Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is an organisation which works to preserve and protect coastline, countryside and buildings in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The trust does not operate in Scotland, where there is an independent National Trust for Scotland.
According to its website:
"The National Trust works to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We do this in a range of ways, through practical caring and conservation, through educating and informing, and through encouraging millions of people to enjoy their national heritage."
The Trust was founded on January 12, 1895 by Octavia Hill (1838–1912), Sir Robert Hunter (1844–1913) and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851–1920). In the early days it was concerned primarily with protecting open spaces and a variety of threatened buildings; its first property was Alfriston Clergy House. The focus on country houses and gardens which now comprise the majority of its most visited properties came about a few decades later when it was realised that the private owners of many of these properties were no longer able to afford to maintain them.
Governance and funding
The Trust is constitued by the National Trust Acts 1907–1971, but it is a private charity rather than a government institution (English Heritage and its equivalents in other parts of the United Kingdom are government bodies which perform some functions which overlap with the work of the National Trust). The Acts grant the Trust the unique statutory right to declare land inalienable —which prevents the land from being sold or mortgaged against the Trust's wishes without parliamentary intervention.
The Trust is one of the largest membership organisations in the world, with over three million members, whose annual subscriptions are its most important source of income. There is a separate organisation called the Royal Oak Foundation for American supporters. The members elect the council of the National Trust, and may propose and vote on motions at the annual general meeting.
At an operational level the trust is organised into regions which are aligned with the official local government regions. Its headquarters are in London, but much of its administration is carried out in Wiltshire to save costs.
For the year ended 29 February 2004, the Trust's total income was £295 million, or £236.8 million excluding the costs of its "Enterprises" division. The largest sources of this £236.8 million were: membership subscriptions 36%; legacies 20%; rents 11%; other investment income 9%. Expenses included £91.5 million for rountine property maintenance costs and £60.4 million for capital projects.
The Trust's investment fund was over £700 million, not counting the substantial value of the farms and properties on its country estates. Most of this is in tied funds which support specific properties and projects.
What the National Trust owns
Historic houses and gardens
The trust owns over two hundred historic houses. The majority of these are country houses. Most of the houses have important gardens attachted to them, and the Trust also owns some important gardens which are not attached to a house. The properties include some of the most famous stateley homes in the country and some of the key gardens in the history of British gardening.
Coast and countryside
The Trust's landholdings total around 2,480 square kilometres (956 mile²), which is around one and a half percent of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A large proportion of this is comprised of the parks and agricultural estates attached to its country houses, but there are also many countryside properties which were acquired specifically for their their scenic or scientific value. It owns or protects roughly one fifth of the coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and has a long-term campaign, Project Neptune, which seeks to acquire more.
The trust makes a substantial part of its income from commercial activities, including gift shops, restaurants, publishing, package holidays and holiday cottage lettings. It also runs working holidays for volunteers.
Lists of National Trust properties
- National Trust Properties in England
- National Trust Properties in Wales
- National Trust Properties in Northern Ireland
- The National Trust web site
- Summary report for 2003-04, including summary financial data (PDF document)
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