A mystery benefactor who left an idyllic island in the Lake District to the National Trust has been revealed to be a reclusive spinster.
The name of the generous pensioner was not disclosed when the charity said last month that it had been left the four-acre Grasmere Island in a will. The gift was hugely significant as the sale of the tree-covered beauty spot in 1893 inspired the trust’s creation.
Probate records reveal the benefactor was Alison Mack, who ran a boarding house for female students at Oxford. She lived for more than 30 years in Bromley, South-East London, until moving into a care home shortly before she died aged 86 in February 2014. She left an estate worth £1.9 million.
A mystery benefactor who left an idyllic four-acre Grasmere island in the Lake District to the National Trust in her will has been revealed to be a reclusive spinster
The island is believed to have been owned by her family since the 1940s or 1950s, when her parents bought farmland nearby.
Grasmere Island was sold in 1893 to a Mr Belk from Middlesbrough, angering locals who wanted an organisation to protect the landscape. A meeting between Lake District supporters Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, Sir Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill was held soon after the sale and led to them founding the National Trust in 1895.
Miss Mack was given the island by her mother in 1973 and enjoyed regular holidays in the Lake District, but had apparently not visited the area for many years. Her will also requested that her ashes be buried in a field near Grasmere Lake, described by poet William Wordsworth as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’.
Miss Mack’s nephew, Duncan Mack, 61, of Newbury, said: ‘It was a marvellous gesture on her part, but she was a private person and did not want publicity.’
Her second cousin, Julie Baldwin, of Hove, East Sussex, added: ‘She was a bit of a recluse. She never spent anything on herself.’
The National Trust described Miss Mack’s gift as ‘hugely symbolic’.