National Trust marks centenary

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The National Trust, Britain's biggest landowner, celebrated its one hundredth birthday yesterday on the date and on the spot it was founded.

"Mark my words, Miss Hill, this is going to be a very big thing,'' the Duke of Westminster told Octavia Hill, the social reformer who was one of the trust's three founders, at the launch meeting on 12 January 1895. That event took place in his London home, and the guest list at yesterday's luncheon in the expensive hotel that now stands on the Park Lane site demonstrated

how right he was. Cabinet ministers, the heir to the throne, and scores of the great and good attended.

The trust owns or looks after 223 houses, 159 gardens, 670,000 acres of open countryside, and 530 miles of coastline. With 2,250,000 members in pursuit of culture, the conservation of beauty and cream teas, it has become one of the great powers in the land.

The Prince of Wales, patron of the trust's centenary year, gave an entirely congratulatory speech. "I believe in what they are doing and what they have done,'' he said.

Sir Angus Stirling, the trust's director general, said that in the coming year the trust would campaign to raise a further £20m to attack its £165m backlog of major restoration and repair work. He believes the trust is underspending in this area by £5m ayear.