The acquisition of Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House in 1943 marked the start of the National Trust’s association with the area. The 20th century saw regular additions of land or property. The National Trust is not attempting to fossilise the Constable landscapes but to balance the needs of tenants who make a living from the land and the needs of visitors who want to connect the land with the work of John Constable.
- 1924 Near derelict Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House are offered to the National Trust. In warning the National Trust against taking them on, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings declared “The cost of putting Willy Lott’s House in repair will be a sum in the neighbourhood of £1750” and that the National Trust should only take it on when it had been “repaired and its maintenance guaranteed”
- 1926: Thomas Parkington, an Ipswich builder and philanthropist, buys Willy Lott’s House and Flatford Mill with a view to carrying out repairs and running an art school.
- 1926-28: Thomas Parkington restores the buildings but in doing so he strips out all the mill machinery and has the iron water wheel removed. During the restoration, restorers carve a verse of a poem by Adelaide Proctor into the panel below the staircase in Willy Lott’s House.
- 1928: Westername East publishes a booklet titled ‘The Saving of Flatford’ which acknowledges the contribution made by Thomas Parkington. The booklet contains rare drawings of the Mill and Willy Lott’s House by Leonard R Squirrell.
- By 1932: Thomas Parkington had enlarged the area of permanent protection by acquiring the field on the western side of the last descending slope of Flatford Lane and Haybarn Cottage at the head of the same slope on the eastern side, with its home meadow and outbuildings together with a broad strip of land extending down the eastern side of the lane for its whole length
- 1943: Thomas Parkington dies leaving Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House to the National Trust in memory of John Constable.
- 1946:The National Trust leases Willy Lott’s House and Flatford Mill to The Field Studies Council an arrangement that is still in place today
- 1946-1959: National Trust acquires more land and protects over 400 acres around Flatford
- 1959: The National Trust acquires Valley Farm Trust from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and leases to the Field Studies Council
- 1971: National Trust: acquires Judas Gap Marsh downstream of Flatford
- 1974: River Stour Trust restore the present lock gates
- 1987: National Trust acquires Gibbonsgate Field and lake to the rear of Willy Lotts House
- 1985: National Trust acquires Bridge Cottage. When digging the foundations for a new Tea Shop in the land around Bridge Cottage they uncover the Dry Dock which the Trust has restored based on Constable’s original drawings.
- 1995: National Trust: acquires Millers Field on the hill behind Valley Farm
- 2000: National Trust: acquires Fenn Bridge Meadows off Flatford Lane
- 2009: National Trust: acquires Stanley’s Meadow and The Grove (formerly Orvis Wood)
- 2011: National Trust buys back the lease on the car park (land owned by the Trust) and acquires Haybarn Cottage, the visitors centre and surrounding land
- 2013-14: National Trust upgrades facilities for visitors
- 2018 – National Trust acquires the Granary
To find out more about the the National Trust at Flatford – how you might spend an afternoon walking in Constable’s footsteps, experiencing the landscape that inspired him – please click on National Trust Flatford
There you will also find information on how to get to Flatford, the nearest railway station, coach facilities, where to park your car, disabled access/facilities, facilities for babies, how to find the toilets, the shop plus information on guided tours, activities and events and of course teas. The car park is free for National Trust members but there is a charge of £5 for non-members.