The head of the National Trust received anonymous death threats during a “culture war” feud over the organisation’s alleged “wokeness”.
Hilary McGrady, the Trust’s director general, revealed she did not report the intimidation to the police as it “comes with the territory”.
The row was sparked by the Trust’s attempts to learn more about the history of its properties, including the publication of a report that found connections between 93 of its historic places and slavery and colonialism.
Recently a group calling itself Restore Trust sought to win seats on the charity’s governing council at its annual general meeting in October, claiming to represent grassroots opposition to what it said was the Trust’s “woke” agenda.
Three of Restore Trust’s candidates were subsequently elected to the 36-seat council – and McGrady said she suspects the group will continue its campaign.
She told The Guardian: “I would like to engage with them honestly and openly. What isn’t helpful is a war of words.
“I’m really up for having those conversation… I have to accept I can’t lead an organisation of this scale and not take on these challenges. It comes with the territory and I’m pretty sanguine about that.”
Some visitors were “really cross and angry with us” over issues raised by Restore Trust, she said, adding: “There were also people really delighted and relieved that we’re finally looking at the history that they want to learn.
“Every day we uncover another bit of history. We have an obligation to tell this huge, complex, layered story of the history of the three countries we’re responsible for. The idea that history stands still is nonsense because you keep finding new things.”
‘Not trying to preach’
She added: “No one is forcing this down your throat. No one is trying to make you read this stuff. There’s no sense that we’re trying to preach and, certainly, definitely not judge.
“We’re trying to provide layers of information; we’re taking nothing away. We’re adding to the complexity of the information available. But if [people] want to come along and walk around the garden and have a lovely cup of tea, I am delighted about that.
“Why would I be prescriptive as to how people should engage with the National Trust?”