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My Grandfather Sir John Winnifrith spinning in his grave again as the National Trust joins the LGBT fest

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 5 August 2017

Earlier this week it was his fellow socialist Polly Toynbee arguing for subsidies for farmers and higher food prices for the workers that would have had my late grandfather spinning in his grave. Well Sir John will have had reason tp spin again as the National Trust has joined the 50 year LGBT-fest led by the BBC, in the most ridiculous of ways. This is not to say that Sir John was a homophobe but he was Director General of the Trust.

In his day the Trust was there to restore and maintain old buildings for the nation. I remarked a few years ago on a visit to Kent and Sussex that while the Trust was spending cash putting up signs at Bodiam Castle to propagandise about the perils of global warming it had allowed Hall House Farm in Appledore, a lovely old house which the NT let my grandparents use in retirement, to fall into disrepair.

My grandfather had a wonderful sense of history. He had been part of history working in Churchill's war rooms during WW2. As a boy I'd travel around Romney Marsh - the history of which is told in a book by Sir John Winnifrith - with him and he'd tell tales of how if the Germans had invaded he had been ordered to assemble on the playing fields of Eton. He'd point out a remnant of PLUTO ( the pipeline sending fuel to France after 1944), an old concrete guard box from the War, a "pill Box", we'd discuss the Royal Military Canal built to fend off earlier invaders. In his garden and on the other side of the road there were still concrete Dragon's Teeth - defences against enemy tanks. We discussed the Mithraic finds on the Marsh.

Grandpa thought the National Trust was there purely to save our heritage. And that is what it should be there for. Wind forward to 2017 and to Felbrigg Hall, in Norfolk, which was gifted to the Trust by Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer. Mr Ketton Cramer was gay but never disclosed this in his lifetime. He chose to stay in the closet. But last week the NT outed him with a new film about his sexuality and this week it demanded that all staff who met the public at the Hall wear rainbow LGBT National Trust badges. No badge and you are off the team.

Outing folks even if they are dead is wrong per se. There might just be circumstances where one can make a case. For instance of the gay in question was in public a high profile homophobe working to discriminate against LGBT folk. I can understand that such hypocrisy deserves exposing. But if your ordinary LGBT person wants to stay in the closet his or her wish must be respected even after death.

The Trust does not care about that basic right because its determination is to drive home political points. But it does so when it faces limited resources and so is failing to implement its basic remit in full. In doing so it threatens its very existence in that many of its supporters are older folk who will not share its belief in the need to preach about LGBT rights or the perils of global warming and so will withdraw financial support in life and in death, via legacy bequests.

The National Trust is only starting its descent into a self inflicted financial crisis but it should perhaps look at the RCPCA whose obsession with persecuting fox hunters has alienated so many of its core supporters. The RSPCA is now in terminal decline. I fear that Grandpa will be doing a lot more grave spinning as the National Trust heads down the same path.

PS. I am not sure where my grandfather stood on LGBT rights. In Brideshead revisited there is a scene where the most obviously queer chap at Christ Church was thrown into a bond in the main quad. Evelyn Waugh (who like another great writer of the 20th century was rejected by The House and ended up at Herford) based that on a real incident involving a flamboyant fellow and the Christ Church rowing team out celebrating. As an old man sitting in the Ferry pub my grandfather discussed that for he was on the team. He was deeply ashamed both of being such a hearty for he was a solid and sober man for most of his life but also, I think, for his intolerance. I doubt Grandpa would ave been cheering on Pride as a supportive straight but he was certainly a tolerant man and, of course, he was married to a Lesbia.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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