National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

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For other National Trusts, see National Trust (disambiguation).
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
Abbreviation National Trust
Motto For ever, for everyone
Formation 1895
Legal status Trust
Purpose To Look after Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Headquarters Swindon, United Kingdom
  • United Kingdom
Official language English
Key people H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
Dame Helen Ghosh
Sir Simon Jenkins
Sir Laurie Magnus
(Deputy chairman)
Main organ Board of Trustees
Affiliations Various Organisations in the Council
Staff 4,964
Volunteers 61,000
One of the most visited National Trust properties is Stourhead, with its classic landscape garden.

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust does not operate in Scotland, where there is an independent National Trust for Scotland. The trust was founded in 1895 and given statutory powers, starting with the National Trust Act 1907. Historically the Trust tended to focus on English country houses, which still make up the largest part of its holdings, but it also protects historic landscapes such as in the Lake District, historic urban properties, and nature reserves.

According to its website:

"We're a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone."[1]

The trust owns many heritage properties, including historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments and social history sites. It is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom, owning many beauty spots, most of which are open to the public free of charge. It is the largest membership organisation in the United Kingdom, and one of the largest UK charities by both income and assets.


The National Trust was incorporated in 1895 as an "association not for profit" under the Companies Acts 1862 to 1890, in which the liability of its members was limited by guarantee. It was later incorporated by six separate Acts of Parliament (The National Trust Acts 1907–1971 – as varied by a parliamentary scheme implemented by The Charities (National Trust) Order 2005),[2] it is also a charitable organisation registered under the Charities Act 2006.[3]

Its formal purpose is:

The preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and, as regards lands, for the preservation of their natural aspect, features and animal and plant life. Also the preservation of furniture, pictures and chattels of any description having national and historic or artistic interest.

The Trust was founded on 12 January 1895 by Octavia Hill (1838–1912), Sir Robert Hunter (1844–1913) and Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851–1920), prompted in part by the earlier success of Charles Eliot and the Kyrle Society.

In the early days the Trust was concerned primarily with protecting open spaces and a variety of threatened buildings; its first property was Alfriston Clergy House, a cornice carving which may have given the Trust its sprig of oak symbol.[citation needed] The Trust's first nature reserve was Wicken Fen, while its first archaeological monument was White Barrow.

The Trust has been the beneficiary of numerous donations of both property and money. From 1924 to 1931 the Trust's chairman was John Bailey, of whom The Times said in 1931, "The strong position which the National Trust now occupies is largely due to him, and it will perhaps never be known how many generous gifts of rural beauty and historic interest the nation owes, directly or indirectly, to his persuasive enthusiasm."[4] At the same a group of anonymous philanthropists set up Ferguson's Gang; their masked appearances with sacks of money and use of unusual pseudonyms such as Bill Stickers and Red Biddy caught the public's attention around the increasing danger of urbanisation.[5]

The focus on country houses and gardens which now comprise the majority of its most visited properties came about in the mid 20th century when it was realised that the private owners of many of these properties were no longer able to afford to maintain them. Many were donated to the Trust in lieu of death duties. The diarist James Lees-Milne is usually credited with playing a central role in the main phase of the Trust's country house acquisition programme, though he was in fact simply an employee of the Trust, and was carrying through policies which had already been decided by its governing body.

Wicken Fen, the National Trust's first nature reserve, acquired with help from Charles Rothschild in 1899

One of the biggest crises in the Trust's history erupted at the 1967 annual general meeting, when the leadership of the Trust was accused of being out of touch and placing too much emphasis on conserving country houses. In response, the Council asked Sir Henry Benson to chair an advisory Committee to review the structure of the trust. Following the publication of the Benson Report in 1968 much of the administration of the Trust was devolved to the regions.

In 2005 the Trust moved to a new head office in Swindon, Wiltshire. The building was constructed on an abandoned railway yard, and is intended as a model of brownfield renewal. It is named Heelis, taken from the married name of children's author Beatrix Potter, a huge supporter and donor to the Trust, which now owns the land she formerly owned in Cumbria.[6]


The Trust is an independent charity rather than a government institution (English Heritage and its equivalents in other parts of the United Kingdom are government bodies which perform some functions which overlap with the work of the National Trust).

