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The Great Gift

National Trust to revive special war memorial

2018 is the centenary year of the end of the great war.
But did you know that after the great war came the great gift?

Great War Memorial

In the years after peace was declared, Scafell Pike and 12 other Lakeland summits were gifted to the National Trust, becoming a spectacular and unique memorial to those Britons lost in World War One. The 'Great Gift' as it became known – Scafell Pike from Lord Leconfield and 12 summits from the Fell and Rock Climbing Club – was one of the largest donations ever to the National Trust, and ensured hundreds of thousands of people were able to freely walk the mountains over the years as they can today.

In this centenary year, the National Trust is organising a series of commemmorations to show gratitude for these amazing gifts. The commemmorations include rebuiding a summit cairn on Scafell Pike, England's tallest montain.

For those who don't know, a cairn is a human-made stack of stones built as a memorial or landmark. Rangers will carry out the rebuilding work by camping out on the peak and will resettle the memorial plaque within the walls of the cairn. Additionally, the work will include repairing paths on Scafell Pike and Great Gable.


Furthermore, celebrations include a project supported by the Arts Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council will bring choirs and musicians together for a song cycle across the 12 mountains of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club gift.

An exhibition called 'Where Poppies Blow', with award winning author John Lewis-Stempel will also be held at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth. The theme of the exhibition will be to explore the role of nature in helping soldiers through the horrors of battle.


Sir Chris Boninton, the famous british mountaineer, who served many years in the Royal Tank Regiment of the armed forces said "I can’t help but be inspired every time I return home to the Lakes, by its wildness and charm, and the challenges it presents. Beyond its staggering beauty, the Lake District has a rich cultural history and a web of fascinating stories, including the Great Gift."

He added "It’s also very important that the millions of people who visit the area each year play their part, alongside conservationists like the National Trust, in looking after our fells for the future."

National Trust General Manager Marian Silvester comments "Millions of people visit the Lake District each year, but few are familiar with the story behind these mountains, which we are extremely proud to look after. By re-dedicating the peaks, not only are we remembering the past, but looking to the future to ensure this inspiring landscape can be enjoyed by generations to come."

On Armistice Day 2018, the National Trust will light a beacon on top of Scafell Pike, just as Lord Leconfield did on Peace Day – 19th July 1919.


The History

Peace Day 1919 was Britain’s opportunity to recognise and celebrate the end of World War One. While Armistice Day, commemorated annually, was the ceasefire, it was 19th July 1919 when both sides signed the official peace treaty.

Shortly after, two remarkable acts of celebration and generosity took place - Lake District landowner Charles Henry Wyndham, the 3rd Baron Leconfield and honorary member of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, gifted Scafell Pike to the National Trust “in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War.” A few years after, a memorial stone was introduced, remembering the fallen.

The gift of the 12 peaks was made in 1923.
The peaks are: Lingmell, Broad Crag, Great End, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags, Glaramara, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown, Brandreth and Grey Knotts.

These gifts triggered a number of endowments to the National Trust and marked a transformation in the way the nation felt about beautiful landscapes, paving the way for the first national park to be formed.

Tribute by Geoffrey Winthrop Young (credit - FRCC)

In 1924, a dedication ceremony was held on top of Great Gable, led by author, poet and renowned British mountaineer Geoffrey Winthrop Young. The ceremony was affectionately described at the time as a 'service in the clouds'.

Even after being wounded and losing a leg whilst working as an ambulance driver at the Battle of San Gabriele in Italy, Young continued to tackle famous peaks. During the Scafell Pike dedication ceremony he said "Upon this mountain summit we are met today to dedicate this space of hills to freedom."

"Upon this rock are set the names of men – our brothers, and our comrades upon these cliffs – who held with us, that there is no freedom of the soil where the spirit of man is in bondage, and who surrendered their part in the fellowship of hill and wind, and sunshine, that the freedom of this land, the freedom of our spirit, should endure."

These words are inspiration to many and provide the underlying theme of the National Trust's activities marking the centenary of the end of World War One.

Over 15 million people visit the Lake District each year.

In 2017, the Lake District National Park joined Hadrian's Wall as Cumbria's second World Heritage site.

To find out more about the World Heritage inscription, please look at our World Heritage Page.


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