Giants Causeway, part of the National Trust, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The National Trust is 125

In 2020, this much loved institution celebrates its 125th birthday. In this article we take a look at its humble beginnings to its growth into the UK's largest charity.
Giants Causeway, part of the National Trust, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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This year the National Trust is 125 years old

Have you ever visited a historic house, castle, garden or ancient monument in the United Kingdom? If so, chances are you’ve visited one of more than 500 National Trust properties located all over the country. In 2020, this much loved institution celebrates its 125th birthday. From its humble beginnings the trust has grown to be one of Britain’s largest charities and landowners.

How it all Started

The National Trust can trace its origins back to 1895. Several philanthropists, concerned about the rapid growth of industry and housing, decided to try and save the countryside for future generations. The following year, the Trust saved its first historic home from demolition. During the years that followed, the Trust has saved various historic buildings and pieces of land from demolition or redevelopment. The National Trust soon began to grow in size and influence.

During the mid-20th century, many owners of large private homes throughout Britain found that they simply couldn’t afford to maintain the properties. Many of these were donated to the National Trust, as a convenient and practical way to avoid paying death duties. Some of the magnificent and historic stately homes that passed into the hands of the National Trust included the 16th century Barrington Court in old Somerset. If you want to visit this place, then we suggest staying at the Mason’s Arms thatched pub and B&B. Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, and Cliveden, also in Bucks, are two of the Trust’s most visited properties today.

Famous people associated with the National Trust

Over the years, many famous people have been associated with the National Trust. Many have either donated money or helped to promote its cause. Beatrix Potter, one of the best loved children’s authors of all time spent much of her life in the Lake District. Upon her death in 1943, she left over 1,600 acres of land to the Trust. Her home at Hill Top Farm near Hawkshead in the Lake District is today a museum devoted to her life and books. The museum attracts millions of visitors from around the world. It’s no exaggeration to say that Potter was responsible for protecting much of the land that today comprises the Lake District National Park.

The Trust has diversified over the years

Many people still associate the National Trust with huge manor houses and stately homes. However, the national Trust has diversified and purchased other types of property. The Trust also added the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Liverpool to its roster of famous homes. The NT also owns several other 20th century properties, including the former London home of modernist architect, Erno Goldfinger. You can also visit a old Victorian workhouse, a 17th century Welsh cottage made from dried mud, and a lighthouse keeper’s cottage in Devon.

Unusual properties in the Trust

Aside from its castles, stately homes and coastal areas, the National Trust also has plenty of somewhat unusual properties. In Wales, you can venture into the depths of a Roman goldmine. In Suffolk you can enjoy a show at the Theatre Royal; Britain’s only surviving Regency theatre. In Surrey, you can enjoy the view from the top of Leith Hill Tower, the tallest point in southeast England. While there, why not stay in a self-catering thatched cottage in nearby Pulborough. In Southwark, London, you can enjoy a drink at the George Inn, London’s only surviving galleried pub.

The National Trust in 2020

Today, the National Trust is thriving and has the distinction of being one of the UK’s largest and
best loved charities. Although it employs about 12,000 staff, it also relies heavily on volunteers; around 60,000 of them. There are over 5.5 million Trust members, making it the largest membership organization in the UK. It’s also the United Kingdom’s second biggest landowner, responsible for over 250,000 hectares of unspoiled countryside and open spaces. In all, the Trust looks after more than 500 properties throughout the UK. Although, its most popular is the spectacular natural rock formation known as the Giant’s Causeway, in Northern Ireland. While there, we definitely recommend you pop across to the Inishowen Peninsula in neighbouring County Donegal and stay in the Tigín Tuí Thatched Self Catering Cottage.

Giants Causeway, part of the National Trust, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Giants Causeway, part of the National Trust, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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