The encouragement and promotion of education was at the core of Hardwicke’s adult life and was at the heart of all his interests and campaigns.  Conservation, of landscape, buildings, traditional skills, and the natural environment could only thrive if individuals had learned how to appreciate, understand, and nurture the world about them.  The need to improve and develop educational systems throughout the country, through both academic and vocational training, had been a central tenet of his philosophy from his earliest adulthood and was one which he was never to abandon.

Conservation and education were for Hardwicke Rawnsley indissolubly linked.  Those who had the benefit of the right kind of education would be better disposed to respect and conserve God's gifts.  Both would bring the individual closer to God, while at the same time instilling in him or her a love of country and a strengthening of patriotism. 

Edward Thring and John Ruskin had been Hardwicke's role models in his youth, and he remained loyal to their educational precepts and philosophies all his life.  He believed not just in education for life, but in life-long education.  Vocational and academic training for all classes of society and for all ages was not to be confined within a strict classroom timetable.  It should be an ongoing and continuous process from birth to death.  If this ideal could be achieved, such training would not only provide spiritual enrichment, but would also reduce the incidence of social evils, and make the world a happier place.  Summing up Thring's concept of education, Hardwicke wrote of his old headmaster that he had preached:

Education means training for life; life, not lessons, is what has to be dealt with, or lessons only so far as they inspirit life, enrich it, and give it new powers.  Education worth the name means training everyone; racing stables and a crack runner or two will not do.1

Hardwicke had taken an interest in education from his earliest days as a lay preacher in Soho, when he had made use of the cookery lessons given to young girls an opportunity for inculcating basic practical mathematics, requiring the girls to calculate the cost of the ingredients for the lesson and then sending them to the shops to buy the necessary items.  At a later date, while in charge of the Clifton College Mission in Bristol, Rawnsley built on this early experience, making it a part of his duty as Curate to assist not just the children, but also their parents, in the acquisition of new ideas and new skills for life.

From the Rawnsleys’ earliest days at Wray, and in later years at Crosthwaite, Hardwicke went out of his way to organise classes and educational activities for all ages, inviting outside speakers, and himself giving lectures on a wide variety of subjects ranging from healthcare and hygiene, to alcohol abuse, caring for the elderly, archaeological excavations in Egypt, the art and architecture of Italy, and the Passion Play at Oberammergau.

Technical education for adults was not neglected, particularly with the foundation of the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, his greatest achievement in this field, an institution which would continue to bear testimony to his inspiration for many years after his death.   

The Educational Value of Nature

Education was an essential means of teaching all ages, but particularly children, to look at the natural world around them with new eyes.  Eleanor Rawnsley records that while still an undergraduate at Balliol, Hardwicke had written:

If ever it were my lot to teach children or to manage a national school, I would interest them in the things of nature daily around them, and this because it would lighten their hours of toil and make them go down happy to their graves.2

Hardwicke never tired of telling his hearers that one of the most memorable tasks set by Edward Thring for his pupils was to send them out of doors to look around them and then write a poem or essay on ‘To-day’.  Thring made it clear that he did not want just simple descriptions of the grass, trees or sky; what he wanted the boys to do was to note the movement of the clouds, the gradations of colour, the differences between morning and evening, the seasonal variations, what animals or insects were doing at different times of the day, and so on.  Nature was never static but always changing, and behind all was the mind of the Creator.  Until the educational authorities accepted this approach, they were like unto the blind leading the blind.  ‘Cram and jam’ education, as Hardwicke described the teaching methods used in most schools, was failing the country. 

But for nature to teach our hearts and minds we must first learn to see.  Hardwicke often quoted the students of the Keswick School of Industrial Arts as examples of what such training of the eye could enable individuals to achieve, and he gave much thought as to how to put into practice Ruskin’s dictum that ‘the two most helpful bits of work that a man can do for his time is first to get people to observe carefully, and then encourage them to describe accurately what they have seen’. 

At Crosthwaite, Hardwicke established the first garden school in Cumberland which, equipped with a barometer and a beehive, was used to teach the children not only about plants and insects but how to keep records and accounts. 

