On 13 August the Church remembers Octavia Hill who died on this day in 1912. She was born in Wisbech – the eighth and last of her father’s children. Her great work was to tackle slum dwellings and transform them into decent homes. She was one of founders of the National Trust, which preserves so much of our natural heritage. This heritage helps to define who we and where we are. It helps to meet the need for re-enchantment in what sometimes seem to be a soulless world.
Octavia Hill said The need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise, and the sight of the sky and things growing are common to all. Footpaths, she said are one of the common inheritances to which English citizens are born. She determined that each of her tenants should have at one day in the country every year, and every house a vase of flowers if not a window box. Her main concern was to establish better housing. She called one of her housing developments Paradise Place. She rejoiced when the children of Paradise Place returned from a country outing with such treasures as feathers and leaves and clovers. She was an agent for change. People sometimes resist change. They are like the caterpillar who said to another caterpillar as they looked at a butterfly: You’ll never get me into one of those! She was concerned not just with living conditions, important as they are, but with home life, education and training as a path to wellbeing. She believed in small-scale personal enterprise in preference to vast bureaucracies. It is up to each of us to do what we can even if it is just contributing food to a food bank or making a donation.