politics in the Work of Thomas Henry Huxley, Herbert George Wells, and William Morris’, Journal of the History of Biology, 36:2 (2003), 249–84.

16. Offer, Property and Politics, p. 335.

17. Offer, Property and Politics, p. 333; Alan Bell, ‘Stephen, Leslie’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Tennyson, G.B., ‘The Sacramental Imagination’, in Knoepflmacher, U.C. and Tennyson, G.B., eds., Nature and the Victorian Imagination (Berkeley, 1977), pp. 370–90. Gould, Peter C., Early Green Politics: Back to Nature, Back to the Land, and Socialism in Britain 1880–1890 (Brighton, 1988), pp. 1819, 21.

18. Gould, Early Green Politics, chapter 2; Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, p. 9.

19. Wolffe, God and Greater Britain, pp. 12, 16; Yeo, S., ‘A New Life: The Religion of Socialism in Britain 1883–1896’, History Workshop Journal, 4 (1977), 556; ‘The nascent “religion of socialism” of the 1880s was thoroughly permeated by the religion of nature’, Offer, Property and Politics, p. 343.

20. Reardon, Religious Thought, pp. 267–8. Darwin experienced the reverse process. Campbell, J.A., ‘Nature, Religion and Emotional Response: A Reconsideration of Darwin's Affective Decline’, Victorian Studies, 18:2 (1974), 159–74.

21. Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’; Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, pp. 123–56; Pickering, William, ‘Religion – A Leisure-Time Pursuit?’, in Martin, David, ed., A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain (London, 1968), pp. 7793. For bicycling as alternative to religion see Offer, Property and Politics, pp. 347–8; Rubenstein, D., ‘Cycling in the 1890s’, Victorian studies 21 (1977), 4771; Wigley, John, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Sunday (Manchester, 1980). For football as an emotional substitute for religion see Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, p. 803 and Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, p. 234.

22. Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, p. 16.

23. Offer, Property and Politics, p. 329.

24. Offer, Property and Politics, p. 344; George, Henry, Progress and Poverty (London, 1879) online edition, no pagination, chapter 43; Gould, Early Green Politics.

25. Brown, C.G., The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularization 1800–2000 (London, 2001); Brown, C.G., Religion and Society in Twentieth–Century Britain (Harlow, 2006); Garnett, Jane, Grimley, Matthew, Haris, Alana, Whyte, William, and Williams, Sarah, eds., Redefining Christian Britain: Post-1945 Perspectives (London, 2006); Davie, Grace, Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford, 1994).

26. Nature as sanctuary in ‘Introduction’, in Knoepflmacher and Tennyson, Nature and the Victorian Imagination, pp. xvi–xxiii. Nature as companion and teacher in Buxton, E.N., Epping Forest (London, 1923), p. 21. Nature as desecrated see e.g. Canon and Mrs Rawnsley cited in Rawnsley, E.F., Canon Rawnsley: An Account of his Life (Glasgow, 1923), p. 239 and James Bryce cited in Ranlett, John, ‘“Checking nature's desecration”: Late-Victorian Environmental Organization’, Victorian Studies, 26 (1983), 197222. Ranlett speaks of nature as ‘revered’, compares campaigners to the Good Samaritan, and cites a contemporary who thinks that nature needs to be ‘saved’ by a ‘deliverer’ (pp. 201, 222, 209). But see, for example, Gould, Early Green Politics, p. 19 for nonreligious use of words such as ‘shrines’, ‘pilgrims’, ‘soul’, and ‘eternal comforter’.

27. Wapulumuka O Mulwafu, ‘The Interface of Christianity and Conservation in Malawi, Colonial, c.1850–1930’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 34:3 (2004), 298319; Sivasundaram, Sujit, Nature and the Godly Empire: Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795–1850 (Cambridge, 2005); Endfield, Georgina H. and Nash, David J., ‘Nature and Society: Missionaries and Morals: Climatic Discourse in Nineteenth-Century Central Southern Africa’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 92:4 (2002), 727–42; Beattie, James and Stenhouse, John, ‘Empire, Environment and Religion: God and the Natural World in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand’, Environment and History 13 (2007), 413–46.

