Our history

A history of the National Trust

  1. 1880
  2. 1881
  3. 1882
  4. 1883
  5. Octavia Hill

    The idea of the National Trust is born when Octavia Hill, one of our founders, is asked to help preserve Sayes Court garden in south east London.

  6. 1885
  7. 1886
  8. 1887
  9. 1888
  10. 1889
  11. 1890
  12. 1891
  13. 1892
  14. 1893
  15. 1894
  16. Dinas Oleu

    Within a few weeks of the National Trust being registered under the Companies Act, it was given its first place five acres of cliff top at Dinas Oleu in Wales.

  17. Alfriston Clergy House

    Alfriston Clergy House in Sussex.

  18. 1897
  19. 1898
  20. Wicken Fen

    We acquire our first nature reserve with the purchase of two acres of Wicken Fen, near Cambridge.

  21. Kanturk Castle

    Commitment to great buildings is confirmed with the gift of Kanturk Castle, in what was to become the Republic of Ireland.

  22. 1901
  23. Brandelhow

    Nationwide campaign launches to raise funds for the purchase of Brandelhow on Derwentwater. Many contribute to the appeal including the daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise, and factory workers in the Midlands.

  24. 1903
  25. 1904
  26. 1905
  27. 1906
  28. Barrington Court

    This year also saw us acquire Barrington Court, a sixteenth-century country house in Somerset.

  29. 1908
  30. 1909
  31. 1910
  32. 1911
  33. Blakeney Point

    Blakeney Point, Norfolk, acquired for its value as a coastal nature reserve.

  34. 1913
  35. 1914
  36. 1915
  37. 1916
  38. 1917
  39. 1918
  40. 1919
  41. 1920
  42. 1921
  43. 1922
  44. Lake District

    Great Gable, in the Lake District, is presented to us by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club as a memorial to members who had been killed in the Great War.

    Historian GM Trevelyan uses his friendship with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, and with the author John Buchan, to gain support and boost falling membership numbers.

  45. 1924
  46. Old typewriter

    Under the chairmanship of critic and journalist John Bailey, we receive more sympathetic coverage from the press than at any time in our history, before or since. On 25 October a letter in The Times, appealing for funds for Ashridge in Hertfordshire, is signed by Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald and Herbert Asquith.

  47. 1926
  48. Farmland

    Over 1,400 acres of farmland around Stonehenge is bought after a national appeal.

  49. 1928
  50. Beatrix Potter

    Beatrix Potter uses the income from her children's books to support our work in the Lake District. As a result, Monk Coniston Estate, near Coniston Water, is acquired.

  51. 1930
  52. It has similar statutory powers, but with an entirely independent constitution.

  53. 1932
  54. 1933
  55. West Wycombe

    The Marquis of Lothian proposes that we should be able to accept the gift of country houses, with endowments in land or capital, which would be free of tax. These new powers are provided in the National Trust Act of 1937.

  56. 1935
  57. 1936
  58. 1937
  59. 1938
  60. Quarry Bank Mill

    Following the gift of Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate in Cheshire, we get involved with sites of major importance for their industrial archaeology.

    Lord Lothian bequeaths his Jacobean house, Blickling, in Norfolk.

  61. 1940
  62. 1941
  63. 1942
  64. 1943
  65. 1944
  66. Our 50th year and we own 112,000 acres of land and 93 historic buildings and have 7,850 members.

  67. The National Land Fund is established by Dr Hugh Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a memorial to those killed in the Second World War. Many great country houses are subsequently transferred to us with assistance from this Fund.

  68. 1947
  69. We join forces with the Royal Horticultural Society to launch the Gardens Scheme, to encourage and fund the acquisition of outstanding gardens.

    Hidcote, Gloucestershire, is gifted by Major Lawrence Johnston.

  70. 1949
  71. 1950
  72. 1951
  73. 1952
  74. 1953
  75. 1954
  76. 1955
  77. 1956
  78. 1957
  79. 1958
  80. 1959
  81. 1960
  82. 1961
  83. 1962
  84. 1963
  85. 1964
  86. Coastline

    A campaign with the aim of acquiring unspoilt coastline which might be at risk.

  87. 1966
  88. Our first Acorn camps (now named Working Holidays for young people) are held to assist with projects on the Stratford-on-Avon canal.

    At an Extraordinary General Meeting, Sir Henry Benson is asked to chair an Advisory Committee to make recommendations on our future restructuring.

  89. The Benson Report recommends that much of our administration be devolved to regions. Following this and other recommendations, we experience a decade of unprecedented growth.

  90. 1969
  91. Our 75th year and membership stands at 226,200.

    We begin to sell items such as tea towels, leading to the formation of National Trust Enterprises.

  92. 1971
  93. 1972
  94. 1973
  95. 1974
  96. We reach 500,000 members.

  97. 1976
  98. 1977
  99. 1978
  100. 1979
  101. 1980
  102. Our members total 1 million.

  103. 1982
  104. 1983
  105. 1984
  106. 1985
  107. Sutton House

    We reversed a decision to turn Sutton House, owned since 1936, into flats and devote it to cultural and educational uses for the benefit of the community in Hackney.

  108. 1987
  109. 1988
  110. 1989
  111. Sutton House

    We hit the 2 million members mark more than the combined membership of all the political parties.

    The Snowdonia appeal is launched by Sir Anthony Hopkins. The Lake District appeal, begun three years earlier, reaches its target of £2 million.

  112. 1991
  113. 1992
  114. 1993
  115. 2 Willow Road

    A modern-movement house in Hampstead, 2 Willow Road, designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1938, is acquired.

  116. We celebrate our centenary with a service in St Paul's Cathedral. In our first 100 years we have become the guardian of 580,000 acres of countryside in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; 545 miles of coast; 230 historic houses and 130 important gardens.

  117. 1996
  118. 1997
  119. 1998
  120. 1999
  121. We embark on another major structural review to enable us to work more effectively with other conservation bodies and to improve our internal processes.

  122. Tractor

    Our Farming Forward initiative is launched, at the time of the foot & mouth crisis, reaffirming our commitment to preserving both natural beauty and a viable economy in rural areas.

  123. Tyntesfield

    The Victorian country house, Tyntesfield, near Bristol, is put up for sale. Within 100 days we raise £3 million from over 50,000 individual donors and secure a grant of £17.5 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

  124. Red House

    We purchase Red House once owned by the designer William Morris, who was a friend and supporter of Octavia Hill.

  125. 2004
  126. Heelis

    We move to our new central office Heelis in Swindon, bringing staff from four central offices under one roof for the first time. A small office in London remains.

  127. 2006
  128. We celebrate membership figures hitting the 3.5 million mark.

  129. Volunteers

    The total number of volunteers working for the Trust, donating what Octavia Hill called gifts of time, exceeds 50,000.

  130. Seaton Delaval

    Following a massive appeal that raised over £3 million from thousands of people, charitable trusts and companies across the country, Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland is saved for the nation.

  131. 2010
  132. Our membership reaches 4 million.

  133. Dame Helen Ghosh

    Dame Helen Ghosh takes over from Dame Fiona Reynolds in late 2012 as our new Director-General.

  134. 2013
  135. 2014
  136. 2015
  137. 2016
  138. 2017
  139. 2018
  140. 2019