National Trust at Flatford
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The acquisition of Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House in 1943 marks the start of the National Trust’s association with the Flatford area. Regular additions of land/property followed as the National Trust strengthened its commitment to balancing the needs of farmers (who make their living from the land) and the needs of visitors who want to connect the landscape with the work of John Constable.
- c1900: Flatford Mill closes down
- 1924: National Trust is offered a near derelict Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House. In warning the National Trust against taking these properties on, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings declares “The cost of putting Willy Lott's House in repair will be a sum in the neighbourhood of £1750” and that the National Trust should only take it on when it had been “repaired and its maintenance guaranteed”
- 1926: Thomas Parkington, an Ipswich builder and philanthropist, buys Willy Lott’s House and Flatford Mill with a view to carrying out repairs and running an art school.
- 1926-28: Thomas Parkington restores the buildings but in doing so he strips out all the mill machinery and has the iron water wheel removed. During the restoration, restorers carve a verse of a poem by Adelaide Proctor into the panel below the staircase in Willy Lott’s House
- 1928: Westername East publishes a booklet titled ‘The Saving of Flatford’ which acknowledges the contribution made by Thomas Parkington. The booklet contains rare drawings of the Mill and Willy Lott’s House by Leonard R Squirrell.
- 1943: Thomas Parkington dies leaving Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House to the National Trust in memory of John Constable
- 1946: National Trust leases Willy Lott’s House and Flatford Mill to The Field Studies Council an arrangement that is still in place today
- 1946-1959: National Trust acquires more land until it is protecting over 400 acres around Flatford
- 1959: National Trust acquires Valley Farm Trust and leases it to the Field Studies Council
- 1971: National Trust: acquires Judas Gap Marsh downstream of Flatford
- 1974: River Stour Trust restores Flatford Lock
- 1987: National Trust acquires Gibbonsgate Field and lake to the rear of Willy Lotts House
- 1985: National Trust acquires Bridge Cottage. When digging the foundations for a new Tea Shop in the land around Bridge Cottage the Dry Dock is discovered which the Trust restores based on Constable’s original drawings.
- 1991: River Stour Trust replaces Flatford lock gates
- 1995: National Trust acquires Millers Field on the hill behind Valley Farm
- 2000: National Trust acquires Fenn Bridge Meadows off Flatford Lane
- 2008: National Trust volunteers help re- introduce themed events at Flatford – particularly at Christmas – and these continue to prove very popular with visitors
- 2009: National Trust acquires Stanley’s Meadow and The Grove (formerly Orvis Wood), obtains a matched funding grant of £5k to restore the formal kitchen garden behind Valley Farm
- 2010: National Trust volunteers complete the restoration of Valley Farm kitchen garden. Produce is used in the tea room and it becomes a valuable source of income from sales to the public
- 2012: National Trust buys back the lease on the car park (land already owned by the Trust) and acquires Hay Barn Barn Cottage and surrounding land, a programme of regular exhibitions of local artists' work start in the Boat House Gallery (adjacent to the Tea Room)
- 2013: National Trust builds a new visitor reception pavilion in the car park, new picnic tables are installed in the Dry Dock Garden
- 2014: National Trust constructs a new ice cream kiosk on the site of the old one, a new golf buggy acquired to help transport visitors from the car park to the Flatford site and revetments along the northern edge of the river at Flatford are renewed