28. For histories of religion in Britain in the nineteenth century which make no mention of connections with the open space movement see e.g. Reardon, Religious Thought; Mcleod, Hugh, Religion and Society in England 1850–1914 (Basingstoke, 1996).

29. Barrett, W. A., Flowers and Festivals, or Directions for the Floral Decoration of Churches (London, 1868).

30. Tennyson, ‘The sacramental imagination’.

31. Vervaecke, Philippe, ‘Les loisirs dominicaux contestés: La Lord's Day Observance Society et le respect du “Sabbath”’, 1831–2006’, Revue française de civilisation britannique 14:2 (2007), 135145; Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, pp. 123–56; Wigley, Victorian Sunday; Seaton, Beverly, The Language of Flowers: A History (London, 1995), pp. 1214; Rawnsley Canon Rawnsley, p. 205.

32. Reardon, Religious Thought; O. Hill, ‘The Kyrle Society’, The Magazine of Art (1880), 210–1.

33. Reardon, Religious Thought; Bebbington, D., Holiness in Nineteenth-Century England (Carlisle, 2000); Bebbington, David, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London, 1989).

34. Smith, M.A., ‘William Pennefeather,’ in Larsen, T., Bebbington, D.W., Noll, Mark A, and Carter, S., eds, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, 2003); Dieter, Melvin E., The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century (Metuchen, N.J., 1996).

35. Smith, Mark, ‘The Mountain and the Flower: The Power and Potential of Nature in the World of Victorian Evangelicalism’, in Clarke, Peter and Claydon, Tony, eds, God's Bounty? The Churches and the Natural World (Woodbridge, 2010). I am grateful to Dr Smith for prepublication access to his essay.

36. A. Atherstone, ‘Frances Ridley Havergal's Theology of Nature’, in Clarke and Claydon, God's Bounty? I am grateful to Dr Atherstone for prepublication access to his essay.

37. Spence, Martin, ‘The “restitution of all things” in Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Premillenialism’, in Clarke, P. and Claydon, T., eds. The Church, the Afterlife and the Fate of the Soul (Woodbridge, 2009) pp. 349–59.

38. Reardon, Religious Thought, pp. 11–12, 154.

39. Gaskell, S.M., ‘Gardens for the Poor’, Victorian Studies 23 (1980) 479501; Harrison, Brian, Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England, 1815–1872 (London, 1971), pp. 320–23; quotation from the Report of the Select Committee on Public Walks, Parliamentary Papers 1833 cited in Tyack, Geoffrey, Sir James Pennethorne and the Making of Victorian London (Cambridge, 1992), p. 88.

40. MacMaster, Neil, ‘The Battle for Mousehold Heath, 1857–1884: “popular politics” and the Victorian Public Park’, Past and Present 127 (1990), 117–54, p. 119; Dreher, Nan, ‘The Virtuous and the Verminous: Turn-of-the-century Moral Panics in London's Public Parks’, Albion 29 (1997), 246–67, p. 253; Reeder, ‘The Social Construction of Green Space’, p. 42.

41. Matheson, Julia, ‘Floricultural Societies and their Shows in the East End of London 1860–1875’, London Gardener 8 (2002–3) 26–33; Gaskell, ‘Gardens for the Poor’; Tyack, Sir James Pennethorne, p. 95.

42. Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, p. 17; Martin Hewitt, ed. Unrespectable Recreations, Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies 4 (2001).

43. Dreher, ‘Virtuous and Verminous’.

44. Walton, John K., ‘Beaches, Bathing and Beauty; Health and Bodily Exposure at the British Seaside from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century’, Revue française de civilisation britannique 14:2 (2007), 117134; John K. Walton, ‘Respectability takes a Holiday: Disreputable Behaviour at the Victorian Seaside’, in Hewitt, Unrespectable Recreations, pp. 176–193.

