Octavia’s Legacy

Octavia Hill has left a remarkable legacy.

The National Trust

In 1907, Parliament passed the first ‘National Trust Act’. This legislation defined the National Trust’s purpose and gave the Trust unique powers to protect property forever, for the benefit of the nation. The Trust now looks after a spectacular range of coast, countryside and historic buildings. Staff, volunteers and tenants are engaged daily in providing access to open spaces for people’s enjoyment, providing habitats for wildlife and in improving our environment – “for ever, for everyone”

The Kyrle Society is long forgotten, but the overall structure of its organisation closely resembles that of the National Trust, which grew out of its open space work. Founded by Octavia’s sister Miranda, the Kyrle Society aimed to enhance the quality of life in poor communities by providing art, books and open spaces. It was the forerunner of all today’s amenity societies.

Social Housing

During her lifetime, Octavia Hill formed the Horace Street Trust, which became a model for many subsequent housing associations and developed into the present Trust that bears her name, Octavia Housing and Care. Today it owns several of the homes, including Gable Cottages, designed by Elijah Hoole, who worked with Octavia for many years.

The Octavia Hill Association in Philadelphia is a small real estate company that was formerly devoted to provide affordable housing to low and middle- income city residents.

From the outset, Octavia Hill tried to provide community space, a community hall, and soundly maintained attractive houses. In 1888, on the Red Cross site in Southwark, she anticipated the fundamental ingredients of town planning by some fifteen years.

The Settlement Movement (living in poorer communities) grew directly out of Octavia Hill’s work. Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, who founded Toynbee Hall (the first university settlement) were early collaborators. Both Toynbee Hall and the Women’s University Settlement (today called the Blackfriars Settlement) continue to serve local communities.

Social Casework

The Charity Organisation Society, (today’s Family Welfare Association), was established in 1869 to target charitable aid efficiently to those in most need. It became an influential national body, but Octavia Hill distanced herself from it when its methods tended to become too dogmatic. She is, however, still seen as the founder of modern social casework.

The Army Cadet Movement

The Army Cadet Force today has over 40,000 members, offering progressive training to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in various subjects of military training.