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The National Trust - Celebrating 125 Years.

This year (2020) marks the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the National Trust. Regular visitors to the UK will be familiar with this national and much-cherished institution which currently owns 200 hundred historic homes open to the public and 610,000 acres of land which includes on fifth of the coastline and large parts of the Lake District and the Peak District National Parks.

The current portfolio is diverse and wide ranging from remote farmsteads to archaeological sites, ancient forests, coastlines, shops, pubs, even entire villages. At its heart the ethos of the Trust remains conservation and maintaining public access for all. All property owned by the Trust is inalienable which means it can never be sold or developed unless by an Act of Parliament.

The History

The organisation was founded in 1895 by a trio of Victorian social reformers and philanthropists Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley who saw a pressing need to preserve for the enjoyment of general public open spaces and the countryside from encroachment from the ever-expanding urban development fuelled by the industrial revolution.

The first ever acquisition by the new company was 4.5 acres of Welsh cliffs above Cardigan Bay (mid Wales) donated by a lady by the name of Fannie Talbot "into the custody of some society that will never vulgarise it". This was followed in the following year by the purchase for £10.00 of a derelict 14th century property The Clergy House in Alfriston, East Sussex.

Once purchased the house underwent a programme of restoration, carefully planned to ensure as few changes as possible were made to the original structure, a founding principal of the embryonic organisation that still remains core to the ethos of the National Trust today.

The acquisition in 1907 of the country house Barrington Court however proved to be an ongoing financial drain on the finances of Trust and which resulted in them not purchasing another country house for over 30 years.

The National Trust Act in 1907 provided a legal framework which allowed for the purchase and acquisition of land and property on a non profit basis for the "preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including building) of beauty and historic interest and, as regards lands, for the preservation of their natural aspect, features, and animal and plant life".

Through the 1920's and 1930's the Trust grew through a progamme of donations, bequests and purchases (of mostly land). This included the extensive properties of Beatrix Potter, a friend of Canon Rawnsley, in the Lake District (4,000 acres of land including houses and farmsteads) who bequeathed them to the Trust on her death. She stipulated that the farms were to be let at moderate rent and all sheep on the fell farms should continue to be the local Herdwick breed.

Following the ravages of WWII, a significant increase in inheritance taxes under the new Labour Government meant many large landowners faced crippling death duties when inheriting a property. In addition, the spiralling costs of maintaining vast and aging buildings meant these inheritors were often faced with impossible financial decisions often resulting in the selling or breaking up of large estates. The National Trust however offered an alternative course of action, where descendants could hand over their property to the Trust in lieu of death duties and in return continue to live there. In the years that followed many new stately homes and country houses were added to the portfolio.

In more recent years the Trust has sought to diversify its portfolio including properties not just of great architectural significance but also ones that have cultural or historic significance such as the childhood terraced homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon in Liverpool.

The Symbol

The Oakleaf symbol is the widely recognised logo for the Trust. Some have mistakenly claimed that it derived from a wood carving on the first property to be purchased by the Trust, The Clergy House. This is in fact incorrect and the logo was created in response to a competition in 1936 under which a number of professional artists were asked to submit designs based on either an English lion, the rose or the oak, considered to be the most fitting symbols to represent English heritage.

The winning design was created by the artist Joseph Armitage (1880-1945) whose other works include decorative carvings on St George's Chapel in Windsor, the Bank of England and South Africa House in London.

Joining the National Trust

The National Trust is principally funded through its membership.

All UK residents can join the National Trust. The cost currently (2020) for an annual membership for an individual is £72.00. (Family membership of 2 adults and children under 18 years is £126.00) . Currently there are more than 5.6 million members of the National Trust - that is larger than the population of Finland!

While overseas visitors cannot join the Trust directly, US citizens can join the Royal Oak Foundation. This is the Trust's official partner in the US and by joining them you will be able to gain unlimited entry to almost all of the National Trust properties of England, Wales and Scotland as well as a number of other benefits. Current membership fee is $80.00 per person.

Top Ten visited National Trust Properties

For the year 2018/2019 26.9 million people visited National Trust Properties (those which charge an entrance fee). Here are the top ten most visited sites.

1. Giants Causeway (738,508 visits)

2. Clumber Park (677,136 visits)

3. Attingham Park (511,687 visits)

4. Cliveden (499,043 visits)

5. Carrick-a-Rede and Larrybane (497,623 visits)

6. Waddesdon Manor (471,886 visits)

7. Belton House (444,697 visits)

8. Fountains Abbey Estate and Studley Royal Water Garden (403,591 visits)

9. Stourhead (400,186 visits)

10. Calke Abbey (398,837 visits)

(source The National Trust 2018/19)

Date: 18/08/2020 | Author: Justin Taylor

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