National Trust chief won’t back down in ‘slavery links’ storm as she defends ‘list of shame’ for stately homes with ties to colonialism
- Hilary McGrady accepts that report naming 93 historic properties caused upset
- But she claims Britain needs to acknowledge its past in order to face its future
- The National Trust said the list was intended to highlight ‘power and privilege’
- But it has been criticised for ‘playing the woke tune’ and smearing key figures
The head of the National Trust has defended her controversial decision to put stately homes with links to slavery and colonialism on a ‘list of shame’.
Hilary McGrady accepts that a report naming 93 historic properties caused upset, but claims Britain needs to acknowledge its past in order to face its future.
Ms McGrady tells BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs today: ‘Twenty, thirty, forty years ago, we didn’t even tell the story of downstairs, we only told the story about the family.
‘Really, the links to slavery and colonialism is another layer of information that we want to add into the understanding we have of our places. It’s no more or no less than that.’
Hilary McGrady (pictured) accepts that a report naming 93 historic properties caused upset, but claims Britain needs to acknowledge its past in order to face its future
The National Trust said the list, published in September, was intended to highlight ‘power and privilege’, but it has been criticised for ‘playing the woke tune’ and smearing key figures from the past.
Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s family home in Kent, was listed because the wartime leader had opposed Indian self-government in the 1930s.
Rudyard Kipling’s East Sussex home Bateman’s was also included because ‘the British Empire was a central theme and context of his literary output’.
Critics, including historians and some of the charity’s five million members, have branded the National Trust ‘ignorant’ for confusing colonialism with slavery, and failing to acknowledge the role Britain played in the fight against the abhorrent trade in people.
Chartwell (pictured), Sir Winston Churchill’s family home in Kent, was listed because the wartime leader had opposed Indian self-government in the 1930s
But Ms McGrady, 54, today insists: ‘We have known for a very long time that there have been all sorts of connections to slavery from many of our houses. One of the first questions people will ask is, ‘Where did the wealth come from?’
‘Black Lives Matter did bring it more into focus and did, I guess, accelerate the issue.
‘But this is something we have been working on for a long time.’ Ms McGrady, who recently announced plans to make 1,200 National Trust staff redundant, defended the charity’s decision to prioritise green spaces over its historic properties.
‘What we are trying to do is bring the importance of the environment and nature, in particular, more into focus,’ says the mother of three. ‘Because, you know, that is what is most under threat at the moment.’
- Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11am