Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/468

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


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 “The Homes of the