The Charity

Our vision is to develop a beautiful, sustainable estate dedicated to the understanding and practice of forest and landscape resilience and research.

Iconic gardener William Robinson (1838–1935) lived at Gravetye Manor for 50 years and bequeathed his estate, in trust, to the nation.

His will states that the woodlands should be ‘utilised for the purposes of State Forestry’ and preserved ‘as a sanctuary for birds and for foxes, badgers and the like’.

William Robinson Charity was set up in 1936 to take ownership of the estate and Forestry Commissioners were appointed trustees. Due to the outbreak of World War II, no long-term management plan was established, and the Manor was requisitioned for use by Canadian troops. Soldiers grew vegetables in the herbaceous borders out of necessity and the Manor house fell into serious disrepair.

After the war, the Forestry Commission produced a woodland management plan and granted a long lease for the Manor house to be used as a hotel. Renovation of the buildings and the historic garden began, and the woodlands were restocked for forestry purposes.

Governance arrangements were formally reviewed in 2000 and as a result Gravetye Estate is now owned by the William Robinson Gravetye Charity (registered charity 1136242).

Image courtesy of RHS Lindley Collections

The Forestry Commission is Corporate Trustee and has recruited six independent Trustees: two non-executive Forestry Commissioners, two local trustees and two other independent trustees.

The charity’s mission is to improve and interpret the legacy of William Robinson, providing public enjoyment and benefit through excellent stewardship, experimentation, and research.

Image courtesy of RHS Lindley Collections

Although the world has changed a great deal since William Robinson’s lifetime, his ethos will inform all future improvements, including the development of a lakeside trail, forest research trials and regeneration of natural habitats.