Litter left by visitors to a stately home – or the National Trust’s latest woke gimmick? Dining room is strewn with pizza boxes and crisp packets for a party-themed ‘experience’
- Pizza boxes and crisp packets left strewn in the dining room at Attingham Park
- Bizarre display in the 18th Century mansion a party-themed ‘visitor experience’
- It has been met with dismay by members of the National Trust who have visited
As one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the country, stately Attingham Park has long been preserved for the nation by the National Trust.
But the 18th Century mansion is now the focus of a simmering row over the future direction of the charity after its elegant dining room was left strewn with pizza boxes, crisp packets and bottles of fizzy drinks for a new party-themed ‘visitor experience’.
The bizarre display, which included ‘blow-up guitars and party hats on statues’, has been met with dismay by members of the Trust who have visited the historic Shropshire pile in recent weeks.
A bizarre display of pizza boxes, crisp packets and fizzy drinks (pictured) have been left strewn in the dining room in Attingham Park as part of a party-themed ‘visitor experience’
‘It’s beyond words,’ a spokesman for members’ pressure group Restore Trust said. ‘It’s not pretending to represent any kind of truth. It’s just a gimmick.’
According to the campaign group, which now has more than 10,000 members, the surprising display is not the only desecration of noteworthy heritage owned by the National Trust – a gathering furore that threatens to alienate the charity’s 5.5 million core supporters and betray the wishes of the aristocratic families who donated the properties.
Indeed, the display at Attingham, along with many other similar examples, represents the latest front in a culture war against what many diehard members see as the 125-year-old institution’s increasing indulgence of a new woke agenda.
At the heart of its criticisms is the reduction in the number of professional curators the charity employs – and, in their absence, a growing number of extraordinary instances of ‘fakery’, ‘gimmicks’ and ‘inappropriate modernisations’ that are dumbing down important cultural sites to bring in new business.
CULTURE TRASH: It has been met with dismay by members of the National Trust who have visited the the 18th Century mansion in Shropshire in recent weeks
Historic furniture and paintings were removed from a room at Croft Castle in Herefordshire to make way for a playroom, for example, while beanbags were introduced to allow visitors to ‘look at the ceiling’ at Ickworth, an Italianate palace in Suffolk.
Playgrounds occupy ‘unsuitable spaces’, car parks are being extended and ice-cream vans block historic views.
A spokesman for Restore Trust said: ‘Professional curators are being replaced by “visitor experience curators” who are starting from the wrong end – what they think the visitor wants – and reinventing the experience to suit that.
‘This isn’t being done on a small scale. The National Trust is now riddled with it. It’s betraying the donor families who entrusted these properties to the National Trust to be preserved for future generations. They’ve lost any long-term vision.’
The display at Attingham Park (pictured) represents the latest front in a culture war against what many members see as the 125-year-old institution’s indulgence of a new woke agenda
Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, the Trust sacked 1,700 staff, and shed ten curators. A report made it clear the organisation wanted to move on from what it described as its ‘outdated mansion experience’. The Trust further angered members by publishing a 115-page report into the links between its properties and slavery and colonialism.
Volunteers at some properties have been asked to consider wearing face paint, glitter and rainbow lanyards to celebrate Pride month.
Restore Trust proposed to bring a vote of no confidence against the charity’s leader, Tim Parker, which led him to resign earlier this year. But the group is now bringing three further resolutions before an AGM in Harrogate at the end of this month. In one, it writes that it ‘deplores the fact’ expert curators had been made redundant and that those remaining were being ‘seriously undermined’.
It claims their advice is being ignored or not even sought – with ‘catastrophic’ and ‘reckless’ results.
Examples include a new visitor experience at Stourhead, the first grand Palladian-style villa to be built in England. Additions include a huge white cube in the entrance ‘pompously’ inviting visitors to consider the significance of everyday objects including ‘your favourite coffee mug’ without any reference to the property’s own collections.
A National Trust spokesman said it was ‘simply wrong’ to say the organisation was dumbing down. Curatorial expertise ‘remains paramount’, with the 27 most significant houses having a dedicated property curator and regional curators managing a portfolio of properties, the spokesman added, saying. ‘These are not the characteristics of an organisation losing its way or reducing its expertise.’
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