45. Monacelli, M., ‘Les anglaises et la bicyclette au XIXe siècle: les raisons d'un loisir contesté’, Revue française de civilisation britannique 14:2 (2007), 97115.

46. I am grateful to Brian Harrison for these two points.

47. Lekan, Imagining the Nation in Nature.

48. Baigent, Elizabeth, ‘A “splendid pleasure ground [for] the elevation and refinement of the people of London”: An Historical Geography of Epping Forest 1860–1895’, in Baigent, Elizabeth and Mayhew, R.J. eds., English Geographies 1600–1950: Historical Essays on English Customs, Culture, and Communities in Honour of Jack Langton (Oxford, 2009).

49. Shaw Lefevre, English Commons and Forests; Eversley, Commons, Forests, and Footpaths.

50. For a full account see Baigent, ‘A “splendid pleasure ground”’.

51. Allen Warren, ‘Lefevre, George John Shaw’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Mss at Haddo House, Aberdeenshire support this. I am grateful to Lord Aberdeen for permission to consult these papers. Wilson, F.M.G., A Strong Supporting Cast: the Shaw Lefevres, 1789–1936 (London, 1993).

52. Mill, J. S.Autobiography (London, 1873); Lawrence Goldman, ‘Fawcett, Henry’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Adrian Desmond, ‘Huxley, Thomas Henry’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Joseph Hamburger, ‘Grote, George’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

53. Members of both the Commons Preservation Society and the Cobden Club included George Shaw Lefevre, Edward North Buxton, Henry Fawcett, and Thomas Henry Farrer. A.C. Howe, ‘The Cobden Club’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Other Commons Preservation Society free traders included Thomas Hughes (Charlotte Mitchell, ‘Hughes, Thomas’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); Andrew Johnston (The Times, 18th April 1910); George Burney (G. Burney, Epping Forest to be Saved without a Corn Tax! (Milwall, 1872); Robert Hunter (H. Rawnsley, ‘A National Benefactor – Sir Robert Hunter’, Cornhill Magazine (February 1914, 230–39); and Octavia Hill, ‘The Future of our Commons’, pp. 175–206 in Hill, Our Common Land, pp. 181–2). For the link between open space and free trade in Epping Forest in particular see Buxton, Epping Forest 1923 edition, p. 15.

54. Mill's interest in land reform is well known. Lefevre, G.J. Shaw; The Game Laws (London, 1874); Lefevre, G.J. Shaw, English and Irish Land Questions: Collected Essays (2nd edition London, 1881).

55. Shaw Lefevre, English and Irish Land Questions, p. 70; Cowell, ‘Berkhamstead Common’, p. 158; Quotation from Offer, Property and Politics, p. 339.

56. David Robertson, ‘Mid Victorians amongst the Alps’, in Knoepflmacher and Tennyson, Nature and the Victorian Imagination, pp. 113–136. Members of both the Commons Preservation Society and Alpine Club included James Bryce, Edward North Buxton, and Leslie Stephen. C. Harvie, ‘Bryce, James’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Buxton, Edward North’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

57. L.W. Chubb and G. Murphy, ‘Hunter, Robert’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; G. Avery, ‘Lawrence, Penelope’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Murphy, Founders of the National Trust, pp. 22, 32–5, 118.

58. Hunter, Robert, ‘The Movements for the Inclosure and Preservation of Open Lands’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 60, 2 (1897), 403.

