The National Trust has been approached by the UK’s Charity Commission for clarity over concerns it’s straying from its purpose, after the heritage charity published a review linking 93 of the properties it looks after to slavery and colonialism.
PurposeStowell said the National Trust has a “clear, simple purpose which is about preserving some of our great historic places and places of great beauty and national treasure”.
People expect it to “focus on that purpose“, and not ”lose sight of that”, she said, and “shouldn’t be surprised” at questions and criticisms if they do things that seem to stray from that.
“We await a detailed response from the charity, and in the meantime have drawn no regulatory conclusions,” the spokesperson said.
ChurchillThe National Trust’s 115-page interim review (pdf) on the connections between historic slavery and colonialism at its properties was met with criticism at the time of its release, not least because it included Winston Churchill and Chartwell, which was his family home.
Critics said this besmirched the character of the much-lauded statesman, but McGrady said it wasn’t incongruent to both celebrate Churchill and include him in the report because of his involvement with the British colonies.
Historian Andrew Roberts, author of “Churchill: Walking with Destiny”, is one of the critics of the National Trust report.
“By linking colonialism and slavery together in its report, the National Trust was trying to imply a moral equivalence between them, when there was none whatever,” he told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“Indeed, the British Empire was at the very forefront of the campaign against slavery for most of the 19th century, with thousands of Royal Navy sailors dying in the struggle to eradicate it,” he said.
Churchill fought in a campaign to end slavery in the Sudan in 1898, Roberts said.
Diversity of ViewsStowell said that following some scandals in recent years involving charities, public trust in charities had taken a battering. The public now wanted prominent charities to be “more accountable, respectful, and responsive” to their supporters, she said.
Large charities cannot “rely on the fact that they exist to do good as an excuse for them to do it in a way which is bad,” she added.
She also said that the diversity charities rightly seek should include the perspectives of those volunteering for them and “standing on the street corner rattling the tin” to raise funds.
The National Trust did not respond to a request for comment at the time of this report.