Arley House and Arboretum is well known for its stunning scenery, historic plantings and some of the finest collections of rare trees in the UK, but there’s much to this captivating corner of Worcestershire than its inspiring architecture and greenery. While many Upper Arley locals will be well aware of the charitable trust responsible for opening Arley House and Arboretum to the public, many visitors are oblivious to the story of the philanthropist who pioneered the revival of the estate and left behind an enduring legacy that continues to benefit other charitable organisations and groups across the wider region.
The Roger & Douglas Turner Charitable Trust (CIO) Charity no: 1154467 was established when Roger Turner died in 1999 and the estate was bequeathed to the charity. It was the trustees that opened the estate to the public in 2002 with the aim of providing education for all age groups. The board of trustees also award grants to organisations, charities and groups to support education and other charitable aims.
The Roger Turner Charitable Trust – A History
The origins of the Roger and Douglas Turner Charitable Trust can be traced back to the 1950s when local philanthropist Roger Turner acquired the Arley Estate from the Woodward family. By 1959, the estate and its grounds had been in the Woodward family for more than a century, although the site had seen better days. The buildings and its gardens had fallen foul of neglect, a far cry from the botanical haven its founder, Earl Mountnorris, had envisaged and then realised by the mid-eighteenth century. Undaunted and enthusiastic, Turner began an epic refurbishment of Arley Arboretum and its Grade II listed gardens, adding more than two dozen buildings to the estate and establishing a sports and social club that quickly became a bustling community hub for locals. Although the charity originally existed in Roger Turner’s lifetime as The Douglas Turner Trust, the organisation truly came into its own following the sad passing of Roger Turner in 1999, when he bequeathed the estate and its grounds to the charity.
Unveiling the Arboretum to the Public
Control of the estate then passed to a board of trustees, who continued refurbishment work with a keen focus on the arboretum and surrounding gardens. Within a few years, the board had decided to open the arboretum to the public, with the intention to educate and inspire visitors of all ages. Beginning with the unveiling of the Walled Garden, the public were finally invited to view the botanical marvels that call Arley House and Arboretum their home, with Lord Lichfield presiding over the 2002 unveiling ceremony.
The Charity Today
The trust continues its charitable endeavours today, with the board trustees awarding grants to organisations, charities and groups that support and promote charitable aims and education. The charitable trust also strives to maintain and enhance the amenities of the village of Upper Arley, although this is by no means the limit of its reach. In fact, the charity accepts applications and promotes good causes across the West Midlands, the Black Country, Worcestershire and Staffordshire. Appeals for grants are considered from national and regional charities, with the trustees meeting quarterly in March, June, September and December to decide on which causes to promote. Grants are usually in the region of £1000 to £3000, with the Roger Turner Charitable Trust exceeding spending of more than £1.5 million as of 2017.