59. Commons Preservation Society: Report of Proceedings 1868–9 (London, 1869). I am grateful to Worcester College, Oxford, for permission to consult this source. Charlotte Mitchell, ‘Hughes, Thomas’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Wigley, The Victorian Sunday; J.M. Ludlow, ‘Thomas Hughes and Septimus Harding’, Economic Review, July 1896; Peter T. Marsh, ‘Tait, Archibald Campbell’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; J.M. Rigg and Hugh Mooney, ‘Pollock, Sir Charles Edward’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; M. Hewitt, ‘Hole, James’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; A.F. Pollard and H.C.G. Matthew, ‘Temple, William Francis Cowper’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

60. Ranlett, ‘“Checking Nature's Desecration”’, pp. 197–222 for interests of early environmentalists. Religion is mentioned only in connection with Sabbatarianism (p. 207).

61. Hill's Commons Preservation Society work related largely to lands in Kent and Surrey rather than Epping Forest, even though she had briefly lived at Loughton in the forest. Gillian Darley, personal communication, 2003, and Octavia Hill, pp. 27–8. Hill's Letters to Fellow Workers contain numerous references to open space campaigns in Kent and Surrey.

62. Maurice, F.D., The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice: Chiefly told in his own Letters, Maurice, F., ed. (2 volumes, London, 1884), volume 2, p. 137 cited in Reardon, Religious Thought, p. 150.

63. Hill, Letters to Fellow-Workers.

64. ‘The Future of our Commons’, pp. 179, 191–2; Octavia Hill, ‘The Kyrle Society’, The Magazine of Art (1880), 210–12.

65. ‘Open Spaces’, pp. 110–11 (originally a lecture to the National Health Society in 1877).

66. ‘Open Spaces’, pp. 105–51.

67. ‘The Future of our Commons’, pp. 205–6.

68. ‘Effectual Charity’, p. 173 and cf. Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 168.

69. Mowat, C.L., The Charity Organisation Society 1863–1913: Its Ideas and Work (London, 1961).

70. ‘A Word on Good Citizenship’, pp. 88–104, in Hill, Our Common Land, p. 94.

71. ‘A Word on Good Citizenship’.

72. Hill, Our Common Land, p. 2, cited in Offer, Property and Politics, pp. 346–7.

73. Cited in Meller, Leisure and the Changing City, pp. 141, 118, 151. Canon Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust, was the first chaplain to this mission in his youth. G. Murphy, ‘Rawnsely, Hardwick Drummond’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

74. Buxton, G., ‘The Late Mr. E. N. Buxton and the Preservation and Restoration of Three Essex Forests’, The Essex Naturalist 21:1 (1924), p. 14.

75. Hale, ‘Labor and the Human Relationship with Nature’, pp. 257–69.

76. Shaw Lefevre, English Commons and Forests; Eversley, Commons, Forests, and Footpaths; and see Peek, H.W. and Maidlow, J. M., eds, Six Essays on Commons Preservation: Written in Competition for Prizes (London, 1867). Thompson, E.P., Customs in Common (London, 1991) and Taylor, Antony, ‘“Commons-stealers”, “land-grabbers” and “jerry-builders”: Space, Popular Radicalism and the Politics of Public Access in London, 1848–1880’, International Review of Social History, 40:3 (1995), 383408 are the only real exceptions and neither is well informed. See full discussion in Baigent, ‘A “splendid pleasure ground”’.

77. For suicides see e.g. ‘Dreadful Occurrence in Epping Forest’, Jackson's Oxford Journal (26th August 1837); ‘The Mysterious Tragedy in Epping Forest — Inquest’, The Morning Chronicle (21st December 1858). For murders see e.g. ‘Confession of the Murder of a Woman in Epping Forest’, The Caledonian Mercury (17th July 1863); ‘The Epping Forest Murder — Examination of the Prisoner’, The Illustrated Police News (22nd June 1878). For gypsies see e.g. ‘The “gypsies” of Epping Forest’, Daily News (27th August 1874). For prostitution see e.g. ‘The Epping Forest Commission’, Daily News (11th November 1875).

