Protector of the landscape, pickler of our history, a job creation scheme for the retired? What today is the point of the National Trust? Quentin Letts investigates.
Quentin Letts casts a quizzical eye over a cherished national institution. The National Trust was formed in 1895 to make the "life enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky" available for all, particularly for the underprivileged poor. To this end, it has acquired 1% of the land and 750 miles of our coastline. It's also taken over responsibility for the upkeep of hundreds of stately homes from the gentry, even though many continue to live in them, tax free. A socialist redistribution of wealth, or subsidised housing for the well-to-do?
On summer afternoons the houses are "brought to life" for swarms of visitors who admire their treasures, sniff the mandatory begonias, and eat coffee and walnut cake in their tea shops, staffed by the National Trust's vast army of unpaid workers.
Just occasionally the Trust enlists its Middle England supporters to campaign in support of their conservation principles. Governments take note: the National Trust has more members than all the political parties put together.
Would Octavia Hill, recognise the organisation she helped to found 120 years ago? Protector of the landscape, pickler of our history, a job creation scheme for the retired? What today is the point of the National Trust?
Producer: Rosie Dawson.
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