The National Trust was born out of necessity. Industrial development did not care at all for the beauty of the English countryside or the cultural value of historical buildings. Industrialization threatened to destroy everything and the government did nothing to stop it. It was time for action.
The fiftieth anniversary of the National Trust coincided with World War II. The president raised a familiar alarm in the jubilee book that was published for Trust’s birthday. Economic growth is a threat to nature and exceptional architecture from times gone by. Tourism was another concern of the president. People from the city considered the countryside a nice vacationing place, but nothing more than that. It didn’t really occur to them that in the country, farmers grew the products that they bought in the city shops. Tourists would leave the gates of the fields open, walk all over the farmers’ crops or leave their waste behind somewhere in nature. The National Trust wanted to educate the city dwellers so they would learn to respect history, nature, and the farmers’ labor little bit more.
Aristocracy has to pay
It wasn’t just the Industrial Revolution that caused historic country estates to be demolished to make way for concrete giants and industrial areas. The British tax system changed in the twentieth century and the aristocracy had to start paying taxes over their country estates. The maintenance of the old country homes and the grounds that came with them cost a fortune as it was, and the new tax law put a lot of the noble families in financial trouble. Developers took advantage of the suffering aristocracy and bought a lot of their estate. The developers had completely different plans for the grounds they bought and instead of preserving country homes they oftentimes tore them down.
Nature and history loving Brits could not expect much from their government, which made good money from the development of the countryside. Besides that, there was no Office that had the legal power to save the declining estates. The Ministry of Works only had a bit of money to conserve the remains of historical constructions. Country homes that hadn’t reached a state of ruin yet could not apply for funds and nature had even less rights to sponsorship.
Harry Potter and Sense & Sensibility
The National Trust was founded in 1895 by individuals who employed the slogan ‘To preserve natural beauty and historical treasures’. They wanted to stop the decline of natural beauty and the destruction of historical buildings. In 1896 the foundation bought its first building, the Alfriston Clergy House in Sussex, for £10.
The foundation was set up as a non-governmental organization and until today it is run by volunteers. It doesn’t receive any funding from the government but pays its expenses from income received from entrance fees, donations and subscriptions. And quite an income it is. Over three and a half million Britons are members of the National Trust and millions of tourists annually visit the tens of thousands of properties owned by the foundation.
The Trust not only owns national parks, strips of coast and forest land, it also owns many historical buildings. The foundation took over an important number of country homes and their grounds from the nobility that couldn’t pay for them anymore, especially during the economic crisis of the thirties. Also famous people have sold off their properties to the foundation and are a visitors’ favorite. If you haven’t had the chance to visit one of the National Trust owned properties in real life, you may see them in the cinema.
They are often used as film locations, the monasteries of Lacock Abbey for example served as classrooms in Harry Potter and a number of houses and estates can be seen in Sense & Sensibility. Tourists can spend their money on entrance fees and all sorts of souvenirs in the shops established at the Trust’s locations. The National Trust Shop also sells chess sets and this wonderful memento including different birds of prey is a must in the museum’s collection.