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National Trust accused of rewriting history over property list of shame for their 'colonial links'

The National Trust has come under fire after it published a list of nearly 100 properties under its management that have links to slavery and colonialism.

Members have threatened to cancel their membership and historians have accused the trust of being ‘unfair’ after the homes of Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling were among the 93 properties.

Critics have accused the ‘out of touch’ trust of ‘woke virtue signalling’ and ‘alienating’ fee-paying members who say the organisation is simply jumping on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon.

The audit, released on Monday, also leaves the heritage charity facing accusations of smearing key figures from British history.

The trust said the year-long audit was ordered before the Black Lives Matters protests, which saw a statue of Edward Colston toppled from a plinth and thrown into a harbour in Bristol because of his role in the city’s slave trade. 

Almost 100 National Trust properties have links to slavery and colonialism, including Sir Winston Churchill's former family home in Kent, Chartwell (above), the charity claims

Almost 100 National Trust properties have links to slavery and colonialism, including Sir Winston Churchill’s former family home in Kent, Chartwell (above), the charity claims

The National Trust said it does not want to censor history, but added that it has a duty to inform its visitors about the origins its properties (above, Churchill’s former home, Chartwell)

Which properties were included on the National Trust’s ‘list of shame’?

East of England:

Anglesey Abbey, Blicking Hall, Felbrigg Hall, Hatfield Forest Shell House, Ickworth, Oxburgh Hall, Peckover House, Wimpole Hall

London and the South East:

Ankerwycke, Ashdown House, Basildon Park, Bateman’s, Bodiam Castle, Carlyle’s House, Chartwell, Clandon Park, Claremont, Cliveden, Greys Court, Ham House, Hatchlands Park, Hinton Ampner, Hughenden Manor, Knole, Leith Hill Tower and Countryside, Morden Hall Park, Osterley Park and House, Owletts, Petworth, Polesden Lacey, Sheffield Park and Garden, Stowe, Sutton House, West Wycombe Park

Midlands:

Belton House, Berrington Hall, Calke Abbey, Charlecote Park, Coughton Court, Croft Castle, Croome Court, Dudmaston, Hardwick Hall, Kedleston Hall, Lyveden, Shugborough, Sudbury Hall, Tattershall Castle

Northern Ireland:

Mount Stewart

North of England:

Allan Bank, Cragside, Dunham Massey, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Hare Hill, Nostell, Nunnington Hall, Quarry Bank Mill, Rufford Old Hall, Seaton Delaval Hall, Speke Hall, Wallington Hall, Washington Old Hall, Wentworth Castle Gardens

South West:

Barrington Court, Bath Assembly Rooms, Buckland Abbey, Castle Drogo, Clevedon Court, Compton Castle and Greenway, Cotehele, Dyrham Park, Glastonbury Tor, Godolphin, Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle, Lacock Abbey, Lanhydrock, Lundy, Newark Park, Saltram, Sherborne Park Estate, Shute Barton, Snowshill Manor, Stourhead, Trengwainton Garden, Tyntesfield Wales: Chirk Castle, Erddig, Paxton’s Tower, Penrhyn Castle, Powis Castle, Tredegar House  

Powis Castle in mid-Wales was included because of its links to Robert Clive, known as Clive of India. 

The British officer with the East India Company played a key role in Britain’s colonial dominance in India and he amassed a vast collection of Indian artefacts, now housed at Powis.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Rooms in Bath were named due to the city’s connections to the wider colonial and slave economies during the 18th Century.

The survey also listed properties belonging to figures who fought against colonial exploitation and the slave trade.

Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, commented on Twitter: ‘The National Trust’s latest excursion into wokery – the latest of many – is to draw up a blacklist of its properties that are connected to Colonialism and Slavery (mixing the two very separate things up) & putting Chartwell on it: Sad and wrong.’

He later told the Telegraph: ‘It’s a sign of how ignorant the National Trust has tragically become that it mixes up slavery with colonising, considering that Britain’s mutually beneficial relationship with her colonies – to which Churchill was proud to dedicate his life – continued long after slavery ended in 1833, which was 41 years before Churchill was born.’

