National Trust Nihilists?

You may have noticed that this blog has been  – well vacant I suppose is a good description, over the past few months.

Is it because nothing newsworthy has happened? Hardly. But I won’t be commenting on riots, the Arab Spring/Summer, or even the remains of Murdoch-gate.

More importantly,  I did finally finish and publish Nature’s Tapestry, with which I’m reasonably pleased. In case you havent downloaded it, it’s here.

While on holiday in France (a subject I’ll be returning to shortly) in August, Defra sneakily published Biodiversity 2020 while no-one was looking. I’ll return to this issue too as there are some really promising commitments in it.

National Trust Nihilists?

More worryingly, also sneaked out in the hope it would escape notice, is the National Planning Policy Framework. The NPPF has, apart from anything else, caused the most bizarre political accusation of 2011 when Minister for Development Greg Clark accused the National Trust of “nihilistic selfishness”.The National Trust? Nihilists?

Having just read the most excellent fascinating and extraordinary history of early anarchism “The world that never was” by Alex Butterworth, I wondered to myself “is Greg Clark mad or is he secretly a student of Russian socialist and anarchist political history”?

Then I began to wonder what I knew about the secret history of the National Trust. Is there any real evidence that the National Trust was actually formed as a secret anarchist cell by emigre Russian radicals from the Tchaikovsky Circle or The People’s Will,  fleeing to England to escape the clutches of the Okhrana and seeing an opportunity to establish a new radical organisation dedicated to the class struggle and the battle to free the industrial underclass from the yolk of global capitalism.

Is it really a coincidence, I wondered to myself, that anarchist,  wallpaper designer and arts and crafts movement leader William Morris (and one whose efforts were to be feted in distant future by ….The National Trust….) was one of The Kyrle Society‘s supporters, a civic society founded by Octavia Hill’s sister in 1877, and which Octavia Hill was treasurer. Octavia Hill, lest you forget, founded the National Trust.

Is it a coincidence that William Morris founded SPAB the (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) in 1877, the exact same year as the Kyrle Society was formed by the Hill sisters? Could it be that the formation of SPAB led directly to the formation of…yes The National Trust.

History tells us that the SPAB advised the newly formed NT on the renovation of the NT’s first purchase Alfriston Clergy House in Sussex, itself not a million miles from where anarchist thinker-in-chief Prince Petr Kropotkin’s lived in exile in Brighton. SPAB, for many years “defend[ed] the National Trust from its detractors…promising that it will become successful”, according to SPAB’s own website.

Could it even be that the NT was formed as a SPAB sleeper cell perhaps, awaiting the right phrase or political policy (or just the four letters N P P F)  to shake it from its century long slumber to invoke the nihilist methods of The People’s Will, propaganda by deed.


But then I realised that Minister Clark is probably talking about philosophical concepts of nihilism, not political nihilism. Or is he?

I’ll be returning to the NPPF again before too long.


About grasslandstrust

The Grasslands Trust is the only national UK charity that focuses entirely on saving grasslands that are valuable because they are rich in wildlife, history, or for other reasons.
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2 Responses to National Trust Nihilists?

  1. Check out Peter Halls history of UK planning ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ – you are more right than you think

  2. mark avery says:

    Miles – love it! MArk

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