The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Many of you know that as well as being involved with the church I am also a volunteer with the National Trust as a room Steward at Uppark in West Sussex, having just completed my 13th season there, and currently as Chairman of the National Trust Portsmouth and District Centre. So often activities clash even in retirement but for once church and National Trust happily came together with a formal invitation, from Simon Jenkins, the Chairman and Dame Fiona Reynolds the retiring Director General of the Trust for me to attend Westminster Abbey on October 22nd 2012 for a service to dedicate a memorial to Octavia Hill and to give thanks for the work of the National Trust.

Octavia Hill (1838-1912) was a social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust with Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley in 1895, and it is thanks to her that coast, countryside and wonderful properties can be enjoyed for ever by everyone. She felt everyone’s life should be enriched by beauty, a theme very much reflected in the magnificent floral displays within the Abbey. She pioneered hands on housing management in London thus improving slum areas, and the provision of open spaces and taking arts to the poor helped health and welfare. The creation of the social housing movement is attributed to Octavia Hill and the housing association staff were well represented amongst the congregation, together with people from every area of National Trust work.

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster and we all sang the hymns O Worship the King, Teach me my God and King and Let all the world in every corner sing. I was well placed towards the front of the south transept to hear and see most of the addresses. Simon Jenkins read from Space for the People by Octavia Hill which emphasised the need for beauty to refresh our souls, that God made the world beautiful for us to live in, and the health benefits and joy of open spaces could bring peace to over crowded over excited daily lives. One of the testimonies was given by Julia Bradbury the well known broadcaster who spoke passionately about her love for the countryside as the winner of the People’s Champion Octavia Hill Award 2012. Dame Fiona Reynolds praised the work done by Octavia Hill and concluded by thanking in particular the 67,000 National Trust Volunteers.

Octavia Hill was one of only three women invited in her own right to Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Service at Westminster Abbey in 1887 so how fitting 100 years after her death that a memorial should be dedicated to her in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year at the same Abbey. The memorial itself is a simple circular beautifully crafted engraved stone laid in the nave floor, in quite a prominent position for tourists to see towards the west end. We were all able to view the memorial on our way out as the Abbey bells rang out through the damp air outside. The National Trust flag fluttered proudly atop the Abbey but was only just visible through low cloud.

It was a great privilege to be there at the Abbey on the day. And yes amongst the hundreds of people I did manage to spot and speak with Fr Mike Sheffield before the service started as he began his week as Duty Chaplain at Westminster Abbey.

Linda Wainwright

The National Trust Portsmouth and District Centre meet at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Discovery Centre, Edinburgh Road, Portsmouth on the 2nd Thursday of every month (except August) at 7.30pm for lectures and also arrange outings, walks, meals and holidays etc. It is for existing National Trust members - further details from Linda Wainwright. This article will also appear in the centre newsletter.

Christmas Edition 2012

Octavia Hill remembered