The National Trust’s estate at Leith Hill is the highest point in Surrey is increasingly popular with cyclists and walkers and needed a Conservation M

About

Summary

Leith Hill Place is part of a historic estate that includes an 18-19th century farmhouse, walled garden and outbuildings. It stretches up to Leith Hill Tower, located at the highest point in south-east England, which has spectacular views. 

The house is primarily associated with the people who lived there in the 19th and 20th centuries and who were closely involved with the sciences, arts and manufacturing. The Wedgwood family moved to Leith Hill Place in 1847 and were frequently visited by Charles Darwin. The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams lived there as a child and when he inherited the estate in 1944, aged 72, he handed it to the National Trust. 

The National Trust’s aim for Leith Hill Place house was to reflect much of its interesting historical associations as it stands today and unlike most National Trust houses, it had not been renovated or interpreted to reflect the time when Ralph Vaughan Williams was living there and there is no permanent collection in the house.

The current visitor experience at Leith Hill Place is informal. Visitors can enjoy the spectacular views from the house and garden. The property runs a calendar of small-scale events including art, craft, cookery, musical and wellness activities, guided tours for small groups, exhibitions and concerts. 

The National Trust wanted to ensure some form of visitor access to Leith Hill Place.

Our Approach

We were asked to explore two options for the use of the house:

Option 1 - Leith Hill estate as a National Trust visitor attraction.

Option 2 – Leith Hill Place as a ‘think tank’ venue with limited public access.

There was a lack of robust data on current visitor numbers, profile, motivation for visits, repeat visitors, car park use etc and it was recommended that a visitor survey was undertaken at the house and tower to test the current assumptions and inform any future plans the use of the house.

To establish what the attraction should be and which areas of the estate should be incorporated within a pay perimeter, and the income and level of footfall required to maintain the house and attraction, a feasibility study and business plan was needed.

The business plan would need to identify the level of visitation required to make the attraction financially viable and assess the impact the visitor numbers would have on the surrounding environment, in particular on car parking capacity required and traffic movement in and around the estate.  

Outcome 

Our preferred alternative to Leith Hill being a stand-alone National Trust visitor attraction was to manage it in conjunction with partners who could help it to increase its contribution to the National Trust at regional and national level, both financially and intellectually.

This fitted with the National Trust’s ‘Playing our part’ strategy which highlights the need to work in partnership with others to find solutions to the big challenges of the 21st century. 

The Leith Hill Place Vision 2018 and the ‘2025 Proposition’ build on this approach and articulate a vision for the future of Leith Hill Place as “a centre for knowledge growth and sharing, bringing together the great thinkers of the day to wrestle with the issues which are relevant to the National Trust, its supporters and the wider heritage and environmental sectors.” 

The significance of Leith Hill Place is largely based on the legacy of the creative intelligence that it fostered, based around nature, science, the arts and manufacturing. This provides a good rationale for developing Leith Hill Place as a ‘think tank’ venue, focusing on a theme that could attract partners.  

Directions

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Leith Hill Conservation Management Plan

Client:

National Trust,

Location:

Surrey, United Kingdom
National Trust

Contact us

3 Woodland Enterprise Centre, Hastings Road,
Flimwell, East Sussex, TN5 7PR, UK

+44 (0) 1580 879970

contact@acorntourism.co.uk