Octavia Hill and the Influence of Dickens

In housing management and the preservation of the countryside, writes Alan S. Watts, Octavia Hill was a Victorian pioneer.

Among public-spirited Victorian women, Octavia Hill (1838-1912) was pre-eminent.

She was the pioneer of housing management, became the adviser of politicians and ecclesiastical commissioners, and devoted the final years of her life to helping preserve the countryside for her fellow countrymen.

Her biographers rightly stress her great debt to John Ruskin, who not only enabled her to begin her housing work by providing the necessary capital, but compelled her to confront the fact (which she tried to avoid) that her talent for art was mediocre, while her personality and many-sided abilities made her uniquely qualified for work among the poor. 

Undoubtedly, Ruskin’s friendship and outpouring of ideas made a tremendous impression upon her; but it is clear that Dickens also played an important part in shaping her basic thoughts on the work she was to do.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.