Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters/Chapter 9

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Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters by Charles Edmund Maurice
Appointment by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

CHAPTER IX

1881—1889

Appointment by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners

This period of return to work was marked by many very welcome successes. The consent of Ruskin to the legal transfer of his houses in Paradise Place to Octavia, and the purchase by Mr. Shaen of Freshwater Place were proofs of the stability of her plans.

From 1883 to 1889 lasted the great movement for rescuing Parliament Hill and the neighbouring land from the builder, and adding it to Hampstead Heath; and many other victories in the open space struggle were also achieved at this time.

But perhaps the most remarkable change in Octavia’s position, as a worker, was her appointment by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to manage a great part of their property in Southwark. She was asked to attend a meeting of that body. They wished to learn if she would buy some old courts belonging to them. This, she said, was impossible. Then they asked if she would take a lease of these same houses; and, when she declined to do so, they asked if she would undertake the management. This she consented to do; and the Commissioners were so much impressed with the capable business-like character of her remarks, and with her subsequent management, that they afterwards extended the territory under her care.

It should be noted, in this connection, that this position gave her the first opportunity of planning cottages, while Red Cross Hall and Garden gave further occasion for her development of entertainments and outdoor-life for the poor. It is in this period also that her links with foreign workers were extended. Some housing work had begun in Paris, at an earlier time; and the translation by H.R.H. Princess Alice of Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/469 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/470 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/471 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/472 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/473 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/474 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/475 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/476 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/477 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/478 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/479 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/480 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/481 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/482
Life of Octavia Hill - Southwark.jpg

Southwark.
Red Cross Cottages and Garden. Opened June 1887.

Hotel Bellevue, Wäggis,

May 24th, 1885.

To her Mother.

I am much interested in the Spectator cutting, tho' I believe myself that the strain of living in the worst places would be too trying yet to educated people; it would diminish their strength, and so their usefulness; The reform must be, I believe, more gradual. The newspapers go in for such extremes, from utter separation to living in a court! I should urge the spending of many hours weekly there, as achieving most just now, because it is less suicidal than the other course, and more natural.

Hotel Lukmanner, Ilanz, Grisons,

June 7th, 1885.

To her Mother.

Dissentis seems to me a very old-world place. A dear old lady keeps the inn, which is very comfortable; but one seems nearer the life of the people here than where modern hotels have invaded. . . . How striking to me is the character of every separate house in these valleys. Something, of course, is due to the varieties of the ground, but much, too, I cannot help seeing, to the fact that the houses belong to the inhabitants. I wonder if we shall live to see a larger number of English owners? I doubt it. It seems to me that the impediments come by no means mainly from the landlords. Of course they would cling, especially in towns, to possession where value is rising, but I doubt the tenants caring to buy much for occupation. They, like the landlords, like to buy houses rising in value, with an idea of letting or selling; but few, I fancy, desire to bind themselves to one spot and way of life. They like the freedom and the change of hiring. Even young married people, who, as a class, settle in with most sense of attachment to place and things, expect to move to another neighbourhood if work changes, or to a larger house if it prospers. Perhaps it is partly the great cost of living, and the fact that rent has to be paid. But one rarely sees in English towns a house lived in by a family for generations, the large families filling from cellar to attic, and the small ones using the best rooms mainly. One fancies a small family should like a small house. Whereas clearly houses in the country in old times must have been handed down to very various occupants. Some little sense of individuality would be quickly stamped, even on London houses, if they were owned by occupiers. But the attachment to things seems giving place to a desire for their perfection, and we seem inclined rather to hire furniture or appliances for special occasions than to accept, even our houses, as in any way permanent. If they don't suit us. for the moment, we change them. Well there is a noble independence of things as well as a noble attachment to them ; and “ the old order changeth, giving place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways.” There will have to come back, how- ever, in one form or another, that element of rest in which alone certain human virtues can live ; but it may come in ways we do not know.

Deptford,

September, 1885 ?

To Mrs. Edmund Maurice.

