Sir Charles Trevelyan life story to be retold at Wallington

PUBLISHED: 15:49 24 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:56 20 February 2013

Wallington All images courtesy of the Trustees of the Trevelyan family.

Wallington All images courtesy of the Trustees of the Trevelyan family.

One of the North East's most picturesque and iconic country houses is being brought to life as never before this autumn in celebration of the man who gave the estate to the nation.

One of the North Easts most picturesque and iconic country houses is being brought to life as never before this autumn in celebration of the man who gave the estate to the nation.

It was just over 70 years ago that Sir Charles Trevelyan took the extraordinary step of bequeathing Wallington in the heart of rural Northumberland to the National Trust.

The move meant the public would for evermore have unreserved access to one of Englands greatest natural playgrounds at a time when country estates like Wallington were still closed off to all but the privileged few.

Now Sir Charless exceptional life story along with that of his wife Lady Mary (affectionately known as Molly), their six children and many of the influential friends, household staff and estate workers with whom they freely mixed, is to be celebrated in a series of unique ticket only tableaus in the house they once called home.

For the first time visitors will be able to experience the family home of the Trevelyans in a way its never been seen before as award-winning performing arts company November Club bring the hustle and bustle of everyday family life back to the Palladian mansion.

Doors to rooms not normally on show will be thrown open and important figures from Sir Charles time including a younger version of his daughter Patricia Jennings, now 97 and until last year still living in Wallingtons West Wing will give visitors a snapshot of Trevelyan life.

A family-focused event during October half-term will for the first time see the attics opened up to public view. Visitors will be encouraged to poke around among the artefacts and indulge in self-directed exploring.

The series of interactive events will finish with the quirkily named Teacups, Zebras and Dancing Kaisers between November 7-18 when the public will be invited to enter a house humming with life, music and playfulness as guests of the Trevelyans.

Everyone will be busy preparing for a special party at which the main guest, Sir Charles, is absent. Performers, including children from nearby Cambo First School which Sir Charles had rebuilt, will strip away the layers of history and weave together family memories and forgotten voices as another side of Wallington is revealed.

The performance will culminate in a celebration with music and refreshments in the central hall with its 19th century paintings depicting famous North East historical scenes such as the Death of Bede and the Viking raids along the coast.

The events are all part of a wider National Trust initiative to bring its properties to life for visitors. Sir Charles has been chosen as the focus at Wallington because, in the words of the propertys visitor experience manager, Gillian Mason, people are able to enjoy its delights today because of his gift to the nation.

Sir Charles was certainly a man who stood out from his aristocratic contemporaries. He inherited Wallington in 1928 and from the beginning encouraged the public to make use of the estate.

In his historic BBC radio speech in March 1937 when he announced his intention to donate Wallington to the National Trust, he said: I do not believe in private ownership of land and I do not think it right for individuals to enjoy the wealth and exercise the power over the lives of others which they obtain by land ownership.

Unusually for a man of his breeding and education at this time, Sir Charles was a Socialist and a Labour MP for Newcastle who served in the government of the day and fought hard for equality, workers rights and a decent standard of living for all.

He fervently believed Wallington should be enjoyed by the majority, not the minority.

It was in 1941 that Wallington was eventually handed to the Trust, although Sir Charles and Molly continued to live there until their deaths in 1958 and 1966 respectively.

Gillian says Sir Charles was a man who genuinely wanted to make a difference, and a maverick who believed he was doing the right thing. I think what helps Sir Charles stand out is that he wasnt just a man of words, he followed through with deeds and he set the pace that others were to follow.

It has taken November Club 12 months to pull together this autumns events, using family letters, old photos, books, diaries and the memories of surviving family members to build up a picture of Sir Charles.

His story will be told through the eyes of these characters, which will include his siblings, children, wartime evacuees billeted at Wallington, and friends, such as the Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, George Bernard Shaw.

Gillian says: Sir Charles may not have lived to see the success of handing Wallington over to the nation, but the fact the property is now the regions most visited National Trust attraction is a testament to his foresight.

  • Wallington, Cambo, Northumberland, NE61 4AR, 01670 773 600,,

  • To keep up-to-date about the events or the November Club go to

  • Beyond the Ropes, October 27-30, 10.30am-11am. Follow November Club as they reveal the secrets of the attics where visitors will encounter stories from the past and see where the Trevelyan children played. Suitable for children aged seven-plus. Tickets 5. Call 01665 833 751.

  • Teacups, Zebras and Dancing Kaisers takes places between November 7-18 (no performance on November 12) and is suitable for adults and children over 12. Tickets are 25, including seasonal refreshment. Call 01665 833 751.

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