78. Miss Minnie Roberts cited in Green, Georgina, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids: Memories of Epping Forest 1900–1925 (Woodford Bridge, 1987), p. 57. Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, p. 762.

79. ‘The Epping Forest Commission’, Daily News (11th November 1875).

80. Coller, D.W., The People's History of Essex (Chelmsford, 1861), pp. 486–7.

81. Loughton vestry minutes, 1st April 1875, cited in Thompson, P., ‘The Willingales of Loughton’, Essex Naturalist 21 (1926), p. 159.

82. ‘Epping Forest’, Daily News (12th February 1872); ‘Epping Forest’, Daily News (15th July 1873); ‘Epping Forest’, Daily News (12th February 1872); ‘Mr. Lowe on Epping Forest’, Daily News (28th September 1872); ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (8th July 1871); ‘The Preservation of Epping Forest’, The Times (12th February 1872); ‘Epping Forest’, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (19th November 1871); Bedford, J.T., The Story of the Preservation of Epping Forest (London, 1882); ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (3rd August 1869).

83. Reardon, Religious Thought, p. 21.

84. See e.g. ‘The Encroachments on Epping Forest’, Reynolds's Newspaper (29th October 1871); Baigent, ‘“A splendid pleasure ground”’, for the campaign as a populist, not a class, battle.

85. See e.g. Letters from Reverend A. F. Russell, The Times (11th and 24th November 1884).

86. At Mousehold Heath, poor commoners fought for their common rights, which benefitted them materially whilst having deleterious aesthetic effects, but were defeated by the corporation, its middle class supporters, the church, and the Commons Preservation Society, and the common became a park. MacMaster, ‘Mousehold Heath’.

87. For commons protests with greater spontaneous working class involvement see Allen, Robert, ‘The Battle for Plumstead Common’, South London Record 1 (1985), 1620; Allen, Robert, ‘The Battle for the Commons: Politics and Populism in mid-Victorian Kentish London’, Social History 22 (1997) 6177; MacMaster, ‘Mousehold Heath’. Taylor, ‘“Commons-stealers”’ argues otherwise for Epping Forest but contains several serious errors of fact. See Joyce, P., Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class 1848–1914 (Cambridge, 1991) for populism.

88. The Commons Preservation Society needed local commoners in order to mount legal challenges to enclosure, but its relationship with locals could be problematic, as at Mousehold Heath (MacMaster, ‘Mousehold Heath’) where their aims were quite different, and at Epping Forest where sharp words between local and national preservationists were exchanged in the press after the battle was won; see Baigent, ‘“A splendid pleasure ground”’ for recriminations.

89. Buxton, Fowell ‘gave much thought to church affairs on the practical side’, in Russell, G. W. E., Lady Victoria Buxton: A Memoir, with some Account of her Husband (London, 1919), p. 114; Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, p. 796 for ‘practical Christianity’ as a stimulus to Christian social work.

90. Morgan, G., The History of Fifty Years Work of the Abbey Street Sunday Schools, Bethnal Green (Bethnal Green, 1890), pp. 9, 10, available at, consulted 22nd April 2010; The Times (31st July 1866).

91. Letter of 17th January 1834 cited in Buxton, C., Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, Baronet, with Selections from his Correspondence (London, 1848), p. 361.

92. Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 24. Edward North Buxton (1894–1957) was grandson to the Edward North who was active in the Commons Preservation Society and, like him, was verderer of the forest. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage (London, various edns).

93. Russell, Lady Victoria Buxton, p. 115.

94. Howell, P.A., ‘Varieties of Vice-Regal Life with Special Reference to the Constitutional Role of the Governors of South Australia, 1890–1927’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, 3 (1977), 1548; Peter Howell, personal communication, 29th June 2000; E. Baigent, ‘Buxton, Sir Thomas Fowell’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

95. Both brothers were fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and Edward North was a knowledgeable natural historian. Baigent, ‘Buxton, Edward North’; Buxton, ‘The Late Mr E. N. Buxton’, pp. 12–14; James R. Ryan, ‘Photography, Geography, and Empire 1840–1914’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of London, 1994), pp. 144–5; Howell, ‘Varieties of Vice-Regal Life’, p. 27. Edward North Buxton aimed to stop indiscriminate slaughter of game, rather than to stop hunting completely.

