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Ferguson's Gang: The secret society that saved rural England

Posted by Luci Ackers on Nov 03, 2015
  • Image: Newtown Old Town Hall. Credit: Philip Halling via geograph (http://bit.ly/1OleMwy)
  • Lake District
  • Dartmoor in Devon


Get ready for this month's exciting book release!

Ferguson's Gang: The secret society that saved rural England by Polly Bagnall and Sally Beck is being released later this month by National Trust Books. This interesting biographical work details the exploits of a notorious gang of women who operated in the 1930s in an attempt to save rural locations in England. The National Trust is releasing the book, which is so closely linked to its own history, on the 12th November 2015.

The Ferguson's Gang consisted of a collection of strong-minded women who, frustrated by the steady destruction of our countryside and historic places, travelled the country opposing development and construction work in areas that should instead have been protected. The women were influenced by the production of England and the Octopus (Clough Williams-Ellis, 1928), and were determined to help reduce the development of insensitive or ugly buildings across England's green scenery. The women's aim was to raise money for the National Trust in order to help it purchase more land and protect more of these special areas.

And they were successful!

The gang were a mysterious bunch, led by six women who only ever showed themselves in masks and never revealed their true identities. They went by pseudonyms such as Bill Stickers, Red Biddy and Kate O'Brien The Nark; they would find inventive ways to deliver their donations to the National Trust including concealing Victorian coins inside unlikely places, wrapping 100 pound notes around cigars, and stuffing cheques into small bottles. 

It is thanks to these persistent women that places such as Shalford Mill, Newtown Old Town Hall on the Isle of Wight and Priory Cottages in Oxfordshire were able to join the National Trust's collection, not to mention large stretches of the Cornish coastline. They also supported the purchase of land in the Lake District, Devon and Wiltshire. The stunts of Ferguson's Gang were closely followed by the press and they once even recorded a national radio appeal to further help their cause. Image: Priory Cottages, Steventon. Credit: Steve Daniels via geograph.org.uk (http://bit.ly/1P7Ham6).

We have much to thank these eccentric ladies for and can all continue to enjoy some of England's most captivating places which survive today under the careful protection and maintenance of the National Trust. In Ferguson's Gang Bagnall and Beck describe the feats and adventures of these masked, mysterious ladies right down to the elaborate picnics they took with them on the road. The book is finally able to reveal the identity of these unconventional heroines with the help from relatives and friends, and it is released on Thursday 12th November 2015.

Order your copy today by visiting the website.


Stay in the stunning areas the women fought to protect and see for yourself why it was so important to them.

Click to:

View our properties on the Isle of Wight

View our properties in Oxfordshire

Take a look at our Cornish Collection

See all our properties in the Lake District

View our Devon properties

Take a look at our collection in Wiltshire


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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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