A ‘rather grand’ idea 100 years ago

© RSWT

On May 16 1912, a banker called Charles Rothschild called a meeting in London; a much travelled naturalist, Rothschild had a radical idea: to identify and protect the UK’s best places for wildlife. Thus began the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR), the body which would eventually become The Wildlife Trusts movement.

The SPNR caught on; at least 50 Fellows of the Royal Society joined, as did foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey and future prime minister Neville Chamberlain - the rest, as they say, is history.

The Wildlife Trust movement has a number of important dates in its 100 year timeline, but to put them in context, what else was happening at the same time around the World?

1912

Charles Rothschild formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR)
- RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic Ocean; she sank the following day with the loss of 1500 lives.

1915

SPNR presented a ‘shopping list’ of 284 sites ‘worthy of permanent preservation’ to the Board of Agriculture
- The British Women’s Institute was founded.

1926

Norfolk Wildlife Trust was founded and Cley Marsh nature reserve acquired
- Alan Alexander Milne released a book about a little bear called Winnie-the-Pooh.

1941

Three SPNR conferences laid the foundations for post-war nature conservation
- Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane premiered in New York City.

1947

The Government’s Huxley Report proposed 73 nature reserves. Nature Conservancy is established in the United Kingdom
- Princess Elizabeth the daughter of King George VI, married The Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in London.

1949

SPNR influence led to the creation of National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act
- The Communist People’s Republic of China was proclaimed under Mao Tse Tung.

1959

SPNR became central co-ordinator for local Wildlife Trusts
- The original Mini designed by Sir Alec Issigonis was launched.

1964

Scottish Wildlife Trust was founded; Wildlife Trusts now covered the whole of Britain
- The Rolling Stones released their debut album, The Rolling Stones.

1970

The badger became the symbol of The Wildlife Trusts
- Edward Heath and the Conservative Party won the British general election.

1976

SPNR became Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation (SPNC)
- Fidel Castro became President of Cuba

1977

The Wildlife Watch programme for young people was formed
- Red Rum won a record third Grand National at Aintree racecourse.

1981

SPNC became Royal Society of Nature Conservation (RSNC) and its influence helped to bring about the Wildlife and Countryside Act
- Over 700 million people watched the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer at St Pal’s Cathedral in London.

2000

The Wildlife Trusts launched the Marine Bill campaign and landscape-scale habitat restoration
- The Tate Modern Gallery opened in London.

2004

RSNC became The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts
- Fox hunting is outlawed in the UK.

2006

The Wildlife Trusts were involved with 112 Living Landscape scheme areas across the UK
- The 250th anniversary of the birth of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

2009

The Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed
- The World Health Organization declared H1N1 influenza strain, commonly referred to as ‘swine flu’, as a global pandemic.

2010

Influence from The Wildlife Trusts led to the Government producing the draft White Paper on the Natural Environment
- The first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Northern winter solstice and Southern summer solstice since 1638 took place.

2012

100 years from Rothschild’s original appeal to Government, the 47 Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for a law which would restore our natural environment and ecosystems on land.
- London will host the 2012 Olympic Games.