It was founded as a not-for-profit company in 1895 but was later re-incorporated by a private Act of Parliament, the National Trust Act 1907. Subsequent acts of Parliament between 1919 and 1978 amended and extended the Trust's powers and remit. In 2005 the governance of the Trust was substantially changed under a scheme made by the Charity Commission.[2]

The Trust is governed by a twelve-strong Board of Trustees, appointed and overseen by a Council of 26 people elected by the members of the Trust, and 26 people appointed by other organisations whose work is related to that of the Trust, such as The Soil Association, the Royal Horticultural Society, and the Council for British Archaeology.[7]

At an operational level the Trust is organised into regions which are aligned with the official local government regions. Its headquarters are in Swindon.


For the year ended 28 February 2013, the Trust's total income was £475 million, up from £406 million in 2010. The largest sources of income were still membership subscriptions (£140.1 million), direct property income (£124.6 million) and legacies (£50.2 million). In addition, the Trust's commercial arm, National Trust Enterprises Ltd, which undertakes profit-making activities such as running gift shops and restaurants at properties, contributed £59.2 million, a year-on-year increase. [8]

The Trust is heavily supported by volunteers, who numbered about 61,000 in 2009/10, contributing 3.5 million hours of work with an estimated value of £29.2 million.


Ightham Mote, built around 1320, is a Grade I listed building, and parts of it are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The Trust is one of the largest membership organisations in the world and annual subscriptions are its most important source of income. Membership numbers have grown from 226,200 when the Trust celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1970 to 500,000 in 1975, one million in 1981, two million in 1990 and by 2010, membership had reached 3.7 million. Members are entitled to free entry to trust properties that are open to the public at a charge.

The members elect half of the Council of the National Trust, and periodically (most recently in 2006) vote on the organisations which may appoint the other half of the Council. Members may also propose and vote on motions at the annual general meeting, although these are advisory and do not decide the policy of the Trust.

In the 1990s a dispute over whether stag, or deer hunting should be permitted on National Trust land caused bitter disputes within the organisation and was the subject of much debate at annual general meetings, but it did little to slow down the growth in member numbers.

There is a separate organisation called The Royal Oak Foundation for American supporters.


The National Trust today boasts 61,000 volunteers.[9] Volunteering experiences are wide and varied, ranging from helping in its historic houses and gardens, to fundraising and providing specialist skills.[10] The Trust is a member of NCVYS in recognition of its work for the personal and social development of young people.[11]

National Trust properties[edit]

Historic houses and gardens[edit]

The Trust owns two hundred historic houses that are open to the public. The majority of them are country houses and most of the others are associated with famous individuals. The majority of these country houses contain collections of pictures, furniture, books, metalwork, ceramics and textiles that have remained in their historic context. Most of the houses also have important gardens attached to them, and the Trust also owns some important gardens not attached to a house. The properties include some of the most famous stately homes in the country and some of the key gardens in the history of British gardening.

The trust acquired the majority of its country houses in the mid 20th century, when death duties were at their most punitive. James Lees-Milne was secretary of the trust's Country House Committee in the key period either side of World War II. The arrangements made with families bequeathing their homes to the trust often allowed them to continue to live in part of the property. Since the 1980s the trust has been reluctant to take over large houses without substantial accompanying endowment funds, and its acquisitions in this category have been less frequent.

In recent years the Trust has sought to broaden its activities and appeal by acquiring historic properties such as former mills (early factories), workhouses and Paul McCartney and John Lennon's childhood homes.

Paintings and Sculpture collection[edit]

Rembrandt's self-portrait, formally attributed to him in March 2013

Since its founding in 1895, the Trust has gradually expanded its collection of art, mostly through whole property acquisitions. Since 1956 there has been a Curator of Pictures and Sculpture.[12] The first was St John (Bobby) Gore, who was appointed "Adviser on Paintings" in 1956. He published catalogues of the pictures at Upton, Polesden Lacey, Buscot, Saltram and Ascott.[13] His successor in 1986 was Alastair Laing, who cared for the works of art at 120 properties and created the exhibition In Trust for the Nation, held at the National Gallery in 1995–96.[12] Since 2009 the curator has been David Taylor, who has approved photos of the Trust's 12,567 oil paintings to be included in the Public Catalogue Foundation's searchable online archive of oil paintings, available since 2012.[14] Use of the publicly available website was probably instrumental in the discovery of Rembrandt's self-portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet[15] which is now displayed at Buckland Abbey near Yelverton in Devon.

