Obituary: Sir George Trevelyan

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The Independent Online
George Trevelyan was a teacher and public speaker of rare distinction. He thought that ideas literally "come alive" if spoken effectively.

Trevelyan was born into a large family, then owners of the Wallington Estate in Northumbria. In 1925 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read History (in the family tradition). For a short spell he worked as a furniture craftsman at the Peter Waals workshops in the Cotswolds and later became a History teacher at Gordonstoun School, at that time pioneering radical education methods.

In 1947, Trevelyan was appointed Warden of Attingham Park, the first Adult Education College in Britain. At this time of post-war crisis, he was instructed by his local government appointees simply "to put heart back into the British people". With extraordinary enthusiasm and dedication, he set up adult education courses both during the week and at weekends.

Trevelyan cared passionately for the subjects he taught, which ranged from literature to history, architecture, music, drama and crafts. He included a summer school on the Historic Houses of Great Britain, courses on "Finding the Inner Teacher" and "Holistic Vision", and a series on "Death and Becoming". These proved a great success, attracting international participants.

Trevelyan believed that as an evolving species the time had come for mankind to transcend the prevailing materialist philosophy and embrace a spiritual world view. Any topic that would draw an adequate group of people was "put on" as a course, and whatever the topic, Trevelyan himself almost never missed launching nor ending a course for the 24 years he was there.

On his retirement in 1971, Trevelyan with some friends set up the Wrekin Trust, an educational trust concerned with the spiritual nature of man and the universe. For the next 20 years, with remarkable energy, and ignoring a crippling form of arthritis, he toured the country, setting up courses on hundreds of topics, one of the most important being the annual "Mystics and Scientists" (which continues). Lecture tours grew into pilgrimages to explore Britain and then expanded beyond to include America, South Africa, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Germany. Through these years he wrote his trilogy, The Aquarian Redemption, comprising A Vision of the Aquarian Age (1977), Operation Redemption (1981) and Exploration into God (1991).

Hundreds of smaller educational groups were born because Trevelyan agreed to come into homes and set them going. Among the movements he helped to inspire are the Lamplighters, Psychosynthesis, the Soil Association, the Findhorn Trust, the Teilhard de Chardin Society, and the Essene Network.

In 1982 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, often called the "alternative Nobel Peace Prize". He was selected for "educating the adult spirit to a new non-materialistic vision of human nature".

Eventually the Wrekin Trust too came to an end, but Trevelyan continued to give talks. Even as an 80-year-old, he was still able to captivate his audiences, despite a growing frailty and deafness, and continued to fulfil around 100 engagements annually.

Anne MacEwen

George Lowthian Trevelyan, teacher: born 5 November 1906; Principal, Shropshire Adult College 1947-71; succeeded 1958 as fourth Bt; founder and director, the Wrekin Trust 1971-86; married 1940 Helen Lindsay-Smith (died 1994: one adopted daughter); died 9 February 1996.