A society, entitled ‘the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty,’ has been formed under the presidency of the Duke of Westminster. It has obtained a charter, and has upon its council names that must needs commend it to the attention and confidence of Great Britain. (p. 246)….
[Under] the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, which is purely permissive, only certain prehistoric monuments in England and Scotland can be scheduled—that, in short, as far as the main bulk of the historic monuments and ruins above ground go, the Act is inoperative. They [National Trust Executive members] also know that none of the societies most interested in the preservation of these monuments has a right as a corporate body to hold land or houses for the nation. (p. 247)
They feel, too, that local authorities with the best intentions will sometimes ruthlessly destroy for present gain what future generations would have held most dear. They realise that these local authorities, unless very wisely guided, are at other times tempted, in zeal for so-called improvements, to so improve the places committed to their care as to do irretrievable damage to the charm of object or site and scene. (p. 247)
They are persuaded that as holidays and facilities of locomotion increase, and as tourists flock to the sea or to the countryside more and more for rest, the temptation to make money out of the beauties of Nature will increase also; and the speculating builder and the great hotel company promoters will have to be reckoned with, seeing that the landed proprietors are now finding land a poor investment, and are willing to part with it at a price. For these reasons, they say, ‘let us exist as a body of men who are bound by charter to have and to hold not for ourselves only, but for the nation’s good, in statu quo, any historic monument, any historical site or house, any piece of beautiful scene, any waterfall, any glen, and headland, any river or lake or foreshore, which the generosity of private individuals shall hand to our keeping for a national possession; or which, as from time to time these fall into the market, may by contributions of friends to the cause be obtained.’ The National Trust is not only a custodian of the interests of property for the nation, it is an advisory board also; the amount of correspondence which already it has had to undertake in helping to form public opinion as to the preservation of worthy sites and scenes is very large. Hardly an important ruin is threatened, or interesting house offered for sale, or a piece of vandalism in our island is suspected, but news comes to the office, and the help and sympathy of the Trust is sought. (p. 247)….
It is a thing unimaginable that men who wish to place some abiding monument to their dead friends shall one day say—‘Rather than be content with some dreary monument upon a grave, let me bequeath, to the perpetual joy, and thought, and health, and life of future generations, some fair scene such as my friend delighted in, some ruin which he loved to ramble in, the birthplace or the home of one of the thinkers of the past he held in honour. It is now in the market, it will cost a few hundred pounds. A tower on the city wall, for he was strong and a tower of strength in his day. Some British camp upon the open fells, for he cared for those early days of England’s making. Some breezy headland, for he faced all storms and feared no tides. Some flashing waterfall, for his life was full of music: it was cut short, and fell like a broken purpose. A width of purple moorland, for his views were wide. A mountain top, for his vision was clear and fair. An island glen, a woodland, for he loved the “quiet woody places of the land that gave him birth,” his soul abode with gentle solitude.’ Is it a thing undreamable of that in this coming year of golden jubilee men may say to one another, ‘Go to, let us remember the greatest writers, poets, and thinkers of the Victorian time; and if it be possible let us obtain for posterity one or other of the scenes most associated with their life’s work; and let the National Trust hold it as a memorial of her Most Gracious Majesty’s long reign’? But whether these things be possible or no, it is possible to keep in active working order a little piece of very humble machinery for the welfare of future time, if only we will enrol ourselves as members of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, or shortly ‘The National Trust.’ (p. 249)
(Cornhill Magazine, 2 (February 1897), 245-9)