Scope and Content

Much of the collection comprises printed papers relating to the work of the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, which Robert Hunter served as solicitor from 1867 to 1882. There are also correspondence addressed to him and other papers, including a few letters of Octavia Hill and material relating to the Kyrle Society, an organisation whose aim was 'to bring beauty home to the people'.

The collection includes papers relating to the Lake District Defence Society, preservation of the view from Richmond Hill, Stonehenge and Epping Forest.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Hunter was born at Addington Square, Camberwell, South London, on 27 Oct 1844. He took his degree at University College, London, and for a time lived at Carrick House, Surbiton (c1865). He married Emily Browning who died eighteen months later in 1872, and in 1878 he married again and had three daughters, Dorothy, Winifred and Margaret.

In 1867 he was appointed solicitor for the Commons Preservation Society and was instrumental in the preservation of Wimbledon Commons and Epping Forest among other open spaces. In 1876 he wrote a competition essay for the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society on the means of preserving common lands for the enjoyment of the public. This was chosen as one of six to be published. In 1882 he became Chief Solicitor to the Post Office but continued to advise the Commons Preservation Society. In 1894 he was knighted for services to the open space movement.

In 1884 no organisation existed which could own and manage historic buildings; existing bodies could only advise on restoration. Thus when Mr W J Evelyn wished to give his 17th century manor house, Sayes Court in Deptford, for the enjoyment of the public, there was no authority which could accept and maintain it. The house was later demolished. This lack prompted Robert Hunter to write to Octavia Hill and suggest the formation of such a body. Coupled with the work of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley in the Lake District this led to the foundation of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.


This is a temporary box list in which no attempt has been made to arrange the material in archival order.

Access Information

There are no access restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the National Trust in February 1989. The papers were found in a trunk in an outhouse at Meadfields Hanger in Haslemere, part of the property of Sir Robert Hunter where his daughters lived until the 1960s. They were presented to the National Trust by Mrs B L Cockell.

Other Finding Aids

An item level description of the archive is available on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue

Related Material

For papers of Dorothy Hunter which include some of her father's, see 1260.


Graham Murphy, Founders of the National Trust (Helm, 1987)