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Sir Robert Hunter (born 1844 in Camberwell, London, England - died November, 1913) was a solicitor, civil servant and co-founder of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

Hunter's mother came from a missionary family and his father had turned a successful career as a master mariner into his own mercantile business in London.

When Hunter was 17, the family left London for Dorking, which was his first contact with the commons and hills of Surrey which he would come to love in later life. That same year, he was awarded a place at University College, London, where he studied logic and moral philosophy.

At his father's suggestion, he joined a firm of solicitors in Holborn as an articled clerk, but found work there uninteresting. To relieve the boredom he obtained a Master's degree in his spare time.

In 1866 Sir Henry Peek ran a contest offering prizes of £400 for essays on the best means of preserving common land for the public. Hunter wrote one of the six winning essays; when a vacancy opened up in 1868, the Commons Preservation Society made him their Honorary Solicitor.

His work with the Society in saving common land from enclosure was very successful. A signal success was Epping Forest, which Queen Victoria opened as a public park in 1882. That same year, he obtained a position as legal adviser to the General Post Office, where he worked for most of his life, although he still regularly assisted the Society in its work.

In 1884 Octavia Hill turned to Hunter to help save Sayes Court, the manor house in Deptford. The owner of the house wanted to give it to the nation, but no organisation existed to accept the gift. Hunter was of the opinion that a new company should be established for such a purpose; this lay the foundation for his idea of a National Trust.

Nothing further happened with his idea until 1893, when Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley sought help to buy a property in the Lake District which was threatened by speculators. The time had come for Hunter's idea, and in January 1895 the National Trust was founded, and Hunter was its first chairman.

Hunter had been knighted the previous year for his services to the Post Office, from which he retired at the end of July 1913, only to die in early November of that year.

The National Trust acquired the property of Waggoners Wells, near Grayshott, Hampshire, in 1919 and dedicated it to his memory. (Hunter had lived in nearby Haslemere from 1883 on.)



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