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.

Portrait of Octavia Hill
Octavia Hill (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA
Portrait of Octavia Hill

2. We bought the first National Trust house for just £10

That’s about £1,260 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.

Alfriston Clergy House in snow
Alfriston Clergy House East Sussex house in snow
Alfriston Clergy House in snow

3. We look after places now and for ever

When a place is donated to the National Trust, it’s in our care forever, for everyone to enjoy. 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.

Sunrise over Loweswater, near Holme Wood bothy, The Lake District
Sunrise over Loweswater, Lake District
Sunrise over Loweswater, near Holme Wood bothy, The Lake District

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.

Author Beatrix Potter donated 4000 acres to the Trust in 1943
Beatrix Potter in Hill Top porch, Cumbria
Author Beatrix Potter donated 4000 acres to the Trust in 1943

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 as places for people to visit, live and work.

Both the village and abbey at Lacock have featured in Harry Potter films
Houses in the village at Lacock, Wiltshire
Both the village and abbey at Lacock have featured in Harry Potter films

6. We’ve got enough members to fill a small country

Five million people and counting are National Trust members. That’s more than the entire population of Croatia. Membership gives free access to over 500 special places and helps us restore and protect them for the future.

Enjoying cake and a break with the kids at Claremont Landscape Garden's cafe, Surrey
Enjoying a slice of cake at Claremont Landscape Garden cafe, Surrey
Enjoying cake and a break with the kids at Claremont Landscape Garden's cafe, Surrey
Why not join us too? Find out how to become a member

7. Our volunteers would pack out the Olympic Stadium

We couldn’t do what we do without our 60,000 volunteers. From gardeners to guides, toad patrollers to costume designers, they donate their skills and passion – and more than three million hours of their time each year.

Cotehele volunteers getting ready to hang the Christmas garland
Cotehele garland volunteers
Cotehele volunteers getting ready to hang the Christmas garland

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. 

Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus)
Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus)
Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus)

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, and give our visitors a taste of seasonal, sustainable food.

Harvesting the winter crops in Dyffryn's Kitchen Garden
Harvesting kale in the Kitchen Garden
Harvesting the winter crops in Dyffryn's Kitchen Garden

10. Our most popular attraction is Finn McCool’s crossing

665,581 people visited the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland in 2016-17. Enormous basalt columns stretch into the sea, said to be built by an Irish giant, Finn McCool, to fight his Scottish nemesis. It’s the busiest place we look after, followed by the beautiful, expansive and wildlife-rich Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.

Discover the hexagonal columns at the Giant's Causeway
View of the Giant's Causeway
Discover the hexagonal columns at the Giant's Causeway