This discovery is the second Rembrandt to have found its way into the collection; the first was the portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet at Penrhyn Castle, which was added to the collection after the Rijksmuseum failed to acquire it in 2007.[16]

Coast and countryside[edit]

Cliffs and Worm's Head at Rhossili

The Trust's land holdings account for more than 630,000 acres (985 square miles, 2550 km²), mostly of countryside, covering nearly 1.5% of the total land mass of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A large proportion of this consists of the parks and agricultural estates attached to country houses, but there are also many countryside properties which were acquired specifically for their scenic or scientific value. The Trust owns or has covenant over about a quarter of the Lake District; it has similar control over about 12% of the Peak District National Park (See for example South Peak Estate, High Peak Estate). It owns or protects roughly one fifth of the coast in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (704 miles, 1126 km), and has a long-term campaign, Project Neptune, which seeks to acquire more.

Protection of Trust property[edit]

The National Trust Acts grant the Trust the unique statutory power to declare land inalienable. This prevents the land from being sold or mortgaged against the Trust's wishes without special parliamentary procedure. The inalienability of Trust land was over-ridden by Parliament in the case of proposals to construct a section of the Plympton by-pass through the park at Saltram, on the grounds that the road proposal had been known about before the park at Saltram was declared inalienable.[17]

The Acts also give the Trust the power to make bylaws to regulate the activities of people when on its land. All photography at National Trust properties, other than that for private and personal use or for entry into approved competitions, is strictly prohibited.[18][not in citation given] Since "private and personal use" means that they may not be displayed on the Internet,[19] except for social networking sites such as Flickr,[20] visitors are instead directed to request images from the National Trust Photo Library.

Most visited properties[edit]


Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire

The 2012–13 annual report lists the National Trust properties for which an admission charge is made and that attracted more than 50,000 visitors in the year.[21]

