Sir George Trevelyan: brief biographies

Sir George Trevelyan: obituary

The Times, 17th February 1996

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Sir George Trevelyan, teacher and New Age thinker, died on February 7 [1996] aged 89. He was born on November 5, 1906.

AN ELDER statesman of the New Age movement, Sir George Trevelyan saw the mission of his later years as an 'exploration into God'. From the moment when in 1942 he first tagged along to a lecture given by one of Rudolph Steiner's students – "I have no doubt", he later said, "that this event in my life was staged by higher destiny, and that the time was ripe for a leap in consciousness" – he began to work towards the promotion of an alternative spirituality.

Trevelyan spoke with inspiration of the planet Earth as "a living being, in a living universe.... a universe which is a great ocean of life and thought". Alongside such ideas as communal living and organic farming, he explored beliefs in angels and the purified vision of the unicorn, the power of ley lines, and the calming effects of crystals. In 1971 he set up the Wrekin Trust to promote spiritual knowledge and education, and take the New Age message to the world. Annually he would convene a 'Round Table' conference – appropriate perhaps for a man whose family coat of arms linked him to Sir Trevillian, one of King Arthur's legendary knights – for the leaders of healing centres and holistic organisations.

Times obituaryHe was much involved in the Findhorn Foundation in Moray, an international experiment in community living, and with the Gatekeeper and Open Gate trusts for the reawakening of pilgrimages to sacred places. In 1982 he was awarded the 'Alternative Nobel Prize', the Right Livelihood award, for his work towards 'healing the planet'.

During his younger years, however, Trevelyan had been an agnostic, committed to the rational, analytical view that man is a mere collocation of atoms a chance happening in a random universe. Perhaps it is hard to believe that someone who embodied so many spiritual aspirations could have held on to such a materialist view for so long, but this view was deeply entrenched in his family. His uncle, the historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, was an aggressive agnostic, as was his father, an MP who served in two Labour Cabinets.

Trevelyan's appreciation of the natural world, however, was rooted in his youth. He spent his childhood divided between London and his father's estate in Northumberland where he passed long days roaming wild on the moors, and at school in Sidcot in the Mendip Hills he found a passion for exploring caves.

At Trinity College, Cambridge, where Trevelyan read history, he succeeded his father as Master of the Lake Hunt, otherwise known as the Trevelyan Man Hunt – an unorthodox chase over the Lakeland fells in pursuit of a human hare – which had been begun in 1898 by his historian uncle together with George Winthrop Young. Though in later years Trevelyan was painfully crippled by arthritis, he could still look back with pride on his 42-year association with this hunt and the days when he could outrun the whole pack downhill.

Trevelyan first considered a career in architecture but turned to craftsmanship instead. He was apprenticed for two years in a furniture workshop at Chalford in Gloucestershire under the direction of Peter Waals who worked in a tradition inspired by William Morris. While there lie made some fine pieces of furniture, including the bed he was to sleep in for the rest of his life, and in old age he would run his hand and eye lovingly over the lines and chamfers of furniture which he had designed and collected.

Following this period of craftsmanship, Trevelyan threw himself into a three-year training course with F. Matthias Alexander whom he had met at Cambridge. He was captivated by the vision of wholeness which animated Alexander's technique and taught these methods himself for a while before coming into contact with another charismatic figure Kurt Hahn, the founder of Gordonstoun School.

Trevelyan went to Gordonstoun to teach history, literature, woodwork and outdoor pursuits. While there, he began to think about the possible use of England's great country houses as centres of adult education, with his mind on such a scheme for Wallington, the Trevelyan family home in Northumberland. This idea stayed with him throughout the war. which he spent as a captain in the Rifle Brigade, based in Scotland and occupied in training the Home Guard. After the war he worked in the art department of the Army College at Dalkeith to equip himself with skills in adult education.

Trevelyan's hopes of using Wallington as a college were dashed when his father made a settlement whereby the estate would pass to the National Trust on his death. But in 1947 Trevelyan was appointed principal of the newly-created Shropshire Adult College at Attingham Park. During his 24 years there he developed a wide programme of activities, placing great emphasis upon creative activity and upon finding within each subject the integrating ideas which would relate it to a wider context. He attracted leading speakers, arranged concerts and took an active part in almost every course himself whether it was 'Historic Houses of Britain', 'Finding the Inner Teacher', or 'Death and Becoming'.

Throughout this time Trevelyan had been developing his interest in spiritual matters. Influenced by the thought of Rudolph Steiner, he invited speakers of the Anthroposophical Society to Attingham. Although this caused sonic tremors in the Shropshire County Council, the courses on 'Frontiers of Reality' or 'Spiritual Awakening' drew large and enthusiastic audiences among which were some of the future Leaders of the New Age movement.

Retiring from Attingham in 1971, Trevelyan determined to build on these New Age contacts by setting up the Wrekin Trust – named after the hill near Attingham. The last 15 years of his active life were spent on a ceaseless round of travel and New Age gatherings. He published books, tapes and videos outlining his beliefs, drawing widely on his quite extraordinary knowledge of poetry in his efforts to expand the consciousness of his listeners.

George Trevelyan married Helen Lindsay-Smith, then a teacher at Gordonstoun, in 1942. She died in 1993. He is survived by their daughter.

On The Times' obituary page of 17 February 1996, Sir George's was accompanied by the following obituaries:
Geoff Galwey, trainer of naval beach reconnaissance parties during WW2, born 1912;
Margaret Courtenay, 'battleaxe' actress, born 1923;
Shamus Culhane, American animator and author, born 1908.

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