Meanwhile, Dr Warren Dockter, a Churchill expert, told the newspaper: ‘I think it’s unfair to throw him in with Clive of India.

‘He was a diehard imperialist, make no mistake, but he wasn’t an Edward Colston or a slave trader.’ 

The trust has insisted it does not want to censor history, but that it has a duty to ensure its supporters and visitors know about the origins of some of its properties. 

Lucy Trimnell, a Conservative councillor in Somerset, wrote online that she would cancel her family’s membership, adding that she ‘cannot support the naming and shaming of innocent families who left these properties to the custodianship of the National Trust’.

The trust said the year-long audit was ordered before the Black Lives Matters protests and say the audit was commissioned in September.

It also says a working group of external specialists, chaired by museums and heritage consultant Rita McLean, will be advising and steering the Trust in this work in the coming months, and the Trust will also be working with other National Trust organisations around the world ‘to connect these histories globally’.

Some of the research from the report has already been used to update the Trust’s digital content and the Trust say it is supporting a review of visitor information and interpretation at ‘relevant properties’. 

People took to Facebook and Twitter to slam National Trust for their colonial and slavery report

People took to Facebook and Twitter to slam National Trust for their colonial and slavery report

The National Trust, which has 5.6million members and 500 historic sites around the UK, said it commissioned the report last September.

The audit details properties’ links to slave traders but also to families whose plantations used slave labour, and who were paid compensation after the slave trade was abolished. 

It said 29 trust properties had links to successful compensation claims, including Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

The report also highlights figures involved in Britain’s colonial history, including author Kipling and historian Thomas Carlyle, whose former homes are now run by the trust.

On Churchill’s home in Kent, Chartwell, the report draws on his leadership during the Bengal Famine of 1943, his ‘exceptionally long, complex and controversial life’ and his position as Secretary of State for the Colonies (1921-1922) as the reason for its inclusion on the list.

They also note the fact he opposed the independence of India.

Despite noting his opposition to slavery, the home of poet William Wordsworth – Allan Bank in the Lake District – is included because his brother, John, served as Commander of an East India Company ship in 1801 and captained two successful voyages to China. 

Meanwhile, the report lists Bateman’s – the home of author Rudyard Kipling – because ‘the British Empire was a central theme and context of his literary output’.

The Assembly Rooms in Bath (above) were named in the report due to the city's connections to the wider colonial and slave economies during the 18th Century

The Assembly Rooms in Bath (above) were named in the report due to the city’s connections to the wider colonial and slave economies during the 18th Century

Robert Clive, a British officer with the East India Company, had a key role in Britain’s colonial dominance in India and he collected Indian artefacts, housed at Powis Castle (above) in Wales

The charity are accused of smearing key figures from British history, as the former family home of Churchill made the audit

Powis Castle was included on the audit because of its links to Robert Clive (above), a British officer with the East India Company

The charity are accused of smearing key figures from British history, as the former family home of Churchill (left) and Powis Castle, which is linked to Robert Clive (right), made the audit

Dr Tarnya Cooper, the National Trust’s curatorial and collections director, said the charity had a duty to research and share information.

She added: ‘A significant number of those [properties] in our care have links to the colonisation of different parts of the world, and some to historic slavery.’

John Orna-Ornstein, the National Trust’s Director of Culture and Engagement added: ‘These histories are sometimes very painful and difficult to consider.

‘They make us question our assumptions about the past, and yet they can also deepen and enrich our understanding of our economic status, our remarkable built heritage and the art, objects, places and spaces we have today and look after for future generations.’

The National Trust has been contacted for further comment. 

From Churchill’s Tudor mansion to Kipling’s country cottage: The historic homes included in the National Trust’s ‘list of shame’ 

Chartwell, Kent

Chartwell’s land has history dating back to the 14th century and it is thought to have been built on as early as the 16th century, with Historic England noting that some of the Tudor brickwork is still visible on external walls. 

Chartwell, now a Grade I listed building, became the family home of Sir Winston Churchill in 1922.

The report draws on his leadership during the Bengal Famine of 1943, his ‘exceptionally long, complex and controversial life’ and his position as Secretary of State for the Colonies (1921-1922) as the reason for its inclusion on the list.

