Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette March 26, 2004

FROM this week, The Vyne house and grounds at Sherborne St John, near Basingstoke, will be open to the public until October.

The Vyne is one of the many properties throughout the country that is owned by the National Trust.

It was in the last few years of the 19th century that certain far-sighted people became concerned that industrial development in England was slowly taking over parts of the beautiful countryside. They also realised that the days of the large estates were fading away and there was a danger that many castles, mansions and other large and old buildings would fall into decay.

So, in 1895, three of these publicspirited people decided to set up an institution to preserve these places.

Octavia Hill, a housing reformer, Canon H D Rawnsley of Wray, near Windermere, and Sir Robert Hunter, solicitor to the General Post Office, established the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty in England and Wales, which was a public non-profit-making company.

A large number of notabilities who were attracted to this worthwhile concern were the Duke of Westminster, the Marquis of Dufferin and the Earl of Roseberry, and, in May 1895, the first annual meeting took place in London to lay out the future places for the trust.

Within six months the first property to be acquired was the four-and-a-half-acre nature reserve at Barmouth in north-west Wales, and in 1896, the Priest’s House, dating back to 1350, at Alfriston in Sussex, was the first building to be acquired at a cost of £300.

In 1907, the trust was incorporated by an Act of Parliament and was later controlled by a council of some 50 members who drew its funds from subscriptions, donations and income resulting from the properties it owned.

In 1931, a separate National Trust for Scotland was founded to work independently.

Whenever a new property was acquired by the trust, a sign bearing an oak-leaf bade was placed on the land.

The Vyne was built between 1500 and 1520 for William Sandys, who became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII in 1526, although the present building is only a part of a much larger Tudor palace which once extended as far as the lake.

After nearly being made destitute by the actions of the English Civil War, in the 17th century, the sixth Lord Sandys sold The Vyne to Chaloner Chute, a barrister and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

He reduced the size of the building and modernised it, and commissioned John Webb to add the classical portico in 1654, the first of its kind on an English country house.

The Chute family continued to own The Vyne and its grounds into the 20th century, although in the 1920s a girls’ boarding school occupied it for a time, and during the Second World War (1939-45) boys from Tormore School in Deal, Kent, were evacuated here.

On the death of Sir Charles Chute in 1956, The Vyne was bequeathed to the National Trust, and over the years the house and grounds have received thousands of visitors who have enjoyed walking along the lakeside and into nearby Morgaston Wood.