United by a common belief that nature, beauty and history are for everyone, our three founders, Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, set up the National Trust in 1895 so that natural and historic places could be protected for future generations.
Creating the National Trust
By the end of the 19th century, rapid industrialisation was threatening to sweep away the country’s heritage and destroy its remaining natural landscape. Between them, our founders campaigned against this threat, raising awareness, amassing support and laying the foundations for an organisation to look after special places for everyone, for ever.
Who were the founders?
As individuals they were very different personalities and they all left their own unique mark on our fledgling organisation that can still be felt today.
- Octavia Hill
- Octavia Hill was one of the greatest social reformers in British history. She understood the importance of access to nature for human wellbeing and dedicated her life to both improving urban housing and protecting green spaces.More on Octavia Hill
- Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley
- Hardwicke Rawnsley believed passionately in the importance of protecting the natural landscape from development. His energetic campaigning earned him the nickname of ‘Defender of the Lakes’.More on Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley
- Sir Robert Hunter
- Solicitor Robert Hunter worked tirelessly for much of his life to preserve our right to access common land and to protect the country's historic buildings. His legal expertise turned the idea of the National Trust into reality.More on Sir Robert Hunter
The legacy of the National Trust founders
Thanks to the vision and wisdom of our founders we’ve been able to grow and now look after more than 250,000 hectares of farmland, 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic places, gardens and nature reserves.
Over 125 years on, their mission is just as relevant today and thanks to the generous donations of our supporters and the hard work of our staff and volunteers we are continuing the work that our founders started and will continue to do so for everyone, for ever.
Discover the history of the National Trust, from its foundation, through key projects and initiatives, to its recent anniversary celebrations.
Discover more about our legacy, people and values as a conservation charity. We protect historic places and green spaces while opening them up for everyone, for ever.
Discover how the National Trust is run, how our governance arrangements are underpinned by Acts of Parliament and how they are designed to support and challenge our staff.
We’re working to create a culture that values difference, includes everyone and recognises the strength that comes from diversity. Find out what we're doing to achieve this.
The first National Trust Act passed in 1907. Successive Acts have since been introduced to ensure the National Trust continues to be well governed and remains true to its cause.
Discover who sits on the National Trust's Board of Trustees, what experience they bring to the role and how they work together to meet the Trust's purpose.