  1. Stourhead, Wiltshire – 356,023
  2. Attingham Park, Shropshire – 353,681
  3. Cliveden, Buckinghamshire – 349,307
  4. Wakehurst Place, West Sussex – 343,225
  5. Giant's Causeway, County Antrim – 340,795
  6. Fountains Abbey Estate, North Yorkshire – 336,326
  7. Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire – 324,918
  8. Polesden Lacey, Surrey – 289,889
  9. Belton House, Lincolnshire – 288,694
  10. Larrybane (Carrick-a-Rede), County Antrim – 279,524
  11. Calke Abbey, Derbyshire – 275,934
  12. St.Michael’s Mount, Cornwall – 269,776
  13. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire – 251,930
  14. Nymans, West Sussex – 243,868
  15. Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire – 234,004
  16. Kingston Lacy, Dorset – 230,270
  17. Lanhydrock, Cornwall – 217,338
  18. Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester – 214,674
  19. Mottisfont, Hampshire – 212,442
  20. Sheffield Park Garden, East Sussex – 205,606
  21. Cragside Estate, Northumberland – 198,758
  22. Chartwell, Kent – 195,004
  23. Tyntesfield, North Somerset – 192,774
  24. Corfe Castle, Dorset – 191,690
  25. Ickworth, Suffolk – 190,751
  26. Wallington, Northumberland – 188,977
  27. Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire – 181,036
  28. Gibside, Tyne and Wear – 180,426
  29. Avebury, Wiltshire – 175,067
  30. Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey – 170,007
  31. Killerton, Devon – 167,070
  32. Bodnant Garden, Conwy – 165,610
  33. Bodiam Castle, East Sussex – 164,091
  34. Castle Ward, County Down – 161,920
  35. Stowe Gardens and Park, Buckinghamshire – 160,920
  36. Mount Stewart, County Down – 158,327
  37. Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire – 157,324
  38. Lacock Abbey and Fox Talbot Museum, Wiltshire – 156,535
  39. Dyrham Park, Hertfordshire – 152,460
  40. Erddig, Wrexham – 152,206
  41. Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire – 151,225
  42. Charlecote Park, Warwickshire – 149,133
  43. Dunster Castle, Somerset – 147,062
  44. Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent – 145,003
  45. Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate, Cheshire – 144,209
  46. Cotehele, Devon – 139,035
  47. Chirk Castle, Wrexham – 138,655
  48. Blickling Hall, Norfolk – 138,400
  49. Croome Court, Worcestershire – 135,741
  50. The Vyne, Hampshire – 129,276
  51. Wimpole Home Farm, Cambridgeshire – 127,671
  52. Trelissick Garden, Cornwall – 125,249
  53. Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire – 124,016
  54. Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire – 123,438
  55. Montacute House, Somerset – 122,403
  56. Petworth House and Garden, West Sussex – 122,129
  57. Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire – 121,979
  58. Hanbury Hall and Garden, Worcestershire – 118,872
  59. Powis Castle, Powys – 114,550
  60. Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire – 113,191
  61. Scotney Castle, Kent – 112,439
  62. Castle Drogo, Devon – 110,333
  63. Ightham Mote, Kent – 110,207
  64. Knightshayes Court, Devon – 107,361
  65. Hinton Ampner, Hampshire – 105,818
  66. Lyme Park, Cheshire – 104,749
  67. Brownsea Island, Dorset – 104,516
  68. Speke Hall, Merseyside – 103,928
  69. Ham House, Surrey – 102,808
  70. Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey – 102,455
  71. Knole – 101,918
  72. Hilltop – 99,489
  73. Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate – 99,467
  74. Barrington Court – 99,067
  75. Sizergh – 98,213
  76. Plas Newydd – 97,398
  77. Penrhyn Castle – 96,861
  78. Coughton Court – 95,544
  79. Hughenden – 93,503
  80. Basildon Park, Berkshire – 93,355
  81. Snowshill Manor and Garden – 91,381
  82. Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire – 91,042
  83. Arlington Court – 90,514
  84. Greenway, Devon – 89,980
  85. Lindisfarne Castle – 89,046
  86. Bateman's – 87,684
  87. Sutton Hoo – 86,605
  88. Coleton Fishacre, Devon – 84,023
  89. Biddulph Grange Garden – 82,829
  90. Standen – 79,849
  91. Chedworth Roman Villa – 78,961
  92. Packwood House – 76,595
  93. Buckland Abbey – 75,919
  94. Greys Court, Berkshire – 75,399
  95. Little Moreton Hall – 74,280
  96. Croft Castle and Parkland – 73,511
  97. Trerice – 72,990
  98. Seaton Delaval Hall – 71,537
  99. Treasurer’s House (York) – 70,845
  100. Glendurgan Garden – 70,136
  101. Oxburgh Hall – 70,094
  102. Berrington Hall – 67,525
  103. Saltram – 67,143
  104. Wightwick Manor – 65,350
  105. Hatchlands – 61,699
  106. Nunnington Hall – 60,720
  107. Emmetts Garden – 60,404
  108. Dinefwr – 59,844
  109. Uppark House and Garden – 58,359
  110. Rowallane Garden, County Down – 57,226
  111. Lydford Gorge, Devon – 56,598
  112. Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire – 52,987
  113. Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall – 51,683
  114. The Needles, Isle of Wight – 51,664
  115. Clandon Park, Surrey – 51,418

National Trust Places in the United Kingdom[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What we do". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "The National Trust Acts 1907 – 1971". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty". Charity Commission. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Mr John Bailey – The English Heritage", The Times, 30 June 1931, p. 16
  5. ^ Hutton-North, Anna (2013). Ferguson's Gang – The Maidens behind the Masks. Lulu Inc. ISBN 978-1-291-48453-3. 
  6. ^ "Heelis". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Council members". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "About Us". National Trust. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Volunteering". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Our Members". NCVYS. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b An interview with Alastair Laing, retired Curator of Pictures and Sculpture at the National Trust, interviewed by Annette de Vries on Codart
  13. ^ Obituary of St John Gore in the Telegraph
  14. ^ National Trust on the BBC Your paintings website
  15. ^ See the discovery of Van Dyck's portrait of Olivia Boteler Porter
  16. ^ Rijksmuseum in negotiations to buy £40m Rembrandt from private British collection on Codart
  17. ^ "History of the Trust: 1967 – 1994". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Before you visit". National Trust. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Roy Nikon (15 May 2009). "National Trust Photography Persecution". Wild About Britain. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Chris Cheesman (20 May 2009). "National Trust: Photographers free to post on Flickr". Amateur Photographer. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "National Trust Annual Report 2012-13". National Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 


  • Fedden, Robin, Joekes, Rosemary, "The National Trust Guide to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland", Norton, 1973. ISBN 0-393-01876-8.

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]