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Gardiner, Henry Rolf, 1902-1971 (ecological campaigner and youth leader)



H. Rolf Gardiner (1902-1971), ecological campaigner and youth leader. Henry Rolf Gardiner was born on 5 November 1902, the elder son of the Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner and Lady Hedwig Gardiner (nee von Rosen). He was educated at West Downs School, Winchester (1913-1916), Rugby (1916-1918), Bedales (1919-1920), and St John's Collage Cambridge (1921- 1924), where he studied modern languages. He was involved in international youth work 1924-32, in particular trying to promote understanding between Britain and Germany by organising work camps, teaching and lecturing on folk-dancing, and leading musical tours in England, Germany and the Baltic states. In 1932 he married Mariabella ('Marabel') Honnor Hodgkin and had two sons and a daughter. In 1927 he took over Gore Farm, Ashmore, Dorset, from his uncle, the composer H. Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950) and in 1933 added to it the Springhead Estate, Fontmell Magna. He revitalised the farm and woodlands, using organic methods. He had a visions of the estate as a 'rural university', similar to the Danish folk High schools, and the training institutions at Frankfort an der Oder (the 'Musikheim') and at Lowenberg in Silesia (the 'Boberhaus'). To this end he organised a variety of work camps and choral and dramatic festivals, aided by a group of like-minded friends who in 1934 constituted themselves as the 'Springhead Ring'. Christmas and Easter plays and Whitsun choral festivals soon became annual features of the life of the estate, and encouraged the development of Marabel's talents as a producer. In 1941 Gardiner founded 'Kinship in Husbandry', an informal group of farmers and writers, to promote and publicise agricultural revival. He was an active member of the Dorset Branch of the Council for the preservation of Rural England, the Soil Association, the Country Landowners Association, and many similar organisations. He was a member of Dorset County Council 1937-46, and High Sheriff of Dorset 1967-8. He built up contacts with European conservationists and was a founder member of 'European Working Party for Landscape Husbandry'; for all this he was awarded the Lenne Gold Medal for landscape husbandry in 1971. He inherited an interest in the finish island of Angholm and estates in Malawi (the Nchima Tea and Tobacco (later Tung) Estates and the Mchiru Company). He was also a director of the textile firm of Bradbury, Greatorex and Co. 1952-67.) He was the author of England Herself, ventures in rural restoration (London 1943), three volumes of poetry (privately published), and produced his own periodical North Sea and Balti /Wessex 1932- 68. He contributed to many other periodicals, and left a mass of unpublished writing. He died suddenly, following a hip operation, on the 26 November 1971 at Lansdown Nursing Home, Bath.

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Papers of H. Rolf Gardiner

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Gardiner
Scope and Contents This collection comprises Rolf Gardiners (RG) work on the youth movements of Britain and Europe, His travels with dance and folk groups, his furtherance of the restoration and conservation of his estate and his writings on conservation, agriculture and landscape husbandry. There is also a fair amount of personal material ranging from his birth, schooling, later life and death, correspondence with friends and visits to other countries. Some material pertains to his friendships in Germany, and...
Dates: 1902-1971
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

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  • Subject: Nature conservation X