£1.6 million National Lottery grant to transform historic Magna Carta site at Runnymede

Press release
The River Thames at Runnymede
Published : 20 Jul 2018

It is 803 years since feudal barons forced King John to seal Magna Carta at Runnymede, on the banks of the Thames, near Windsor. To this day, Magna Carta remains one of the most important documents in global history. [1]

Now, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, conservation charity the National Trust can move ahead with plans to help visitors discover more about this special place and enjoy it for recreation, learning and volunteering.

Funding of £1.6 million from the National Lottery will help to unify two sites of international significance, Runnymede and adjacent Ankerwycke, with improved pathways and interpretation, and a new ferry crossing across the River Thames. The project will enable visitors to travel more easily between the two sites and get a better understanding of their combined importance: Runnymede’s significance as the site of the sealing of Magna Carta, and Ankerwycke, home to Benedictine priory ruins and the Ankerwycke yew, the National Trust’s oldest tree at 2,500 years old.

Plans also include new trails and an upgraded tow path along the River Thames to encourage access to the public artworks at the site: The Jurors, created by Hew Locke and Writ in Water created by Mark Wallinger, the monuments and memorials at Runnymede and to new interpretation around the themes of liberty, people and commemoration.

Daniel Duthie, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Landscapes said: “The 800th anniversary celebrations of Magna Carta in 2015 put Runnymede on a world stage. They were a tremendous catalyst for our lasting ambition to deliver a legacy at this special place, so we are delighted with this grant. It will help us to connect our visitors more closely with the historic estate of Runnymede and Ankerwycke, as one of the world’s most significant historic sites, and help them to be seen as one again.” 

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “There are few places in the UK that rival Runnymede in terms of its profound influence on our national heritage.  Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, these thoughtful and sensitive improvements will enhance this special place for everyone to enjoy.”

The project will establish new opportunities for volunteering and for schools and local communities to get involved, along with a range of activities including an archaeology project. There are wider plans to work collaboratively with stakeholders including Surrey County Council and Runnymede Borough Council, the Colne Valley Regional Park Authority, and local community groups to deliver a profound change in how people experience Runnymede.

The National Lottery grant will go towards the total project cost of £2.1 million. The National Trust has committed funds towards the project but needs to raise a further £300,000 to deliver it and is hoping members and visitors will be able to help reach the final target.

To find out more about Runnymede and Ankerwycke and how you get involved or make a donation, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/appeal/runnymede-explore

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[1] About Runnymede and the Magna Carta

It was at Runnymede (the field of runes) in 1215 that King John sealed Magna Carta. ‘The great charter’ was special because it held the king accountable to the rule of law, just like his subjects. In total it was made up of 63 clauses, covering law, liberty and the church. The most famous and important of these clauses enshrined to the rights of "free men" to justice and a fair trial. Although at the time "free men" only referred to a small number of noblemen, this passage has taken on symbolic significance over the years. Today it is one of three original clauses that still survive in British law and 117 nations globally consider Magna Carta provides the core of their constitution. The National Trust has looked after Runnymede officially since 1935, although the acquisition started back in 1928 following a local outcry that the land was being sold for development. Today, along with the impressive Fairhaven lodges by Lutyens, the peaceful landscape is also home to memorials for Magna Carta, John F. Kennedy and Commonwealth Air Forces, and to public artworks by Mark Wallinger and Hew Locke.