Remembered Heroine: Octavia Hill

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Octavia Hill was an English social reformer and pioneer of affordable housing. She led hugely impactful environmental and open space campaigns, co-founding the National Trust, and her legacy can be seen in many of London’s green spaces today.

The eighth daughter of a corn merchant, whose mother opened up the community centre for adult education in the evenings, her upbringing imbued in her a strong sense of social justice. The family moved to the country following her father’s bankruptcy, where Octavia learned her love for nature.

She campaigned against development on existing suburban woodlands, and helped to save London’s Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields from being built on and was the first to use the term ‘Green Belt’ for the area around London.

This episode of In Our Time gives a rich insight into her life and work and is well worth a listen.

Her success with social housing was based on the assumption of personal responsibility by both owners of property and tenants. She encouraged people from all classes to work together towards a healthy society and relied for many years entirely on volunteers.

During her life, she also set up the first Army Cadet Force, worked with William Morris to ensure that the houses she managed were beautiful, and became a talented painter.

Some more on Octavia and three other amazing women as part of this Hidden Herstories series.

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