All is very bright and well with us here, except poor Queen Street, which is a constant anxiety. My great fear is that Mr. T. will sell it, and take the management out of my hands. I am sure we should get on in time. However, all that is out of my hands. I don't know that I could have done differently at any juncture ; and so I must just abide the result, and accept it as purposed, and look to see what next opens out ; meantime, till it is decided, I am clinging on to the hope of it rather passionately. The MacDonalds came to town yesterday. I am to dine there on Tuesday. . . . I've been preparing my corn for a green refreshment to us a little later, and putting in my hyacinths. It is a great delight to me to come back to such things from Deptford.

October 15th, 1885.

Miranda to Mr. Edmund Maurice.

We hear that the Metropolitan Board received the subject of Parliament Hill favourably. . . . There came in a petition from representative working men. . . . There were trade societies, co-operative societies, benefit societies represented. Mr. B. said the co-opera- tive signatures represented 2,000 working men. The petition from East End Clergy had fifty names of clergy and dissenting ministers, and the list was headed by the Bishop of Bedford. . . .

Octavia goes down to Lady Ducie for three days. I shall be glad of the change of thought for her. She is so worn with Deptford. Things are still very discouraging there ; they seem unable to get respectable tenants, the new ones they hoped were good, turning out unsatisfactory. Still helpers are rallying round her. ... It is nice to find old pupils coming to the

front.

November llth, 1885.

Octavia will have told you the result of the meeting of the Hampstead Heath Committee re Parliament Hill extension. Everyone seems to say “ Go on agitating thro’ the Press, and get the matter well before the public, there is yet hope.” But I think Octavia has little hope.

Did I tell you about the old woman at Deptford who said to Octavia in a voice of reassurance and yet wonder, “ You have feelings ! When you first came you did not know us, and we did not know you ; but you have feelings ! ” As if O. would be as surprised as she was at the discovery !

1884 or 5.

Miss Ellen Chase to Octavia.

King (a Deptford tenant) had torn his garden all to pieces and broken pale of fence and windows here and there, and did not show himself at all. We were non-plussed. First I hoped to slip notice under door, but the weather-board was too close ; that is a reason against putting them on. Then we debated how legal a service pinning to the back door would be, but Mr. P. thought it would be awkward if I was summoned for breaking into his premises ; and to post it we thought would not be customary ; so we were balked and Mrs. Lynch smiled sweetly all the time at her door. Mrs. T. had the cheek to offer nothing, so I took her a notice. I gave out several jobs of cleaning to even off the £7. Mrs. Sandal's cistern was leaking worst sort. Matthews and Arter both said floor too old to pay for removal.

My unlets have come down 10s.

14 Not. Place,

November 7th, 1885.

Octavia to Mrs. Edmund Maurice.

I am so much interested to hear of all you have been seeing ; but I think I’d better write of things here. I’ve just come back from a Hampstead Heath Committee, a large, strong, determined one. They decided to bring a Bill into Parliament. Mr. S. Lefevre and Mr. Hunter went off to see Lord Mansfield’s agent. . . .

I think Deptford is in a very thriving state in many ways ; we are getting in such a quantity of local strength.

Miranda seems to me very happy, and, I hope, tolerably well. Her sweetness with everyone is beyond descrip- tion, and also her merry fun over all that takes place. She is quite delightful as a coadjutor, bringing all the people so sweetly together, and never making difficulties in anything ; and all her spirits and power come out. . . .

The Bishop of Manchester’s death is greatly felt. They say Jews, Catholics, the Greek Patriarch and people of all kinds went to the memorial service, and that they call him the “ Bishop of all denominations.”

Sarsden, Chipping Norton,

October 17th, 1885.

To Mrs. Edmund Maurice.

.... It is very delightful to escape to sunlight and colour here from Deptford and London. All, however, is, I think, going towards good with us in the work. Mr. T. is prepared to spend a good deal on the houses, with a view of raising the property ; and I hope it may be a help to us in raising the people. I hope and believe too that I and my workers are all better for a certain amount of difficulty, and unpopularity ; and that it tests them, and draws them together. In these days when benevolence is popular, I think we may be thankful to have difficulty to surmount. All my workers have stood to their guns splendidly, and have been so helpful too.

