Back in the 1890s, it was a very radical idea indeed to think of preserving the land and buildings for everyone; this was the age of the great Victorian land-owners, with their palatial house in ‘Town’ (London, that is) for use during ‘the season’ (a decreed round of social events, balls, etc.), their ‘family seat’ in the country, where they lived for the rest of the year, and, possibly, a ‘shooting lodge’ – really, an expansive country house, surrounded by its own estate, where many types of game were ‘preserved’ for shooting parties. The thought that any member of the burgeoning middle classes, or, heaven forbid, one of the workers would be allowed to even enjoy the views, and be given access to the land, would have shocked the average member of the Victorian gentry.
Amazingly, that is just what happened. In 1894, ‘The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty’ came into being in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (there is a separate National Trust for Scotland, due to that country having a completely different legal system to the other member nations of the United Kingdom). The National Trust was formed by a few well-intentioned individuals, who appealed for funds and bequests of land and property for their newly created body; The National Trust Act of 1907 and several other Acts of Parliament regularised the position and activities of the Trust.
The aim of the National Trust is to ‘….to look after places of historic interest or natural beauty, permanently, for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.’ Today, people tend to think in terms of castles or large country houses when they think of National Trust properties, but in reality, the range of property that the Trust holds is vast. There are beaches and beautiful stretches of coastline, castles and country houses, gardens and the most magnificent countryside. It is hardly surprised that the Trust would be heavily involved in the Peak District; it owns significant areas of land inside the National Park, as well as historic houses and other properties.
Here we see a National Trust trailer, on their Longshaw Estate in the Derbyshire Peak District. Longshaw is a very beautiful area of moorland and heavily wooded gorges, complete with prehistoric burial cairns, and the ruins of Mediaeval cottages. The Shooting Lodge at the heart of the estate was built in 1827 by the then landowner, John Henry Manners, KG, 5th Duke of Rutland (1778 – 1857). Eventually, the Trust acquired 3,000 acres of the estate from Sheffield City Council (who had purchased it in 1927), and this land forms the modern-day Longshaw Estate. The Lodge is in private hands, however, although parts of it may be rented out for conferences.
National Trust trailers spread the word about the work of the Trust, and encourage visitors to join as members, as well as participating in working parties and other activities. We should always remember that the Trust preserves much of Britain’s heritage, and that no less than £130 million is donated each year (out of the more than £393 million needed) to continue the work of the Trust, ‘for ever, for everyone’.