On the 12th January 1895, the National Trust was founded by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. Describing itself as “a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone” the National Trust is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom and is therefore able to protect numerous beauty spots, historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and social history sites.
Octavia Hill, arguably the leading founder of the trust, spent much of her life developing social housing. Her time within London’s housing estates encouraged her to seek protection for the capital’s remaining green spaces for ‘the enjoyment, refreshment, and rest of those who have no country house’. This led to her role in setting up the National Trust.
The National Trust now controls over 985 square miles of Britain. This accounts for nearly 1.5% of the total land mass of England, Wales and Northern Ireland over which it has the power to impose bylaws that apply to anybody visiting the land. These statutory powers were granted through six separate Acts of Parliament between 1907 and 1971 that are collectively known as the National Trust Acts.
The National Trust is an independent charity, and many of its country houses and gardens were donated in lieu of death duties. It is supported by a huge team of over 61,000 volunteers and gets most of its income from annual subscriptions, which allow members to access all the trust’s properties for free. With a membership of around 4 million, it is now the largest fee-paying membership organisation in the United Kingdom.