Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College, visits Heritage

fiona reynolds

Formerly Director General of the National Trust (2001-2012)


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We were honoured to have Dame Fiona Reynolds, DBE, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge address our Senior Assembly on the importance of beauty in the built environment as much as in the natural world.

She started her talk by asking students to re-imagine the most delightful, evocative and beautiful places they had experienced in their lives, then challenging them to try and assess how they would feel if these places were permanently destroyed. This was put in the context of the origins of the National Trust in 1895 when the vision of three pioneers – Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter, and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley – formed the National in order to ‘promote the permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation, of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest’ to stop the spread of the Industrial Revolution.

Underlying her talk was the idea that small numbers of individuals can make huge differences for the many, for good or ill. The big challenges facing their generation will be, both how to proceed with necessary development, particularly new housing and towns, whilst also balancing the intrinsic needs of people for beauty and open spaces in which to flourish. Of interest too, was her reference to how run-down, inner-cities were being transformed by some very creative contemporary architects, conserving and enhancing the built environment.

She was excited by the ethos of Heritage and its relationship to Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on the importance of the natural world and the inclusion of beauty, art and music within the curriculum.