Octavia Hill was a remarkable woman. The founder of the National Trust, she sowed the seeds for social housing and is one of the forebears of Occupational Therapy. Her legacy stretches into housing, heritage, the natural world, education, the family and the home, volunteering and social reform. In her day, such figures as Henrietta Barnett (the founder of Toynbee Hall), Emma Cons (the Old Vic) and Florence Nightingale all worked with and were influenced by Octavia.
Without her, open spaces like Parliament Hill and much of the Lake District would have been developed; it is down to her that 19th century slums became the orderly housing of areas like Marylebone and Southwark. Today, however, remarkably few have heard of her, even as they enjoy the parks she saved and tread the streets to which she gave a future.
Octavia’s diverse interests were all part of a wider aim of providing as many people as possible with the chance to lead a fulfilled life. Leading figures working in these areas today will discuss how Octavia’s work sheds light on the challenges they face. The collection will reanimate the connections that Octavia made, revealing a more composite picture of the public realm and uncovering links between different areas of social and political activity that have often been forgotten.
The essay will be edited and introduced by Samuel Jones (Demos Associate). It is illustrated by Quentin Blake. Authors include: