About our repository

The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 as the Commons Preservation Society. It is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. Its founders and early members included John Stuart Mill, Lord Eversley, Sir Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill. The last two founded the National Trust in 1895 along with Canon Rawnsley.

Lord Eversley, as George Lefevre, was a Liberal MP and became a junior minister at the Board of Trade in Gladstone’s government. He held a variety of posts including Commissioner of Works. He opened Hampton Court Park, Kew Gardens and Regent’s Park to the public.

Over the last century the society has preserved commons for the enjoyment of the public. It has also been active in protecting the historical and vital rights-of-way network through England and Wales.

The society has shared its collection of 19th century legal case papers and around a thousand lantern transparencies of English landscapes from around 1900-40 with The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL).

A handlist for the whole collection held by The MERL can be found here.

The MERL have also compiled a History of the Open Spaces Society available as an online exhibition.

Browse a sample of the image collection

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