Women and Power: National Trust shines a light on women’s histories to celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage in 2018


The long struggle for women’s suffrage and the debates it inspired across the homes, workplaces and communities of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be explored in 2018 as part of the National Trust’s commemoration to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act.

The 1918 Act granted some women the right to vote in British parliamentary elections for the first time. A century on, the Trust will launch Women and Power, a year-long national programme celebrating this historic milestone.

Events, exhibitions, on-site tours and creative commissions will take place at properties with links to both sides of the suffrage movement. The Trust has also invited a number of contemporary thinkers and artists to reflect on the significance of the centenary of women’s suffrage at places around the country, including Knole, Wightwick, Cragside and Tyntesfield.

Edith, Lady Londonderry (C) National Trust Images_John Hammond cropped

Edith, Lady Londonderry (C) National Trust/John Hammond


Many Trust places have unique stories to tell about the people involved in the fight for women’s suffrage. They include:

  • Bodnant, Conwy, where suffragist Laura McLaren founded the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union
  • Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, the home of Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in the House of Commons
  • Mount Stewart, County Down, where Edith, Lady Londonderry was an ardent suffragist and political campaigner, whose pro-suffrage behaviour caused her mother-in-law to label her ‘a young hound running riot’
  • Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, the estate run by Emily Massingberd, who founded the Pioneer Club; a pro-suffrage members’ club for the advancement and education of women
  • Shaw’s Corner, Hertfordshire, home to playwright George Bernard Shaw, whose writings protesting the sexual double standard inspired the Pankhursts.

In contrast, the programme will also explore some of those who opposed women’s suffrage, including the Trust’s co-founder Octavia Hill, who speculated that ‘a serious loss to our country would arise if women entered into the arena of party struggle and political life’.

Over 100 other Trust places around the country will respond to the anniversary by giving greater prominence and depth to the stories and experiences of women from many periods of our history, some of which have been overlooked in the past.

They range from Bess of Hardwick at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, who wielded immense power 300 years before the right to vote, to Fanny Boscawen, who built Hatchlands Park in Surrey and was a founder-member of the Bluestocking Society, who held debates on women’s rights and access to education in the 18th century.

The Trust will also continue its successful partnership with the National Portrait Gallery with a series of special displays around the Women and Power theme, and will be collaborating again with The National Archives on a pop-up heritage project in London.

Rachael Lennon, curator of the Women and Power programme for the National Trust, said: “We can see the footprints of this intensely personal and political argument in the places and collections of the National Trust. A century on from the Representation of the People Act, our programme will reveal some of the debates heard in the drawing rooms, kitchens and bedrooms of National Trust places as the country fought openly over whether a woman might have a voice in public life.

“Women and Power will explore the complexity of the histories of power and gender and will give voice to the, sometimes hidden, lives and legacies of women who lived and worked across the special places now in the care of the National Trust.”

Over the course of the year, online and published resources will be available, including a podcast series and a new guidebook exploring the struggle for suffrage at Trust places, co-authored by the Trust’s Rachael Lennon and Dr Sophie Duncan, a specialist in women’s political activities and the suffrage movement at the University of Oxford.

Sophie Duncan said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping the Trust illuminate the vital stories of the women who shaped their properties. These eclectic, passionate and sometimes controversial women changed Britain forever, and the Trust is ideally placed to share their stories.”

Women and Power is the theme for the second year of the Trust’s ‘Challenging Histories’ programme. This national public programme aims to share, celebrate and unpick some of the more complex or hidden histories relevant to National Trust places.

For details of events and activities in the Women and Power programme for 2018 see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/womenandpower


National Trust response to 2017 Budget

The National Trust outlines its response to the  2017 Budget announcements made today.

On housing:

Richard Hebditch, Government Affairs Director, National Trust, said,

“We support action to encourage the build out of planning permissions already granted, and the Chancellor’s welcome pledge to continue to protect the Green Belt. When it comes to finding additional land for development, the real challenge for Ministers is ensuring that the houses we need go in the right places, in a way that doesn’t spoil our valued countryside or historic areas in our town centres.

