A ‘rather grand’ idea 100 years ago


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?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.