Our history: 1945-2000

The National Trust was founded on 12 January 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. Over the last 120 years we’ve become one of the UK’s largest charities, caring for historic properties and areas of beautiful countryside. Take a look below to learn about some of the key moments in our past, and the people who have supported us.

Front of house in autumn at Cotehele, Cornwall

1946: The National Land Fund is established 

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, beginning with Cotehele.

Sun glancing through a tree in summer at the Old Garden at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire

1948: Post-war collaboration 

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

In the same year we are gifted Hidcote in Gloucestershire by Major Lawrence Johnston.

Rosebay willowherb on the Whitehaven coast, Cumbria

1965: Launch of Enterprise Neptune 

In 2015 we celebrated the 50th year of the Neptune Campaign, which was launched with the aim of acquiring unspoilt coastline which might be at risk. We now care for over 775 miles of coast all around the UK.

Volunteers on a working holiday at Bosigran Farm, Cornwall

1967: Our first Acorn camps 

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

Also in 1967: an Extraordinary General Meeting is called at which Sir Henry Benson is asked to chair an Advisory Committee to make recommendations on our future restructuring.

1968: The Benson report

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.

Mottistone Gardens shop

1970: Our 75th year 

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.

Visitors on a walk
Visitors enjoying afternoon tea with cake and scones at Trerice, Cornwall

1981: The big 1 million 

Another milestone is reached as our members total 1 million.

Breakers Yard Launch

1986: Sutton House is more than a home 

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.

Walker in South Snowdonia

1990: 2 million all round 

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.

Erno Goldfinger's study at 2 Willow Road

1994: Moving with the times 

We acquire 2 Willow Road in Hampstead, a modern-movement house designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1938

Two red fireworks in the night sky

1995: Our Centenary 

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.