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.