I’m very lucky that within an hour’s drive from my home in Hastings, East Sussex I can visit five wonderful historic properties lovingly cared for by the National Trust. It’s coincidental that they’re all homes where writers lived.
There’s Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which was home to Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and is always a treat to visit at any time of the year. Knole is the ancestral home of the Sackville-Wests, which boasts 365 rooms. Monk’s House where Virginia Woolf, who I worship, and Leonard Woolf lived. Bateman’s is the home of Rudyard Kipling, which is a splendid Jacobean house. Last, there’s Lamb House, the home at different times to Henry James and E. F. Benson, a prolific writer who is most known for writing a series of hysterical novels about Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs. Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas.
My partner, Gary, and I are proud members of the National Trust. Whenever we can we treat ourselves to a visit to any one of these homes and gardens. We also love to discover other National Trust properties wherever we have the opportunity.
I see the National Trust as a vital charity that makes it possible for anyone to visit hundreds of historical properties that would not otherwise be accessible to the public. Further, the charity is one of the largest landowners in the country. It is one of the country’s greatest assets and enjoys the support of many thousands of people. This is why I love it.
As a vegan, animal rights activist, I’ve had my issues with the National Trust but I see the charity tackling each one successfully. For example, it used to allow fox hunts to meet on its property but they are now banned—a position endorsed by a recent vote of its membership. The popular cafes increasingly offer vegan options on their menus. The charity isn’t shy in coming forward in telling its visitors that some of the historic figures who once owned the properties were gay. It’s difficult to learn anything about Sissinghurst without discovering Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson each had same-sex relationships in addition to their marriage. Also, the National Trust increasingly explains to its visitors that the wealth used to create some of these magnificent properties was obtained during the time when Britain profited from the slave trade.
So, there are many reasons to love the National Trust. But not everyone agrees. Recently, a small group of members have organised themselves as the Restore Trust. They want to see the National Trust stop its “modish, divisive ideologies” and stop using its properties as a “revisionistic weapon”. I take this to mean they want the National Trust not to tell its members the true story about the people whose homes they’re visiting. They want Vita and Harold to stay in the closet even though they’re dead. They don’t want you to know how the fortunes were made from colonial adventures and the slave trade.
So, if you’re a member of the National Trust please join me in NOT voting for the following candidates for its ruling council. They are endorsed by the reactionary and conservative Restore Trust. I’ve read recently that Nigel Farage and William Rees-Mogg MP supported the Restore Trust. Here are the candidates NOT to vote for:
Please also do not vote for their proposed members’ resolutions to Abolish the Quick Vote and Restore Clandon Park.
I usually vote for the candidates that the National Trust recommends.
Here’s a recent article from The Graun that helps to explain the situation.