The National Trust was founded on 12 January 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley.
The idea of the National Trust was born when Octavia Hill was asked to help preserve Sayes Court garden in south east London. They now care for over 250,000 hectares of farmland, 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves.
Here are some of our favourite historic and beautiful places.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, Grade I
Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is a beautiful example of a surviving medieval moated fortress. The castle is said to have been built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War.
The most recent owner, Lord Curzon, donated the castle on his death and it has since been owned by the National Trust.
St Michael’s Mount, Penzance, Grade I
St Michael’s Mount is a rocky island brimming with history, myths and legends. The site has been a witness to history, with flint found dating back to the Bronze Age settlers and pill boxes from the Second World War. The legend of the archangel St Michael appearing on the western side of the island to ward fishermen from certain peril, has brought pilgrims from far and wide throughout the centuries.
In 1954, Francis Cecil St Aubyn, 3rd Baron St Levan, gave most of St Michael’s Mount to the National Trust. The St Aubyn family retained a 999-year lease to inhabit the castle and a licence to manage the public viewing of its historic rooms.
Lyme Park, Cheshire, Grade I
Lyme Park is a large estate consisting of a mansion house and formal gardens, situated in a deer park in the Peak District National Park. In 1946 Richard Legh, 3rd Baron Newton, gave Lyme Park to the National Trust.
You may recognise it as it has popped up in several films and television programmes. The exterior of the hall was used as Pemberley in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and as a location for the Red Dwarf episode ‘Timeslides’.
In August 2019, the park was hit by severe flooding and was evacuated. Though staff attempted to rescue antiques and collectables, a large section of the garden was washed away.
Cragside, Northumberland, Grade I
The home of Lord Armstrong, Cragside, is well-known for being the first house to be lit by hydro-electricity and then using the first incandescent lamps made by Joseph Swan of Newcastle. Two of these lamps survive in the library at Cragside, although they no longer have electric current flowing through the bodies!
The original building consisted of a small shooting lodge which Armstrong built between 1862 and 1864. In 1869, he employed the architect Richard Norman Shaw to enlarge the site, and in two phases of work between 1869 and 1882, they transformed the house into a northern Neuschwanstein. It has been a Grade I listed building since 1953, and was acquired by the National Trust in 1977, opening to the public in 1979.
Scafell Pike, Lake District
The summit of Scafell Pike – England’s highest peak – was presented to the National Trust on behalf of the nation as a war memorial in 1919 by Lord Leconfield who served in the 1st Life Guards in the First World War and who owned significant tracts of land in what was then Cumberland.
The slate memorial plaque is set in the wall of the summit shelter. Part of the inscription reads: ‘IN PERPETUAL MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THE LAKE DISTRICT WHO FELL FOR GOD AND KING, FOR FREEDOM PEACE AND RIGHT IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 – 1918’
Dunster Castle, Somerset, Grade I and Scheduled Monument
Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house. The present castle dates mainly from the 15th century when the Luttrell family became the owners.
The medieval castle walls were mostly destroyed following the siege of Dunster Castle at the end of the English Civil War. It has been reconstructed several times, most recently in the 19th century and was given to the National Trust in 1976.
Don’t miss its gardens, home to four different micro-climates; you’ll find a diverse range of plants and wildlife.
The George Inn, Bermondsey, Greater London, Grade I
Raise a glass to the National Trust in one of its pubs! Dating from the 16th century, the Grade I listed George Inn is the last remaining galleried inn in London. In 1676 the George was rebuilt after a serious fire that destroyed most of medieval Southwark.
A large part of the inn was pulled down by the Great Eastern Railway Company (who used part of the building as offices) in 1874, but it still retains part of its gallery. The famous inn was visited by Charles Dickens and mentioned in Little Dorrit. It was given to the National Trust in 1937.
To note, this photograph was taken by John Gay, a pre-war German exile who forged a career as a professional photographer in the decades after 1945.
Add your pieces to the big picture
Every snapshot and story you can add to the National Heritage List for England is an important piece of the picture. The more pieces we have, the better we can work together to protect what makes these places special. Make a contribution to the Missing Pieces Project.