“How Government divides up its 300,000 home aspiration between councils could end up putting even more pressure on sensitive landscapes, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Green Belt, unless current approaches are redesigned.”

On plastics:

Richard Hebditch, Government Affairs Director, National Trust, said,

“Our staff and volunteers are only too well aware of the damage that plastics can cause to wildlife, and the blight of discarded plastics in the places we care for, and so we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to consult on taxes for throwaway plastics. This, alongside the consultation on a deposit scheme for single use drinks containers and the successful carrier bag charge already in place, could have a really positive impact on our environment.”

The National Trust is extending its partnership with the Marine Conservation Society tomorrow, 23rd November, to improve the quality of the UK’s coastal and marine environments. The aims of the collaboration include engaging a wider audience in active conservation initiatives, such as beach cleans and surveys, to reduce the impact of pollution and litter.



The final martial statue returns to Stowe after 100 years

The major restoration of Stowe Landscape Garden is now a step closer to completion.

The final statue in the martial series has returned to the National Trust-owned garden for the first time in nearly 100 years following extensive public support and donations for Restoring Stowe – The Landscape Programme.

A cast of The Wrestlers – two men taking part in the Greek sport pankration – will take its place at the heart of the Labyrinth in the Western Garden.

Stu snap

The Wrestlers is lowered into place at Stowe (C) National Trust/Stu Tilley


The statue’s return to Stowe follows the reinstatement of Hercules & Antaeus and Samson and the Philistine in 2016, and The Gladiator in the Grecian Valley on 25 October 2017.

Gillian Mason, National Trust curator, explains, “This is a significant year in our restoration of Stowe, the return of these statues reinstates layers of meaning back into the garden, reflecting its eighteenth century zenith.”

The Wrestlers is thought to have been introduced to Stowe in the 1730s along with the other martial statues. Purchased for Bridgeman’s extension of the garden of the same period, The Wrestlers was set within the Labyrinth looking out over Warden Hill Walk.

The Wrestlers is one of four statues that form part of a procession around the garden. Each statue depicts different styles of warfare: sporting competition, ignoble warfare/murder and noble warfare.

Many of the original statues were sold in the great auction of Stowe House in 1921 and 1922 when the decline of the aristocratic family led to bankruptcy. Now scattered all over the world, the National Trust seeks to return the originals where possible, or has sought permission to have faithful replicas cast.

Statement on trail hunting routes

We have always required trail hunts to be transparent and provide details of where and when the activity will take place. Our new licensing terms reinforce this principle.

We will provide details of dates and maps of the licensed areas on our website, thereby providing the level of transparency our visitors need to make an informed decision over whether or not they want to avoid a hunt in that area on certain days of the year.

However, we do not want to encourage or create a climate of confrontation between trail hunt followers or protestors. Following advice from the police in September, we took the decision not to publish details of specific routes after concerns were raised over public safety and the potential for disorder. We were open about this at the time and have consistently referred to it in public statements.


Statement on AGM voting process

The National Trust magazine is sent to members three times a year in January, May and September. We always use the summer magazine (sent in May) to let members know when and where the AGM is being held, and to alert them to the information that will be sent with the autumn magazine.  This year the summer magazine carried a full page advert for the AGM. The AGM booklet which includes ballot papers is always sent to members as part of the autumn magazine mailing from early September and details are also published on our website.

This year’s postal and online voting was open from 4 September (the day the autumn magazine is sent) to 13 October 2017. Members were notified how, when and where they could vote both in the AGM booklet and online, alongside full details of the members’ resolutions.  Any member signed up to email communications from the Trust would also have received two emails about the AGM and their right to vote before voting closed. Details are also published in the members’ handbook.

The 2017 AGM saw a 128% increase in the number of votes cast, from 27,881 (2016) to 63,804 (2017). Our voting process was overseen by an independent scrutiniser.

Our voting procedures do not stipulate a minimum turnout for voting on members’ resolutions.