They also note the fact he opposed the independence of India.

Bateman’s, East Sussex

Bateman’s is a Grade I listed building constructed in 1634 and was the home of author Rudyard Kipling from 1902 until his death in 1936.

The National Trust lists the home of Rudyard Kipling because ‘the British Empire was a central theme and context of his literary output’.

Allan Bank, Cumbria 

Allan Bank is a Grade II listed building in Grasmere that was once the home to Romantic poet William Wordsworth from 1808 to 1811.

Despite noting his opposition to slavery, the home of poet William Wordsworth – Allan Bank in the Lake District – is included because his brother, John, served as Commander of an East India Company ship in 1801 and captained two successful voyages to China.

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

The abbey was purchased by Samuel Shepheard, a wealthy merchant and Cambridgeshire Member of Parliament (MP) who served as director of the new East India Company and headed the South Sea Company.

His father, Samuel Shepheard Senior, was one of the founding members of the new East India Company and the South Sea Company and the report notes his family fortune was built on overseas trade.

Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Blickling Hall is a stately home built in 1616 and was inherited by William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian in the 19th century.

Kerr’s grandfather was Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 2nd Earl Talbot of Hensol.

As an executor and trustee of two plantations in Jamaica, Charles received £4,660 for 543 enslaved people.

During the Second World War, the house was requisitioned and served as the Officers’ Mess of nearby RAF Oulton.

It came under the guardianship of the National Trust in 1940. 

Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

This property was owned by William Windham III (1750 – 1810), a long-serving MP and contemporary of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

According to the report, Windham was one of only 16 MPs to vote against the Abolition Bill in 1807 and, as Secretary for War and the Colonies in 1806, he believed abolition would result in Britain’s economic ruin.

Hatfield Forest Shell House, Essex

Hatfield Forest came under the ownership of Jacob Houblon III in 1732.

Houblon came from a large family of bankers and traders and the family name appears in documents dating from 1674 that indicate the Houblons had established a business partnership with the plantation-owning Hankey family.

The house itself was built by Jacob Houblon III in 1757 and the report states it is closely linked to the story of West Indies trade in the eighteenth century.

The interior and exterior are embossed with shells from the Caribbean, West Africa and the Indo-Pacific. Cowrie shells are associated with the transatlantic slave trade, according to the National Trust. 

 Ickworth, Suffolk

Trust experts say Ickworth was owned by Admiral Augustus John Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol whose family had strong links to the slave trade.

The report states that the Hervey family is linked to Jamaican plantations through a marriage settlement made at the time of the union in 1798 of Elizabeth Hervey and Charles Rose Ellis, Lord Seaford.

It includes a list of 349 named enslaved men, women and children on the Montpelier Estate in Jamaica, who were to be transferred along with other property including a sugar works. 

Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

The National Trust states that Oxburgh Hall is included because the son of former owner Sir Richard Bedingfeld served for much of his career as a British government colonial official in the West Indies.

Felix Bedingfeld purchased a plantation in 1833 and, three years later, received compensation of £1,024 for the 61 enslaved people who worked there.

Peckover House, Cambridgeshire

Jonathan Peckover was a tradesman and managed the Wisbech and Lincolnshire Bank in a banking hall adjoining the house.

The National Trust’s report states that the Peckovers were Quakers, many of whom believed that all people are created equal in the eyes of God and campaigned for the abolition of slavery.

The Peckover family were among the founders of the Wisbech & Fenland Museum whose collection includes the campaigning chest of slavery artefacts and African goods.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

Sir Thomas Chicheley of Wimpole Hall was married to Sarah Russell – the daughter of a politician and director of the East India Company.

The hall was later inherited by Henrietta Cavendish Holles who married into the Harley family in 1713.

Robert Harley, who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, established the South Sea Company in 1711 and was connected to plantations in Barbados, Antigua and Surinam, according to the National Trust.

Henrietta’s daughter married William Bentinck, whose father was a plantation owner.