In 1897 Hardwicke initiated at Keswick High School the creation of an allotment for the boys to cultivate.  The land was cleared, trenches dug, fencing installed and vegetables and flowers were grown, and later offered for sale.  At the end of the first year a local nurseryman was asked to give a written assessment of the year's work.  He gave the venture a very favourable report, and noted that the money raised by selling the produce more than covered the initial outlay on seeds etc.  The aim of the exercise was to stimulate an interest in horticulture in the pupils, some of whom might later wish to make a career in gardening, or at the least to put their experience to good use as a practical and productive hobby.

A further initiative for which Hardwicke was responsible was the introduction in Cumberland of a ‘Bird and Tree Day’.  This scheme, borrowed from America, had first been introduced into England in 1902 with the support of the Society for the Protection of Birds, of which Hardwicke was an active member.  The idea behind the scheme, which perfectly reflected Rawnsley's beliefs in the observation and recording of nature as a fundamental tool of education, was to involve school children in observing tree and bird life throughout the seasons, and at the end of the year to record their findings in the form of an essay.  Competition between schools took place on a county level, and the individual counties competed for a national prize. 

Over the years Hardwicke campaigned that the three core skills of reading, writing and arithmetic should be augmented with a fourth ‘R’, that of reverence for flora, fauna and the physical landscape.

First the children, then the adults.  Canon Rawnsley was the first President of the Cumberland Nature Club, formed in 1904 for ‘promoting and fostering a knowledge and love of nature by organised rambles and excursions, lectures and discussions, classes for systematic study and interchange of ideas, notes, books, extracts, specimens, etc.’.  The inaugural meeting was held in the Crosthwaite Parish Room with Hardwicke’s presidential address being on the subject of ‘The Educational Value of Nature’. 

Two other educational organisations enthusiastically endorsed by Hardwicke were the National Home Reading Union, of which he became a Vice-President, and the Co-operative Holidays Association. 


When it became clear in 1895 that there would be funding available for a new secondary school in Keswick the Trustees had to decide what type of school was required.  One of the provisos laid down by the Hewetson Bequest which was earmarked for such a school, was that girls should be admitted ‘on an equality in all respects with boys’. 

Co-education, today the norm, was in the 1890's a most radical idea.  Rawnsley’s reasons for advocating co-education for Keswick are not far to seek.  Here again he seems to have been influenced by his own experiences at Uppingham under Edward Thring.  Thring had wanted Uppingham, though a boys' school, to feel as homelike as possible for the pupils, with small houses, where the wives and daughters of the housemasters mingled with the boys and were actively involved in the life of the School.  Hardwicke was certainly unhappy with the concept of single-sex education, which he described as the 'barrack-room system'.  His experience was that it was not natural to separate the sexes, and he felt that the presence of females humanised the boys.   

By no means all the Trustees were in favour of the experiment, but Hardwicke's powers of persuasion eventually won the day, and the trustees agreed to the construction of a co-educational secondary school for Keswick, funded from the Hewetson Bequest.

The new school was formally opened on 16 September 1898.  The new Keswick High School started with fifty pupils on roll, still with certain elements of segregation such as separate entrances and cloakrooms for boys and girls, and separate playgrounds.  In most other respects, however, the girls and boys mingled freely and were taught together. 

Undeterred by critics, Hardwicke now became a national champion for co-education, speaking and writing about its merits, and lauding the successful example of Keswick School. 

Cumberland Education Authority

Hardwicke may well have thought he had shaken the dust of the Cumberland County Council from his feet following his election defeat in 1895, but the County Council had not finished with him.  The Balfour Education Act of 1902 brought to the Statute Book sweeping changes to the educational systems in England and Wales.  School Boards were abolished and replaced by Local Education Authorities which then became the responsibility of the County Councils.  The Act empowered each Education Authority to co-opt up to seven individuals from outside the membership of the County Council, and in early 1903 Cumberland Education Authority unsurprisingly, given his track record in education, recommended that Canon Rawnsley be co-opted as a member.  He was immediately offered the Chairmanship of the committee dealing with secondary schools and higher education. 

