A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

National Heritage

Lately I've been mentioning English Heritage and the National Trust, those 2 guardians of the nation's heritage. What are these bodies?

English Heritage (or the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission) is the government's statutory advisor on the historic environment. It reports to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It's funded partly by Government and partly with revenue earned from the historic properties under its guardianship. Its aims are:
  • to conserve and enhance the historic environment

  • to broaden public access to our heritage

  • to increase our understanding of the past

The National Trust, on the other hand, is a registered charity and is funded entirely from membership and entrance fees, donations, legacies and revenue from its commercial operations such as publishing and gift retail. It has 3.4 million members and 43,000 volunteers.

It was founded in 1895 by 3 Victorian philanthropists: Miss Octavia Hill (a social reformer and one of the most influential women of the era), Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Herdwicke Rawnsley. They were concerned about uncontrolled development and industrialization.

To date the Trust has 300 historic houses in its care, plus 49 industrial monuments and mills; also castles and islands, gardens and nature reserves, and other countryside areas including forest, fen, woodland, moorland, farmland, downland and the coast. Its aim is:

  • to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland

It acquired its first building - Alfriston House (Sussex) - in 1896, and created its first nature reserve - Wicken Fen (Cambridgshire) - in 1899. Blakeney Point (Norfolk) became its first coastal nature reserve in 1912. During the 1930s the children's author Beatrix Potter gave the Trust much financial support; and she left the Trust farms, land and flocks of Herdwick sheep in her will. More recently in 2002 Sutton Hoo was placed under its stewardship, and William Morris's Red House in 2003.

The National Trust for Scotland was set up in 1931.

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