Our constitution

The West-facing front of the c14th timber framed Alfriston Clergy House.
Alfriston Clergy House, our first building bought for £10 in 1896 National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

The National Trust was first incorporated in 1894 as an Association not for profit under the Companies Acts 1862-1890.

The first National Trust Act was passed by Parliament in 1907. A number of successive Acts have since been introduced to update and, where necessary, revise our constitution to ensure the National Trust continues to be well governed and remains true to its cause.

The National Trust Acts

Starting with our Parliamentary Scheme (The Charities (National Trust) Order 2005). This describes our current governance arrangements and is the starting point for the arrangements in the Governance Handbook.

Proposed Parliamentary Scheme changes (2015)

This version of the Parliamentary Scheme shows the changes required to introduce certain proposals made as part of the 2014/15 governance review, namely:

  • the proposed reduction in the size of the Council from 52 to 36 members and related changes to procedures - we are asking our members to approve these changes at the 2015 AGM
  • other proposals made as part of the governance review - there will be an opportunity to discuss these proposals at the 2015 AGM. You can find out more about the 2014/2015 governance review process and proposals and about the 2015 AGM below.

This version also shows some changes to the role and structure of our Regional Advisory Boards and panels that were agreed by the Board earlier this year. To recognise that the primary role of these groups is to provide support to our staff (as opposed to Trustees), the Board decided they should no longer be committees of the Board. The changes in the Parliamentary Scheme reflect this and other changes agreed for these groups. Going forward we continue to have a Regional Advisory Board for each National Trust Region providing support to regional staff. We also have four Advisory Groups providing support and advice in the following specialist areas: Historic Environment; Natural Environment; Collections & Interpretation; and Commercial. The Chairs of all these groups will continue to provide updates to the Board about their work and meet regularly with the Chairman and Director-General.