National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
NationalTrustUKLogo.svg
AbbreviationNational Trust
MottoFor ever, for everyone
Formation1895
Legal statusTrust
PurposeTo look after Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland
HeadquartersSwindon, Wiltshire
Location
  • United Kingdom
Region served
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Membership
5.1 million (2017)
Key people
H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
(President)
Hilary McGrady
(Director-General)
Tim Parker
(Chairman)
Main organ
Board of trustees
Revenue
£494 million (2014–15)
Staff
5,899[1]
Volunteers
62,000[1]
Websitewww.nationaltrust.org.uk

The National Trust, formally the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the largest membership organisation in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

The trust describes itself as "a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone".[2] 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. In Scotland, there is an independent National Trust for Scotland. The Trust has special powers to prevent land being sold off or mortgaged, although this can be over-ridden by Parliament.[citation needed]

The National Trust has been the beneficiary of many large donations and bequests. It owns over 350 heritage properties, which includes many historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and social history sites.[1] Most of these are open to the public, usually for a charge. Others are leased, on terms that manage to preserve their character. The Trust is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom, owning over 247,000 hectares (610,000 acres; 2,470 km2; 950 sq mi) of land,[1] including many characteristic sites of natural beauty, most of which are open to the public free of charge.[citation needed]

The Trust, one of the largest UK charities financially, is funded by membership subscriptions, entrance fees, legacies, and revenue from gift shops and restaurants within its properties. It has been accused of focusing too much on country estates, and in recent years, the trust has sought to broaden its activities by acquiring historic properties such as former mills, early factories, workhouses, and the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.[3]

In 2015, the trust undertook a governance review to mark the 10th anniversary of the current governance structure.[4] The review led to the downsizing of the council and limitation of tenure to two terms.  [5]

History

The National Trust was incorporated in 1895 as an "association not for profit" under the Companies Acts 1862–90, 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, 1919, 1937, 1939, 1953, and 1971.[6] It is also a charitable organisation registered under the Charities Act 2006.[7]

Its formal purpose is:[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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

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, and a decorative cornice there may have given the trust its sprig of oak symbol.[citation needed] The trust's first nature reserve was Wicken Fen, and its first archaeological monument was White Barrow.[citation needed]

The trust has been the beneficiary of numerous donations of 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."[8] At the same time, a group of anonymous philanthropists set up the Ferguson's Gang; they wore masks and carried sacks of money, and their use of unusual pseudonyms such as Bill Stickers and Red Biddy caught the public's attention, bringing awareness to the increasing threat of urbanisation.[9]

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 the private owners of many of the 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 already decided by its governing body.[10]

One of the most visited National Trust properties is Stourhead, with its classic landscape garden.

Sir Jack Boles, Director General of the Trust between 1975 and 1983, oversaw the acquisition of Wimpole Hall, Cragside, Canons Ashby, Erddig and Kingston Lacy. The last is a particularly notable asset as it comprises an art collection, Corfe Castle, Studland Bay, Badbury Rings and a host of commercial and domestic buildings and land.[11]

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.[citation needed]

In the 1990s, a dispute over whether 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 the growth in its membership numbers.[citation needed]

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 of, and donor to, the trust, which now owns the land she formerly owned in Cumbria.[12]

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