Ten things you might not know about the National Trust
Have you heard about our first celebrity supporter, or how we saved a rare butterfly from extinction? From our unusual founders to our red squirrel rangers, here are ten curious facts about our past and present.
1. We’re the brainchild of a social reformer, a priest and a lawyer
In 1895, they came together to found the National Trust. Octavia Hill, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and Sir Robert Hunter believed in the importance of historic places and green spaces, and fought to preserve them for everyone’s ‘enjoyment, refreshment and rest’. Those values are still at the heart of everything we do, from looking after your favourite sun-dappled woodlands to taking care of over 780 miles of coastline.
2. We bought the first National Trust house for just £10
That’s about £1,364 in today’s money. We saved Alfriston Clergy House from being demolished in 1896, and restored it to its former glory. You can explore a little slice of history at this thatched, medieval meeting-house in East Sussex, with views over the River Cuckmere.
3. We look after places now and for ever
When a place is donated to the National Trust, it’s in our care for everyone to enjoy for ever. Acts of Parliament have helped us make sure that forever means forever – private land and houses left to us by former owners can never be sold.
4. Beatrix Potter was one of our biggest supporters
The success of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends helped her donate thousands of acres of countryside and 14 working farms to the National Trust. We also look after her 17th-century farmhouse, Hill Top in Cumbria, where you can step into the pages of her famous children’s books.
5. We’re landlords for entire villages, pubs and a Regency playhouse
Alongside the historic houses, mills, castles, gardens, archaeological remains, coastline, forests, woods and other wild spaces we look after, you might find a few surprises. Like 39 atmospheric pubs, the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds and Chiddingstone, a Tudor village in Kent. We help them thrive too as places for people to visit, live and work in.
6. We’ve got enough members to fill a small country
5.37 million people and counting are National Trust members. That’s more than the entire population of Costa Rica. Membership gives free access to over 500 special places and helps us restore and protect them for the future.
7. Our volunteers would pack out the Olympic Stadium
We couldn’t do what we do without over 50,000 volunteers. From gardeners to guides, toad patrollers to costume designers, they donate their skills and passion – and millions of hours of their time each year.
8. We’re a rare bat’s best friend
We work to protect all kinds of endangered wildlife. You can find the barbastelle bat, and 17 other bat species, roosting in the buildings and woodland we look after. We’ve reintroduced a butterfly once extinct in the UK, the Large Blue, and with the help of volunteer rangers, red squirrels are thriving in habitats like Aira Force in the Lake District.
9. We grow and serve 18th-century vegetables
White icicle radishes and prickly cucumbers appear on the menu at Attingham Park’s Carriage House Café, fresh from the kitchen garden. It’s just one of the places where we conserve the natural and cultural heritage of our gardens and orchards to give you a taste of seasonal, sustainable food.
10. Our most popular attraction is a Regency mansion
518,863 people visited Attingham Park in 2020/21. The 18th-century estate is full of history – the mansion was built for the first Lord Berwick in 1785 and still stands today, thanks to volunteers, staff and supporters like you. The second most visited place in 2020/21 was Cliveden with its colourful formal gardens.