Ferguson's Gang

Ferguson's Gang, formed during a picnic at Tothill Fields in London in 1927, was an anonymous and somewhat enigmatic group that raised funds for the National Trust during the period from 1930 until 1947.[1]

The inner-circle of the group were six women, who hid their identities behind masks, unusual pseudonyms, and mock-Cockney communiqués.[2][3] They took the following pseudonyms: Bill Stickers, Sister Agatha, Kate O'Brien The Nark, Red Biddy, The Lord Beershop of the Gladstone Islands and Mercator's Projection (The Bloody Beershop, or Is B) and Shot Biddy.[1]

The gang was influenced by Clough Williams-Ellis's publication England and the Octopus, which denounced insensitive building and ugly development. They determined to save what they could. Their donations enabled the purchase of Shalford Mill, in Surrey, and Newtown Old Town Hall, on the Isle of Wight. Conservation work was overseen by the Gang's architect, 'The Artichoke': John Eric Miers Macgregor FRIBA FSA OBE. They also funded the purchase of stretches of the coastline of Cornwall,[4] Priory Cottages at Steventon in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), and supported appeals for money to purchase land in Derbyshire, the Lake District, Devon and Wiltshire. In total they raised the sum of £4,500,[2] the equivalent to half a million pounds in today's money.

As an example of their methods, in 1933 a fully masked Red Biddy, now known to be the developmental psychologist and peace activist Rachel Pinney, deposited a large sack of Victorian coins to the value of £100 on the Trust secretary's desk.[1] In 1935, one of the 'gang' was interviewed by the BBC, and turned up at Broadcasting House wearing a mask.

In the words of the group's leader, Bill Stickers:[1]

We aint so many, We aint so few,

All of us has this end in view,

National Trust to work for you.

When the Oxbridge Sanskrit scholar and adopted Cornish bard Margaret Steuart Pollard died at the age of 93 in 1996, her obituaries revealed that she had been "Bill Stickers".[2][5]


  1. ^ a b c d Polly Bagnall & Sally Beck (2015). Ferguson's Gang: The Remarkable Story of the National Trust Gangsters. Pavilion Books. ISBN 978-1909881716.
  2. ^ a b c Herdman, Sue (Spring 2008). "The Cloaked Crusaders". The National Trust Magazine. The National Trust. pp. 24–27.
  3. ^ Waterson, Merlin (1994). The National Trust: The First Hundred Years. London: National Trust (Enterprises) Ltd, BCA and BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-37066-6.
  4. ^ Peter Laws (1 January 1978). A Guide to the National Trust in Devon & Cornwall. David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-7581-5.
  5. ^ Jenkin, Ann Trevenen (1996-12-07). "Obituary: Margaret Pollard". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  • Bagnall, Polly (2012). Ferguson- Exhibition Catalogue.

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