Molly Trevelyan and her part in CPRE

By Colin Adsley

Molly Trevelyan was a woman of broad interests and concerns who played an active part in twentieth century national life.

She married Charles Trevelyan, the Liberal (later Labour) politician and government minister and bore him six children, while involving herself in social and charitable good works.

As a leading committee member of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Molly Trevelyan was the WI’s representative when a small group of organisations with an interest in the countryside created a ‘Council for the Preservation of Rural England’ in 1926. With her expertise on food, farming and rural life, she became an integral part of CPRE’s founding committee, playing a leading role in devising our early aims and objectives.

When her husband inherited Wallington in 1928, Molly set about restoring the neglected Hall as a warm and family-friendly home.

She continued working for CPRE, managing our communications until 1934, arguing that ‘to be effective, the preservation movement must interest a far greater circle of people’. Her achievements in that field included securing a number of BBC radio appeals, and extensive national press coverage – including a letter to The Times in support of CPRE’s aims signed by party leaders Baldwin, MacDonald and Lloyd George during the 1929 General Election (below).


Responsible for recruiting CPRE’s network of public speakers, Molly enlisted the architect Clough Williams-Ellis to the cause, and commissioned his classic 1928 book, England and the Octopus, which she made sure was sent to 600 schools. Her commitment to education lead to the creation of special CPRE posters and pamphlets for schools, Scouts and Guides. Indeed, she remained a lifelong campaigner for schools to incorporate rural matters into the curriculum, so that all children would grow up with a sense of responsibility for the countryside.

Being equally keen to influence adult public opinion, Molly devised the Save the Countryside ‘travelling exhibition’, which contrasted examples of ‘bad development’ with positive solutions. Westminster Hall was one of over a hundred venues visited by the exhibition between 1928 and 1930, where it was praised by MPs for highlighting the ‘lack of forethought in the development of the countryside’.


Molly was awarded an MBE in 1963 in recognition of her voluntary work for the community and countryside. She died in 1966 at the age of 85, having played a significant role in the early days of CPRE and acted as a role model for others in using her wealth and privilege for the public good.


Molly Trevelyan in 1908 - Cpyright National Trust