The National Trust was founded by the vision of three pioneers on 12 January 1895, Octavia Hill, the housing reformer, Sir Robert Hunter, a solicitor of the Commons Preservation Society and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a Lake District clergyman.
It was borne out of a vested interest in promoting the “permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historical interest”. Over the past 120 years, the National Trust has grown into the UK’s largest charity, caring for historic properties and areas of beautiful countryside.
Hunter and Hill had thought of their idea ten years previously, whilst they were both still working in London dealing with leading social reformers.
Add to that the enthusiasm of the artist John Ruskin, who was a pioneering conservationist, and from his writings he foresaw the ‘green-house effect’ over a century ago. Ruskin inspired the establishment of The National Trust, and the founders of the National Parks movement.
The first piece of land that was donated to the National Trust was Dinas Oleu by Mrs Fanny Talbot in 1895. This stunning gorse-covered hill, known as Dinas Oleu (Citadel of Light) gives you dramatic views over the Mawddach Estuary and Cardigan Bay – stretching towards the Llyn Peninsula.
The first property that the National Trust purchased in 1896 for £10 was this 650 year old church house, known as Alfriston Clergy House. The house was built back in 1350 during medieval times under the reign of Edward III. It is a rare example of a surviving Wealden timber framed hall house.
In 1931 the National Trust of Scotland is established.
In 1945, on the National Trusts 50th year, it is recorded they have purchased or been donated a massive 112,000 acres of land and 93 historic buildings and have 7,850 members.
Then in 1946 The National Land Fund is established by Dr Hugh Dalton, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. This was set up as a memorial to those killed in the Second World War and this enabled the trust to get many great country houses with the assistance of the Fund.
In 1965 the launch of Enterprise Neptune was established with the aim of acquiring unspoilt coastline which might otherwise be at risk. To celebrate the 50th year of the Neptune campaign in 2015, the National Trust now look after over 775 miles of coastline around the UK.
In 1975, the National Trust reach an amazing 500,000 members, followed in 1981 by 1 million members and 2 million members in 1990. In 2007 there are around 3.5 million members of the National Trust, with the latest number of members counted in 2011 at 4 million. Plus, there are around 50,000 volunteers working for the Trust, donating what Octavia Hill called gifts of time.
In 1995 to celebrate 100 years, a service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral. Over the first 100 years the National Trust have become the guardians of 580,000 acres of countryside in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 545 miles of coastline, 230 historic houses and 130 important gardens.
By becoming a member of the National Trust, you get FREE access to over 500 Trust venues across the UK, including free parking and other member benefits. Membership starts at just £69 per year for an individual.