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12 January: On this day in history

What events happened on 12 January in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

Published: January 12, 2022 at 6:06 am
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12 January 1895: The National Trust is founded

Reformers create an organisation that makes nature accessible to all

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There were no cheering crowds in London on 12 January 1895. Nor were there any scones, decorative tea towels or family-friendly toilets. Even so, this was a big day for the National Trust: the day it was founded.

The National Trust was rooted deep in the soil of Victorian Britain. The key figure was Octavia Hill, a high-minded reformer who had long believed that working people should have access to “the life-enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky”. Back in 1876 she had helped her sister Miranda found a Society for the Diffusion of Beauty, which campaigned for open spaces to “bring beauty home to the poor”. “We all want quiet,” she explained, “a few acres where the hill top enables the Londoner to rise above the smoke, to feel a refreshing air for a little time and to see the sun setting in coloured glory which abounds so in the Earth God made.”

At the same time, Hill was working with her friend Hardwicke Rawnsley, an Anglican clergyman, and the solicitor Sir Robert Hunter to protect the Lake District from quarrying in the fells. At the end of 1893, the three of them met at the office of the Commons Preservation Society, Britain’s oldest conservation group, to discuss a new trust specifically to buy sites for the nation as a whole. Back in 1885, Hill had proposed calling it the Commons and Gardens Trust. But Hunter suggested a simpler name: the National Trust.

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The Trust’s founding in January 1895 occasioned little comment. But two months later it would make its first acquisition, the gorse-covered hillside at Dinas Oleu, overlooking Cardigan Bay. “I have long wanted to secure for the public for ever the enjoyment of Dinas Oleu,” explained the landowner, Fanny Talbot, “but wish to put it to the custody of some society that will never vulgarise it, or prevent wild nature from having its way... and it appears to me that your association has been born in the nick of time.”

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries

12 January 1412
Katherine Neville was married at the age of 12 to John Mowbray, the future Duke of Norfolk. She was to marry three more times: to Sir Thomas Strangways, John Beaumont and, when she was 65, the 19-year-old Sir John Woodville.
12 January 1601
Birth of New Model Army officer and regicide Adrian Scrope. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross after the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.
12 January 1659
People of Edinburgh have the opportunity to inspect a camel, probably the first in Scotland. According to a contemporary: "none had a sight of it without threepence the person".
12 January 1863
Birth of Swami Vivekananda. Born Narendra Nath Datta in Calcutta, he was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India and lectured extensively in Europe and America.
12 January 1908
The first long-distance radio message is sent from Paris's Eiffel Tower. The designer Gustave Eiffel had recommended its use as a monumental wireless mast and a permanent radio station had been installed in it in 1906.

Browse more On this day in history

Authors

Dominic SandbrookHistorian and presenter

Dominic Sandbrook is historian and presenter, and a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine

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