Our history: 1884-present

Children playing with toy swords at Corfe Castle, Dorset

We've been running for over 125 years. We’ve come a long way since Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley founded the National Trust on 12 January 1895.

Our founders believed that everyone needs nature, beauty and history, so they set up the National Trust to look after the nation’s coastline, historic sites, countryside and green spaces.

With 5.37 million members, over 50,000 volunteers and 10,000 staff we are now the biggest conservation charity in Europe, caring for over 250,000 hectares of farmland, over 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves, for everyone, for ever.

Take a look below to learn about some of the key moments in our past, and the people who have supported us.

Alfriston clergy house East Sussex dilapidated state

Our history: 1884-1945 

The National Trust was founded in 1895. Take a look at our timeline to discover some of the key moments in our past, up to the end of the Second World War.

Aerial view of the Needles Headland, Isle of Wight

Our history: 1945-2000 

This period features some key moments for the Trust, including the launch of Enterprise Neptune, the longest running environmental campaign in western Europe. We also celebrated our centenary year, and the support of over 2 million members.

The house at Tyntesfield, Bristol

Our history: 2000s 

Since 2000 we've moved to our new HQ in Swindon, set out an ambitious 10-year plan and welcomed two new Director-Generals. Read the timeline to discover more of our recent highlights.