96. Russell, Lady Victoria Buxton, p. 114.

97. Russell, Lady Victoria Buxton, p. 114. The breadth of their evangelicalism is shown by Fowell Buxton's refurbishing of the Lady Chapel at Waltham Abbey and the building of St Thomas's Church, Upshire, near Warlies, in 1901–2. Both projects exhibited an artistic discernment unusual amongst evangelicals. James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner, Essex, Buildings of England, p. 801; Daniel Wackett, personal communication, 18th September 2009. He also commissioned a crucifix (Howell, ‘Varieties of Vice-Regal Life’, p. 27). The donated land was at Oak Hill, Theydon Bois, and Yardley Hill, Sewardstone. Baigent, ‘Buxton, Edward North’.

98. ‘The Epping Forest Fund’, Daily News (1st February 1877).

99. E. Baigent, ‘Brady, Sir Antonio’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; George, W.H., Sir Antonio Brady (1811–1881): Civil Servant, Fossil Collector, and Philanthropist of West Ham, Essex (Barking, 1999); A. Brady, ‘The humble. . .address and petition of the inhabitants of the East End of London, in public meeting assembled, on Wanstead Flats 8th July 1871’ (Stratford, 1871).

100. Taylor, Brandon, Art for the Nation: Exhibitions and the London Public 1747–2001 (Manchester, 1999).

101. Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, p. 140.

102. ‘The Saving of Epping Forest – The Late John T. Bedford’, City Press 3rd March 1900; biography of the Bedford family, typescript, Corporation of London Records Office. I am grateful to Dr Anita McConnell for these two sources. Bedford, The Preservation of Epping Forest.

103. Hawkins, Henry, London's Great Legacy: Epping Forest described by Pen and Camera (London, n.d. 1895?), pp. 16 and 127.

104. Offer, Property and Politics, chapter 20; Murphy, Founders of the National Trust; Cannadine, ‘The First Hundred Years’; Ranlett, ‘“Checking nature's desecration”’.

105. Baigent, ‘“A splendid pleasure ground’”.

106. Brace, Catherine, ‘A Pleasure Ground for the Noisy Herds? Incompatible Encounters with the Cotswolds and England 1900–1950’, Rural History 11:1 (2000), 7594; Howkins, ‘What is the Countryside For?’

107. Offer, Property and Politics, p. 348.

108. Murphy, Founders of the National Trust, p. 105.

109. Matless, Landscape and Englishness, pp. 62, 68; Jones, G. Stedman ‘Cockney and the Nation 1780–1988’, in Feldman, D. and Jones, G. Stedman, eds, Metropolis London: Histories and Representations since 1800 (London, 1989), pp. 272324.

110. For descriptions of East Enders in Epping Forest see Morrison, Arthur, To London Town (London, 1899). Morrison was familiar with the East End and latterly lived in the forest at Loughton. I am grateful to Richard Dennis for this reference.

111. Holland, Henry Scott, A Bundle of Memories (London, 1915), pp. 241–2, 246–7, cited in Offer, Property and Politics, pp. 348–9.

112. Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 7.

113. Hunter, Robert, The Epping Forest Act 1878, with an Introduction, Notes, and Index by R. Hunter (London, 1878).

114. ‘Epping Forest E. N. Buxton’ The Times (3rd February 1883).

115. ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (12th February 1881).

116. ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (14th February 1881); ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (25th November 1881).

117. ‘The Epping Forest Railway’, The Times (12th March 1883).

118. ‘The Epping Forest Railway Bill. House of Commons, Monday, March 12, Division Railway defeated’, The Times (14th March 1883).

119. ‘Epping Forest and the Great Eastern Railway’, Daily News (29th December 1880).

120. Epping Forest, (preface to 1923 edition).

121. Russell, Lady Victoria Buxton, p. 115. Baigent, ‘Buxton, Sir (Thomas) Fowell’.

122. Owen, David, English Philanthropy 1600–1960 (Cambridge, Mass., 1965), p. 387 cited in Whelan, ‘Preface’ to Hill, Letters to Fellow-Workers, p. xxvii.

123. Cited in Darley, Octavia Hill, pp. 172–3.

124. Hill, ‘Our Common Land’, pp. 2–4.

125. ‘Epping Forest and the Great Eastern Railway’, Daily News (29th December 1880).

126. E.B. Aveling, National Reformer (27th July 1879), cited in Gould, Early Green Politics, p. 19.

127. ‘Epping Forest’, The Times (22nd February 1881).

128. National Parks and the Heritage of Scenery (London, 1930), pp. 24–5; Cornish did not dispense with God altogether, unlike many other nature mystics, but his was not an orthodox Christian God (Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 86).

129. Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, p. 127.

130. His grandfather Fowell Buxton the elder's support for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ‘did not intrude upon his game-shooting’ (Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, p. 148). Morrison, London Town, p. 32 describes a particularly cruel way of poaching deer in the forest.

131. Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, p. 149.

132. Mrs Minnie Roberts, cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 35. Cf. Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom, p. 149.

133. Peaceable Kingdom, p. 155

134. For example, boys’ clubs, mothers’ meetings. Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, pp. 797–8.

135. Walton, ‘Respectability takes a Holiday’, p. 177.

136. Shiman, Lilian L., ‘The Band of Hope Movement: Respectable Recreation for Working-Class Children’, Victorian Studies, 17 (1973), 4974. Morrison, To London Town, mentions informal groups of costermongers and an organised party of engineers and shipwrights as examples of non church ‘beanfeasters’, the former drinking at a pub (pp. 10–11).

137. Mrs Minnie Roberts cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 67; Ward, Bernard, The Retreats of Epping Forest (Loughton, 1978).

138. Mrs A.E. Martin cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 21; Shiman, ‘Band of Hope’.

139. Ward, Retreats of Epping Forest, p. 11.

140. Darley, Octavia Hill, p. 175.

141. Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, pp. 54–5.

142. Mrs Constance Haggar cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, pp. 20–1.

143. Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’, pp. 746–7.

144. Ward, Retreats of Epping Forest.

145. Mrs Minnie Roberts cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, p. 65.

146. Sidney Riggs cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, pp. 21–2.

147. ‘Cripples in Epping Forest’, Daily News (25th August 1899).

148. Ward, Retreats, p. 4.

149. Sidney Riggs cited in Green, Keepers, Cockneys, and Kitchen Maids, pp. 21–2.

150. My italics. She uses the phrase frequently e.g. ‘Open Spaces’, pp. 108, 114.

151. For example, public meeting in Shoreditch Town Hall (‘The Preservation of Epping Forest’, Daily News (10th December 1874)).

152. For Kyrle Society artistic work which seems to have been free from religious motivation see Elizabeth Crawford, ‘Wilkinson, Fanny Rollo’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and R.M. Mitchell, ‘Barrington, Emilie Isabel’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. For Kyrle social work which was religiously motivated see Krista Cowman, ‘Beavan, Margaret’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Anne Anderson and Elizabeth Darling, ‘The Hill Sisters: Cultural Philanthropy and the Embellishment of Lives in Late Nineteenth-Century England’, pp. 33– 50 in Elizabeth Darling and Lesley Whitworth, eds, Women and the Making of Built Space in England 1870–1950 (Aldershot, 2007) give a feminist and secular interpretation of the society. Octavia Hill, ‘The Kyrle Society’, The Magazine of Art (1880), 210.

