In 1884 Octavia Hill, an English social reformer, tried to save the beautiful manor house Sayes Court. The owner wanted to give it to the nation, but no organisation existed to accept the gift. This laid the foundation of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.
The charity was founded with the aim to support and to maintain monuments and sites of public interest. It operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland. The Trust’s symbol, a sprig of oak leaves and acorns, is supposed to have been inspired by an ornamental moulding of Alfriston Clergy House. This rare 14th-century house was the first building to be acquired by the National Trust in 1896. A century later the National Trust has become the biggest charity of this type in Europe and the second biggest landowner of the UK. Only the Crown possesses more land.
The National Trust is an independent charity, which raises 70% of its income from visitor’s income, lotteries, donations and legacies. The other 30% of the costs are financed by membership subscriptions. British people who are keen on gardens, old castles and cultural activities can become members of the National Trust. They will have to pay a fee – £53 for an annual membership. However, people can directly donate to the organisation or support a specific project; this is what they call ‘current appeals’. Last but not least, the only way to really get involved in the activities of the National Trust is to volunteer. There is a huge list of possible tasks: working as a gardener or as a visit guide for example. The UK has quite a lot of charities, which are present in each and every aspect of social life. This implies a lot of rivalry, which is the reason why the National Trust uses 11% of its annual budget for publicity and communication as well as for the recruitment of new members.