14 Not. Pl., W.,

November 23rd, 1885.

To Mrs. Edmund Maurice.

We have been having much busy and interesting work of various kinds. No. 8 B. Ct. has been handed over to us in an awful state of dirt and dilapidation, and we are busy with estimates and workmen. Miss J.’s new houses in Southwark will be ready at Xmas ; and the company which owns the new blocks there have made repeated application to us to manage for them. Miss J. seems inclined to get a group of workers round her, and do this. . . .

The Hampstead Heath meeting was in some respects satisfactory. . . . Still the money needed is so large, and only the Met. Bd. can do it, and there isn’t a sign they will ; so I have next to no hope, or rather expect something to turn up, if success is to come. ... I have been more successful than I at one time feared about the dilapidation money at Pn. Street ; but it is still bad enough. ... I am just back from Deptford. I really do think it is getting on. . . . The houses are filling slowly. We are getting much more local co-operation. . . .

Interrupted. (Undated) probably November, 1885.

I dined at Lord Hobhouse’s on Friday. Mr. Ghose, an Indian gentleman, and his wife were there. Mr. Ghose’s brother is standing for Deptford. Lord H. says he would not have a chance with a middle-class or rich constituency ; but that there is a strong feeling among the working men that he ought to get in. . . . We have a group of co-operators, who have taken Miss Y.’s hall for a monthly gathering. The tenants’ plays, one for grown up people and two for children, are in full swing.

Casa Coraggio, Bordighera,

December 10th, 1885.

To her Mother.

Thank you for your sweet birthday letter. . . . To-night we are having some charades in honour of Mr. MacDonald’s birthday. The house is large and full and happy, and I think very good for Edmund. To-day we have rain.

It is strange they prophesied rain yesterday, in consequence of a practice, or rather sham fight, of the French men-of-war. We heard a violent noise at dinner yesterday ; and, going up to the loggia to discover the cause, we saw seven large men-of-war. They said they were 5 miles off, and that they often went out from some bay near Cannes, where they spend the winter, to practise firing. We could see them all confused in the smoke, and the great heaving mass of water somehow caused by the firing.

The MacDonalds are getting up all manner of Christmas things, among others a series of sacred tableaux ; they say the peasants come from far and near to see them.

The little Octavia is a sweet child. It is very touching to see Mrs. MacDonald with her, and also to see young Mr. Jamieson’s widowed house, with all the things Grace made and did. ... I try not to think too much of you all, and of all the things at home, but you will realise how much my heart turns to England. However, I mean to have a really good holiday. It is very restful here, at once very home-like, and yet with no duties. MacDonald’s bright faith and sweet sympathy are beautiful ; and I must say Mrs. MacDonald’s way of gathering people in is delightful to me.

Casa Coraggio,

December 16th, 1885.

To her Mother.

I have been longing to write to you. I have been away to Mentone and Nice. I had a delightful visit to Lady Ducie ; she was so sweet, looks much better, and seemed so very glad to see me. She has a little basket carriage and two little ponies, and she took me the most beautiful drive all along by those lovely bays of the blue, clear Mediterranean, with their olive and cypress set slopes of cliff and promontory, and beautiful waves breaking against the rocks. . . .

All is very peaceful and good here, and the spirit of the house quite beautiful. Last night MacDonald read aloud to us one of Hawthorne’s stories ; it was so very beautiful. I think it might do to read at Christmas. He has given me the book. But it would lose a good deal in losing his reading ; and perhaps some of you will have thought of something better. Oh ! to think of the delight of finding you at home, when I come back, and the blessed Christmas time. I shall be much happier about Minnie for having seen her, and I like to think of her here. ... I often think of Florence and how she would rejoice in the beauty. Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/493 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/494 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/495 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/496 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/497 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/498 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/499 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/500 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/501 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/502 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/503 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/504 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/505 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/506 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/507 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/508 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/509 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/510 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/511 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/512 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/513 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/514 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/515 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/516 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/517 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/518 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/519 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/520 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/521 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/522 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/523 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/524 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/525 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/526 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/527 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/528 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/529 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/530 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/531 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/532 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/533 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/534