153. Rawnsley, ‘A National Benefactor’, p. 239.

154. Rawnsley, Canon Rawnsley; G. Murphy, ‘Rawnsley, Hardwicke Drummond’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

155. Crossthwaite Parish Magazine cited in Rawnsley, Canon Rawnsley, p. 58, and see p. 184.

156. It was said of the younger Fowell Buxton's faith that, ‘Though of the Evangelical type, it had a character of its own’ (Russell, Lady Victoria Buxton, p. 116); Spence, ‘The “restitution of all things”’.

157. Mandler, ‘Against “Englishness”’, and Gould, Early Green Politics.

158. Some more radical contemporary theology would, however, dispute that satisfaction entails a right relationship with all of creation.

159. Mervyn Stockwood, cited in Garnett et al., Redefining Christian Britain, p. 99.

160. Hill.

161. Hill condemns the Quakers’ sale of Bunhill Fields burial ground for building, and praises the Church of England's opening of inner city graveyards for recreation (‘Open Spaces’).

162. Bettany, Frederick George, Stewart Headlam: A Biography (London, 1926), pp. 213, 37–8; Orens, John Richard, Stewart Headlam's Radical Anglicanism: The Mass, the Masses, and the Music Hall (Urbana, Ill., 2003); Headlam, Stewart D., Fabianism and Land Values: A Lecture Given to the Fabian Society 23 Oct 1908 (London, 1908). His interest in nature was primarily in radical land questions inspired by Henry George, when he again went against his class.

163. Hobson, J.A., ‘The Influence of Henry George in England’, Fortnightly Review, 68 (1897), 836–42, pp. 841–2 cited in Offer, Property and Politics, p. 197.

164. One would expect to find fewer nonconformists than Anglicans given the religious allegiance of the population as a whole, and given the over representation of Anglicans in the elite who dominated the early National Trust and Commons Preservation Society. None the less, there are even fewer nonconformists than one would expect. There are none at all for example amongst the founders of the Trust and the committee of the Commons Preservation Society reviewed for this paper. The early National Trust, Commons Preservation Society, and other preservation societies kept membership dues high to encourage the right sort of person, and sometimes actively discouraged the support of ordinary people. Readman, ‘Preserving the English Landscape’, pp. 199–200; Cowell, ‘Berkhamstead Common’, p. 148.

165. The labouring Willingale family also opposed enclosure but by deeds, not words (Thompson, ‘The Willingales of Loughton’). The elder Willingale and Maynard appeared together in just one reported public meeting about the forest (‘Excursion of the Epping Forest Preservation Society to Loughton’, Daily News, 20th September 1867).

166. Mandler, ‘Against “Englishness”’, p. 171; Offer, Property and Politics, p. 349; Matless, Landscape and Englishness, p. 68; Morrison, To London Town, p. 5.

167. See e.g. Tyack, Sir James Pennethorne, ch. 3.

168. Lady Bell (Florence E.E. Bell), At the Works: a Study of a Manufacturing Town (London, 1907), p. 126, cited in Offer, Property and Politics, p. 349.

169. Masterman, Charles F.G., The Condition of England (London, 1909), p. 203, cited in Offer, Property and Politics, p. 349.

170. Canon Rawnsley, cited in Rawnsley, Canon Rawnsley, p. 65.

171. ‘The “Gypsies” of Epping Forest’, Daily News (27th August 1874).

172. Letter to The Times (7th April 1882).

173. Sörlin, Sverker and Warde, Paul, ‘The Problem of the Problem of Environmental History: A Re-reading of the Field’, Environmental History 12 (2007), 107130; Hornborg, A., McNeill, J., and Martinez-Alier, J., Rethinking Environmental History (Lanham MD, 2007); Cooper, Timothy, ‘The Politics of Environmental History’, Journal of Historical Geography 36 (2010), 349–52.

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Rural History
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