a1 Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX2 6PW, UK Elizabeth.email@example.com
The Victorian open space movement is accounted for variously by nostalgia, progress, and a changed conception of national identity, but explanatory factors are generally understood in secular ways which take little account of the pervasive influence of contemporary Christianity. These explanations overlap with discussions of nineteenth-century leisure which stress its links with secularisation. Christianity however was a significant motivation for some open space campaigners whose theology explained how nature was to uplift those who experienced it. This paper considers the Commons Preservation Society, founded in 1865; the preservation of Epping Forest for recreation between 1865 and 1880; and the forest's management in the 1880s and 1890s. It argues that although histories of the Commons Preservation Society and the Epping Forest campaign describe them in secular, rational terms, many prominent campaigners were motivated by religion, in the sense of orthodox Christianity. Practical religion significantly affected the development of mass recreation for the poor in the forest. Explanations of the open space movement which ignore religion thus seem inadequate.
(Online publication March 07 2011)