Collection of rare ancient coins discovered at Scotney Castle

Collection of rare ancient coins discovered at Scotney Castle

  • Chance discovery of nearly two hundred coins that span twenty five centuries
  • Collection includes rare, almost ‘complete set’ of coins minted for Roman emperors
  • Coins to go on display in new exhibition marking ten years since the house opened to visitors


 A vast collection of ancient coins has been discovered tucked away in a drawer at the National Trust’s Scotney Castle in Kent. The unique set, comprising 186 coins in total, spans twenty-five centuries of history.

The discovery includes pieces from far-flung locations across the globe, including Syria and China. Others come from closer to home, including a late eighteenth century Welsh bronze token.

Ancient coins discovered at Scotney Castle_©MOLA

Ancient coins discovered at Scotney (C) MOLA


Scotney Castle was the home for 200 hundred years of the Hussey family before it was left to the National Trust who opened the mansion house to visitors in 2007.

The coins were found by Trust volunteers while searching for photographs in a study drawer. Research into family diaries in the archive suggests the coins were amassed during the nineteenth century by avid collector Edward Hussey III and his son Edwy.

The coin collection reaches as far back as Archaic Greece, with a seventh century BC piece. This silver token is one of the earliest struck in Europe, and comes from the tiny island of Aegina. It features a clear depiction of a sea turtle – a creature sacred to Aphrodite.

The bulk of the collection is made up of Roman coins, ranging from the late second century BC to the late fourth century AD. It is possible that the Husseys, like many collectors, were trying to gather a ‘complete set’ of Roman rulers. Despite the difficulty of this – Roman succession was complex and many coins of the shorter reigns very rare – they were close to achieving it.

The collection of first century emperors (leaving out empresses and caesars) is missing just one piece.

The second century collection is remarkable too, again only lacking a single coin of the short lived Didius Julianus who reigned in AD 193.

Nathalie Cohen, National Trust archaeologist, says, “We know that Edward and Edwy Hussey had a great interest in collecting, but this considerable cache of fascinating coins shows just how much their interest grew into a collection of exceptional importance. What is a mystery though is why a collection of this calibre ended up at the back of a drawer.”

Diary entries reveal Edward and Edwys’ dedication to and interest in the coin collection. An entry in Edwy’s diary recorded that on 2nd February 1883 he ‘went to the British Museum with papa as he wanted to ask about some coins’. On 28th October 1894 Edwy ‘looked at the coin collection after dinner’.

The records also give insight into the purchase value of the collection in the nineteenth century. In Edward’s diary from 1823 the ‘Accounts’ section lists him purchasing ‘Coins’ priced from 4 shillings to 7 shillings and 6 pence.

Suggesting greater ambitions still for the collection, Edward’s memoranda books include a list of coins he wanted relating to English monarchs, alongside those outstanding from the Roman era.

Experts from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) have been consulted by the National Trust and consider eighteen of the coins to be ‘rare’ examples.

Julian Bowsher, the MOLA numismatic specialist who examined the coins adds, “It was a delight, as a coins specialist, to examine such a significant and diverse collection. A particular highlight was seeing Roman coins that rarely appear in Britain, such as those of the 3rd century emperors Balbinus, Pupienus and Aemilian, none of whom ruled for more than a year.”

Henrike Philipp, part of the volunteer team that found the coins at Scotney Castle says, “The Hussey family lived at Scotney for two centuries and collected a wealth of objects and memorabilia. Ever since the Trust took on the house we’ve been discovering things in drawers, cupboards and in the mansion archives, such as medieval papers, First World War diaries and books by celebrated landscape gardener William Gilpin.

“Discoveries of rare coins such as these don’t happen often, so this has been especially exciting. We can’t wait to see what we will find next.”

The coins will go on display as part of a new exhibition, Inside the Collection, celebrating ten years since the Trust opened the Scotney Castle mansion to visitors. Other objects on show include beautiful Ming vases, and letters from Wallis Simpson and Margaret Thatcher who both had close connections to the house. [1]

Inside the Collection opens 11am to 3pm, from 4 November to 4 February. Access is by timed ticket. Free event, normal admission applies. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle to find out more.