The Trust go on to say that in 1740, Wimpole was purchased by Philip Yorke who, as Attorney General, stated that runaway enslaved people coming to Great Britain or Ireland from the West Indies were not free.

This gave slavers the legal right to enforce their return to the plantations. 

Ankerwycke, Surrey

The Trust’s report details how the Ankerwycke Estate was purchased in the early nineteenth century by John Blagrove the Younger, a plantation owner. 

At the time of his death, he was the owner of 1,500 enslaved men and women in Jamaica.

The report states: ‘In his will, he left each of them a dollar ‘as a small token of my regard for their faithful and affectionate service and willing labours to myself and my family’.’

Ashdown House, Berkshire 

Ashdown House was built by William Craven who had a share in the colony of Carolina and was appointed a governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Commissioner for Tangier. 

Basildon Park, Berkshire

This Grade I listed building was built between 1776 and 1783 for Francis Sykes, an East India Company official who returned to Berkshire from India with wealth and a taste for luxury, according to the Trust.

The report also says it’s thought Sykes returned with at least one servant, stating: ‘his will mentions the ‘Black servant Thomas Radakissan’.’ 

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

This castle was built in the 14th century to help defend the area from the French during the Hundred Years’ War.

After it came under the ownership of Lord Thanet in the 17th century, it was sold to Parliament to help pay fines and subsequently fell into ruin.

The Trust says the castle, now a Grade I listed building, was saved from destruction by John Fuller who bought the castle in 1828.

The report states: ‘Fuller inherited an estate near Bodiam and a plantation in Jamaica, including enslaved people, from his uncle, Rose Fuller MP.

‘Rose relied on his brothers Stephen and Thomas to process and trade sugar when it arrived in England. John and Rose Fuller were anti-abolitionists.’

Carlyle’s House, Greater London

A typical Georgian terraced house in Chelsea, Carlyle’s House was the home of author, biographer and historian Thomas Carlyle.

The report notes Carlyle’s essay, published in Fraser’s Magazine in 1849, which advocated for the reintroduction of slavery to the West Indies.

It also states that in his work Shooting Niagara: And After? (1867), ‘Carlyle encouraged historic perceptions of racial hierarchies and promoted the idea that Africans were born for servitude’.

Clandon Park, Surrey

This Grade I listed building was constructed in the early 18th century by Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow.

The National Trust state that Onslow married Elizabeth Knight ‘who had inherited a substantial fortune from her uncle, including a plantation in Jamaica that was reliant on the labour of enslaved people, and the proceeds of his business transporting and trading enslaved people’.

The estate’s gardens also feature Māori meeting house, named Hinemihi, purchased by William Onslow who was Governor of New Zealand from 1888 to 1892. He had it transported back to Clandon park where it remains.

The Trust states that last year, they struck an agreement to return Hinemihi’s carvings to New Zealand in exchange for contemporary carvings to form a new meeting house. 

Claremont, Surrey

 

The Claremont Estate was purchased by Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne and 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1914.

Claremont’s gardens, which are owned by the National Trust, is one of the oldest surviving gardens of its time, dating back to the 18th century and is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. 

The Trust has included the estate on its list as Pelham-Holles held numerous political posts, including Secretary of State for the Southern Department responsible for the American Colonies.

It was later purchased by Robert Clive with funds he acquired in India.

The Trust states: ‘Clive built a new mansion fit to house his valuable Indian objects and growing painting collection.’

The estate was bought by Charles Rose Ellis, first Baron Seaford around 1798.

He was a descendent of Colonel John Ellis, who established the family fortune by settling in Jamaica in 1665. 

 Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

This Grade I listed stately home was built in 1851 and is one of the National Trust’s most popular attractions.

The Trust states that the mansion, which has 47 rooms and looks over the River Thames, was the location of the first performance of the now-controversial song Rule Britannia on August 1, 1740.

The report states that Cliveden was sold in 1849 to George Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland, for £30,000, noting that ‘his wife, Harriet Howard, was a close friend of Queen Victoria and an enthusiastic proponent of the anti-slavery movement’. 

Greys Court, Oxfordshire

This Grade I listed Tudor home once appeared in an episode of season 3 of Downton Abbey.

