Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010
Who Owns Britain? S. T. Coleridge and the National Trust: Klaus Stierstorfer
Who Owns Britain? S. T. Coleridge and the National Trust Klaus Stierstorfer University of Münster 1. Prologue: The Foundation of the National Trust The National Trust is one of Britain’s most important Charities today, with a mem- bership of more than 3.5 million. According to its programme, it “works to pre- serve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.1 Its birth and baptism date from the late nineteenth century, but its underlying concept can be traced back, I will argue in the following, yet another century, to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Pursuing this trajectory back to Coleridge and his poetic approach to the question of property can, I hope to show, highlight central issues of the Victorian social, legal and poetic imagination. The need for an institution like the National Trust became stridently obvious when in 1884 the owner of Sayes Court in Deptford, East London, agreed, after some prodding by social activists, to hand over his manorial gardens to the pub- lic. The local situation at this time was remembered by the social activist Frede- rick Ernest Green (1867-1922) in his book Surrey Hills published in 1915: The once green “pasture land and orchard” is now a wilderness of brick and mortar, where 100,000 persons inhabit the closely packed, mean streets. 100,000 human beings struggling, fighting, cringing, thieving for their daily bread, packed together within interminable streets without breathing room, without sunlight, without libraries, without recreation grounds, without baths, without...
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