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Hill, Octavia

Hill, Octavia (1838–1912). Social reformer. Early influence from her grandfather, the sanitary reformer Dr Southwood Smith, and work with the Christian socialists, led to conviction of the need for better housing for the poor. A loan from John Ruskin (1865) enabled purchase of squalid property in Paradise Place, Marylebone (London), for which, ever strict and businesslike, she encouraged both prompt rent payments and cleanliness, with profits directed to repairs and improvements. The experiment was so successful that the scheme spread, more houses were purchased or put under her charge, and other workers trained in her methods; her system of housing management was eventually introduced into Europe and America. Concerned with improving the quality of life generally, though not politically inclined despite appointment to a royal commission, she actively supported the Charity Organization and Kyrle societies, while her passionate belief in preserving open spaces for public use led to co-founding the National Trust (1895).

A. S. Hargreaves

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