During Rawnsley's period of service with the new Education Authority, six new secondary schools were opened in Cumberland and many of the older schools refurbished.  As would be expected, Hardwicke was particularly keen on technical education and oversaw the design and construction of Workington Technical College, which opened in the autumn of 1912 with places for 300 students. 

Another vocational institution dear to Hardwicke's heart was the Newton Rigg Farm School, a natural development of the migratory dairy school which he and others had pioneered in the early 1890s.  In 1896 the Cumberland County Council had taken a lease on Newton Rigg Farm, which it purchased outright the following year.  The original intention was that the farm should serve the needs of the sons and daughters of local farmers, offering courses in dairy and cheese-making for girls in the summer months and general agricultural instruction for men and boys each winter.  The farm was run on a commercial basis and not just as a teaching establishment.  During its first year of operation Newton Rigg Farm School had eight students, two staff, a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, but from these modest beginnings, having established links with the University of Durham, the School continued to flourish, eventually in 1969 becoming the National College of Forestry at Supervisory Level, and in 2007 was transferred from the University of Central Lancashire to the University of Cumbria.  It is now part of Askham Bryan College, a specialist land-based institution.

Hardwicke’s growing reputation as an educationalist was reflected in requests to join the Boards of Trustees of various schools.  In due course he was to become a Governor of Penrith Grammar School, and later a Governor of Carlisle Girls’ High School, in addition to the governorships which he already held.

In 1917, following his retirement from Crosthwaite to Grasmere in the neighbouring county, Hardwicke added to his workload in the field of education by accepting a position on Westmorland Education Authority, while at the same time continuing with his previous educational responsibilities in Cumberland.

Secondary Schools Association

With the increasing politicisation and centralisation of educational decision-making it became apparent that any group interested in education would perforce need an entrée to the Board of Education, where decisions on the day-to-day running of schools were made.  This became clear in the summer of 1907 when the Board of Education issued a set of regulations affecting secondary schools.  Whilst teachers and others in the teaching profession had their own Associations, it soon became evident that governors of secondary schools did not have a forum and, therefore, had no collective means of making representation to the Government on educational matters.

In a bid to rectify this situation, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland and others called a meeting on 22 October 1907 at the Westminster Palace Hotel in London to consider ‘the safeguarding of the interests of secondary education, in view of certain of the new regulations of the Education Department’.   

It was agreed that an Association was needed to act as ‘watchdog’ to ensure that any regulatory changes to education did not pass into law unnoticed, and that the views of school governors on any proposals should be given consideration.  A small executive committee, with Hardwicke as secretary, was appointed to prepare a Constitution for the proposed Association.  At a meeting on 28 January 1908 it was agreed to form a Secondary Schools Association for England which would promote exchange of information between governors, and enable them to act jointly with the Board of Education, local authorities and other educational organisations to protect the interests of secondary schools.  Hardwicke was appointed Hon. Secretary, a position he was to hold for twelve years until his death. 

With the passing of time, Hardwicke Rawnsley’s contribution to the furtherance of education in this country, especially in the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, has been largely forgotten.  His achievements as a conservationist have overshadowed his work in education, and, as a result, that aspect of his life has not received the attention it deserves.  His range of educational interests was certainly catholic; from the promotion of vital vocational skills as demonstrated by the foundation of the Keswick School of Industrial Arts; to the various nature study projects which he established; to the administrative roles in education which he took on at local and national level and finally, to his practical involvement in the day-to-day running of various schools; elementary, secondary and tertiary, as a governor.  His leadership of the Carlisle Juvenile Welfare Association was another example of his lifelong interest in the promotion of training schemes for both boys and girls.  Neither should it be forgotten that he actively promoted institutions such as the St. John Ambulance, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Cadet Corps, and the Territorials, all of which he viewed as equipping individuals with new skills in which to better themselves and their country. 


1 Rawnsley, Hardwicke Drummond, Edward Thring, Teacher and Poet, p. 24.

2 Rawnsley, Eleanor, Canon Rawnsley: An Account of His Life, p. 155.

 Next: Expanding Horizons (1896-1899)