Red Flags at Wallington

One of the first things you notice as you reach the National Trust property at Wallington in Northumberland is the old Soviet Red Flag, complete with hammer and sickle, fluttering in the breeze.Northumberland 305

For this stately home was once the home of the Trevelyan family who, unlike most of the landed gentry of England, veered first towards Liberalism and then Socialism.

In fact Sir Charles Trevelyan baronet, was a hugely popular Labour MP for Newcastle Central and a Minister in Ramsey Northumberland 293MacDonald’s Labour government.

He was a leader in plans to raise the school leaving age, giving grants to people on low incomes. He believed very much in the redistribution of wealth.

But he considered that Labour was not left-wing enough and he gave up conventional politics in 1931. He was expelled from the Labour Party not long afterwards.Northumberland 287

Charles, like his younger brother George – the famous social historian G.M Trevelyan – was a great country walker, a devotee for the preservation of footpaths, and a champion of increased access to the countryside. George Trevelyan wrote one of the best ever essays on Walking – which may be found in Clio – The Muse and Other Essays – I commend it to you.

Both brothers were early enthusiasts for the Youth Hostels movement (he early on turned his stables into a hostel) and countryside conservation. Trevelyan gave the house and estate to the National Trust in 1941, saying that “as a Socialist, I am not hampered by any sentiment of ownership. I am prompted to act as I am by satisfaction that the place I love will be held in perpetuity for the people of my country.”Northumberland 285

Charles was a great champion of education, encouraging the local poor to come to his library and borrow a book. But you really had to read it! He would have a long conversation with the borrower on the book’s return.

Wallington House is a little-known gem of an NT property, overshadowed by the nearby dramatic Cragside. The interior hall has a series of paintings by William Bell Scott, featuring scenes of Northumberland life. I show you a dramatic scene of industrial Newcastle here.

The house has a wonderful feel of being a home and not just a showplace. The grounds are extremely pleasant, with a beautiful walled garden, lakes, woodland and a bird hide, from which you may glimpse red squirrels. You can spend a happy day wandering around as we did.Northumberland 298

A charming place with a fascinating family history.

Wallington deserves to become a place of pilgrimage for anyone who loves walking in our countryside and champions the Right to Roam.Northumberland 299

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