Sometimes you come across an historical figure and wonder why their life's work isn't that well known. It seems puzzling that for all of their amazing contributions they get little recognition among the public for the difference they made to people's lives in their time and our lives today.
One such person is Octavia Hill who died 100 years ago today (13 August 2012). Social reformer, environmental campaigner and founder of the National Trust she has been confined to the pages of history and hasn't shared the Victorian limelight with figures such as Charles Dickens or Florence Nightingale.
If Hello magazine had existed in Victorian Britain then Octavia Hill would have featured fairly frequently. She had a pretty good contact book and was friends with Beatrix Potter, George Elliot and moved in the circles of the arts and crafts movement.
Now is the time to re-imagine the remarkable things that she achieved and her enduring relevance to the challenges we face in the 21st century.
Her life has such a rich and varied legacy. Living and working in the east end of London (she was born in Cambridgeshire in 1838) defined Octavia Hill as a person. Working with children who had little or no education and few chances in life combined with seeing the conditions that people lived in set her on a lifetime path of social reform.
In some way we've all been touched by her campaigning zeal and passion. Countless organisations and professions can trace their family trees back to Octavia Hill. Modern day social work has a direct link to Octavia Hill's work, she is credited with creating the first ever playground and she had a thirst for lifelong learning.
Octavia Hill championed the 'environment' at the height of the industrial revolution when our towns and cities were expanding rapidly. For her the environment was the link between where we live and the way we live: about everything from the quality of our housing to access to green spaces.
She saw, way ahead of her time, the links between people and places, between our life chances and quality of life. The idea of 'leisure' was still a very middle class concept for people working 15 hour days and Octavia Hill saw the value of green spaces as places to take time out and spend time with family and friends. She joined other campaigners in defending and saving green places in and around London as the city grew at an enormous speed.
Octavia Hill is also the godmother of social housing. Her vision of a better way of doing things for the workers who lived in cramped and overcrowded housing with Dickensian landlords created the movement that led to the Housing Associations that survive today. She wanted rights and responsibilities for her tenants treating them fairly and re-investing money in the properties. Octavia Housing, which has 4,000 properties in west London, can trace its roots back to Octavia Hill's first ever property, acquired with money from the art critic John Ruskin.
Another of Octavia Hill's valuable legacies is her vital role in setting up the National Trust. A unique organisation created by three visionaries to protect places of historic interest and natural beauty it has flourished and grown steadily since the 1890s; showing our national love of special places, from breathtaking countryside to the architectural gems of our built heritage.
Historian Tristram Hunt has called Octavia Hill Britain's 'greatest ever social entrepreneur'. Her strength is the diversity of her ventures, the antithesis of silo working, seeing the links between people and their environment. She had fingers in many pies with a broad and varied vision, tirelessly campaigning for what she passionately believed in.
Octavia Hill has many lessons for modern life. In an age of soul searching about what makes us happy and how we need to live within our means the lessons of Octavia Hill's story show that it's the simple things that we need to get right and valuing the people and places helps us to find fulfilment.
Octavia is on BBC R4 at 8pm on Monday 13 August or catch up with the programme on BBC i-player http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lswvg
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