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Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley



Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley

‘…the largest active volcano in Europe’.

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, Vicar of Crosthwaite Church near Keswick from 1883 until 1916 and one of the founders of the National Trust, was also a great supporter of the Armitt Library. The connection came through his interest in Ruskin, whose lectures whilst Slade Professor of Fine Arts in Oxford had influenced Hardwicke’s ideas and inspired him to become a priest. When, after Ruskin’s death, a Ruskin Library was founded in Ambleside he gave it his full support which continued when the new Armitt Library, founded in 1912, incorporated the Ruskin Library. Being a literary man, he wrote a poem to commemorate the opening.

He was a journalist as well as a poet and also wrote copiously about the Lake District, and his literary occupations had brought him into contact with the Armitt sisters with whom he became great friends. As with all his friends, their interests were his interests and he helped them bring their ideas on founding a library to fruition.

Hardwicke’s own interests overflowed in many directions and brought him many friends, one of whom was Beatrix Potter. In later years Beatrix bequeathed many books and some drawings, then finally her collection of fungi paintings to the library.

Canon Rawnsley’s unique book collection was given to Charlotte Mason College in 1930 and is now in the Armitt library. He also wrote a moving sonnet for the opening of the Armitt Library on the 8th November 1912:

As in some inland solitude a shell
Still gently whispers of its home, the deep,
So from the world of being beyond all sleep
Where those two happy sister spirits dwell,
This book-lined room, this simple student’s cell,
Shall, in the silence, pure memorial keep
Of those who sowed that others might reap
Their wisdom was from wood and lake and fell.
And as we gather up their gentle lore,
Made rich by jewels from their treasury,
The whispers grow, “Behold! these souls had power
Because with patient heart and loving eye
They learned that man and beast and flower
Were in God’s purpose friends for evermore