It has made the National Trust’s list as they say it was owned by the London merchant William Paul MP and given as a dowry in 1724 when his daughter Catherine married Sir William Stapleton MP.

Stapleton’s parliamentary career ‘was conducted largely in support of the interests of fellow sugar plantation owners in the West Indies’. 

Ham House, Greater London 

Ham House was built in the early 17th century for James I who bestowed it on his son Prince Henry.

It was later owned by Elizabeth Murray Countess of Dysart, later Countess and Duchess of Lauderdale who married John Maitland, 2nd Earl and 1st Duke of Lauderdale.

The Trust’s report states that Lauderdale ‘was a signatory to the Royal charter founding the Royal English Merchant Adventurers Company Trading to Africa (later the Royal African Company), which had a monopoly on the trading of ivory, gold and slaves along the west coast of Africa’. 

 Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Hatchlands Park features a stately home built in 1756 which became a Grade II listed building in 2007.

The Trust say it was built for Admiral Edward Boscawen who was assigned to protect British interests in India’.

Boscawen presided over the Siege of Pondicherry in 1748, with a young Robert Clive under his command.

It was sold in 1770 to a lawyer who worked for the East India Company in 1770.

William Brightwell Sumner is said to have had a lucrative career in India.

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire 

Hinton Ampner is a Grade II listed stately home and gardens that was built in 1790.

It has been included on the Trust’s list of properties linked to colonialism and slavery because it was once lived in by Mary Bilson-Legge, 1st Baroness Stawell and her husband Wills Hill, Lord Hillsborough.

Lord Hillsborough was President of the Board of Trade and Plantations (1763–5) and Secretary of State for the Colonies.

From 1765 to 1772, the house was leased from 1765 to 1772 to William Henry Rickett whose ‘lifestyle was supported by his ownership of a plantation in Jamaica, which he visited on several occasions’.

Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire 

Hughenden Manor is a Victorian mansion that was once the family home of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli from 1848 until he died.

The Trust note Disraeli role after the dissolution of the East India Company and the Government of India Act in 1858 which saw control of British India transferred to the Crown.

As Prime Minister, Disraeli invited Queen Victoria to adopt the title of Empress of India, which she accepted in May 1876, a title which existed until it was dropped in 1948 with the passing of the Indian Independence Act (1947).

Knole, Kent 

This palace dates back to the mid-15th century and is one of the country’s largest houses, occupying as much as four acres.

It has been included on the National Trust’s list because it was inherited by Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset in 1609.

The Trust’s report notes that ‘his household and servants numbered over 100 and the Great Hall seating plan of 1613 to 1624 includes Grace Robinson at the laundry-maid’s table and John Morockoe seated with the kitchen and scullery staff. Both names are annotated ‘a Blackamoor’.’

Descendants of Sackville held prominent political roles including Governor of the Somers Island Company and Governor of China. 

Leith Hill Tower and Countryside, Surrey 

Leith Hill Tower was constructed in the 18th century and measures 19.5 metres (64 ft) high and once consisted of two rooms ‘neatly furnished’.

The Trust notes that it has been included on the list because it was once owned by William Philip Perrin who inherited five sugar plantations in Jamaica, with 135 enslaved people, from his father.

Morden Hall Park, Greater London

This park makes up 50 hectares – the equivalent of 93 football fields – and features the Morden Hall itself.

The National Trust say this expansive estate prospered in the 18th century because of its connection to snuff mills.

The report states that when the estate was purchased by the Hatfield family in the mid-19th century, the family relied on sourcing tobacco from plantations in Virginia.

It also states the Hatfeild family benefited from marriage connections to the Taddy and Gilliat families, ‘both of whom profited from the tobacco and cotton industries’.

Osterley Park and House, Middlesex 

Osterley House, whose interior was used in the Dark Knight Rises film as a double for Wayne Manor, traditionally served as a country retreat for wealthy families who wanted to get away from the big cities.

The estate was acquired by Sir Francis Child the Elder in 1713 and the report notes the Child family’s links to the East India Company which it says increased the family’s wealth.

It also states the home was furnished with Chinese porcelain and Indian textiles. 

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