Our history: 1884-present

Children exploring Ilam Park

2020 marks our 125th birthday and 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 nature, beauty and history are for everyone and so set up the Trust to look after the nation’s coastline, historic sites, countryside and green spaces.

With 5.6 million members, 65,000 volunteers and 14,000 staff we are now the biggest conservation charity in Europe, caring for over 250,000 hectares of farmland, 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 projects 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.