Philanthropy and the legacy of great estates
Back in their heyday, Britain’s great estates were integral to the economies of the local communities in which they were based. Not only were they huge employers for those living in nearby towns and villages, but they were also massive supporters of local businesses, which thrived from supplying aristocratic families with goods and services.
Fast forward to the modern day, and stately homes still have a vital role to play in society. In our Private Wealth Guide for 2020-21, we profiled some of the grandest stately homes to be found in the counties of Hertfordshire and Essex. Steeped in centuries of history, their important work includes educating new generations of children, preserving Britain’s rich architectural heritage and working with local charities and causes to improve the lives of local residents.
In our most recent Private Wealth Guide, we featured the beautiful Knebworth House, ancestral home of the Lytton family. Now occupying the very modern role of entertainment and concert venue, it also works to preserve and maintain the House’s important history as an education source for children. In 1984, the Knebworth House Education and Preservation Trust (KHEPT) was set up to fund vital repairs and upkeep, the total cost of which is currently valued at £9m.
The Trust also offers educational programmes for students of all ages, using valuable, first-hand source material to bring the House’s long history to life. It is a task in which it has consistently excelled; KHEPT was awarded the Sandford Award for excellence in heritage education in 2001, a title it has held ever since.
Woodhall Estate near Hertford has an equally excellent track record for community and charity work. Home to Heath Mount School, an independent co-educational establishment for children aged 3-13, it has long promoted children’s learning, offering valuable support to schools and organisations in the local area. Staplewood School, for example, has occupied a building owned by the Estate rent-free for many years, while the Hertfordshire Scouts rent their Watton-on-Stone Scout Hut from the Estate for just £1 per year. In addition, the Estate contributes to the repair and upkeep of nearby churches, as well as offering training spaces to Hertfordshire Constabulary to train police dogs and their specialist officers.
Woodhall Estate is a keen fundraiser, supporting charities such as Essex and Herts Air Ambulance (our own chosen charity), Help for Heroes, the British Red Cross and Isabel Hospice.
Moving on to a stately home that we profiled in our inaugural Private Wealth Guide for 2019-20, Copped Hall in Epping was acquired by the Copped Hall Trust in 1995; the Trust has now been lovingly restoring the mansion, gardens and surrounding buildings for over two decades. Its aim is not only to protect, restore and conserve the house’s heritage, but to open it up for educational, cultural and community use.
The Trust runs a popular primary school education programme, as well as a wide range of study days encompassing topics as diverse as drawing, wildlife and photography. It also offers key lectures on the history and conservation of Copped Hall. Interestingly, Copped Hall is also a rich training ground for budding archaeologists, who are keen to take part in the Copped Hall Trust Archaeological Project exploring the remains of ‘Old Copped Hall’, which was demolished 250 years ago.
A sense of community
It is clear that these great estates continue to be, just as they were centuries before, stalwarts of their local communities. They still provide employment and commercial opportunities for the surrounding areas, but now they offer so much more: they work to inspire young minds, preserve the richness of Britain’s cultural history for the benefit of the public, and support a wide range of charitable and community causes. A worthy legacy indeed.
To read more about the country estates featured in this year’s Private Wealth Guide, visit the links below to access our fully digital flipbooks.