Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/337

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CHAPTER VII

1875–1878

The Open Space Movement

The period recorded in the following letters marks the inauguration of a movement, which Octavia considered almost as important as that housing work with which her name is especially connected—the movement for the preservation of open spaces. It will be remembered that, in her first efforts to deal with tenement houses, she had been particularly anxious to secure a house with a garden; and, failing that, she had devoted a large part of her energies to laying out a play-ground, and brightening it by May Festivals, in which efforts she had the hearty co-operation of Mr. Ruskin, who sent his own gardener to plant the trees.

It was natural, therefore, that she should desire to keep open all outlets for her poor friends in Marylebone, which would enable them to enjoy the fresh air and open country.

Hence she became considerably alarmed, when she heard, in 1873, that some difficulties, which had hindered the destruction of the fields near the Swiss Cottage, had been removed; and that building plans were in preparation. The fields were dear to her, not only as the nearest country outlet for the Marylebone poor; but also as recalling her childhood, when they formed part of a wide stretch of open country where she and her sisters had played. She at once threw herself into the promotion of a scheme for saving these fields from the builder, and securing them as a recreation ground for the public. She enlisted the sympathy of Dean Stanley, Mr. Haweis and other well known Londoners in the movement; while Mr. Edward Bond and Mr. C. L. Lewes and other Hampstead residents tried to stave off

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