The great gift of freedom: working with the National Trust and the mountaineering community to understand, interpret and commemorate mountaineering heritage

Dr Jonathan Westaway’s research on the donation of mountain summits as war memorials has had a significant impact on the National Trust in the Lake District and their commemorative practices associated with the centenary of World War One.

It has underpinned the National Trust's commemoration of the centenary of World War One in the Lake District, The Great Gift Project. Westaway’s research inspired senior managers in the National Trust in the Lake District to address the legacy of mountain war memorials in their 2018 commemorative programme, enabling them to link contemporary needs for maintenance and repair of their mountain estates with a wider understanding of the heritage of these memorial landscapes.

The Great Gift Project led to: the rebuilding of the summit cairn and war memorial plaque on Scafell Pike; an exhibition at Wordsworth House, Cockermouth; and an Arts Council funded community choir who were commissioned to sing and record a suite of songs on the summits donated as war memorials in the Lake District. Westaway worked with National Trust managers to organize a session on the first Sunday after the centenary of Armistice Day at the Kendal Mountain Festival 2018 called The Great Gift of Freedom with Sir Chris Bonington, bringing the story of the Lake District land-donation war memorials to a broad audience of outdoor enthusiasts.

Westaway’s research enabled the National Trust to effectively commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1, bringing a little-known story to a mass audience via public events and National Trust publications. The research has also contributed to the wider public understanding of the legacy of the high fells of the Lake District as sacred and storied places, contributing to a sense of identity and a commitment to landscape preservation amongst stakeholders.

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Academic expertise

Dr Jonathan Westaway
Senior Research Fellow

Jonathan Westaway is a Senior Research Fellow and specialises in the history of mountaineering, mountain environments and imperial cultures of exploration. His research is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from cultural geography and anthropology and involves workin…