FEARS are mounting that part of a popular country park could be closed off to the public, amid new plans to lease it to a third party.

Dinton Park and Philipps House is a National Trust property with extensive parkland and lake and a late Georgian house.

But now the National Trust has informed local residents that it proposes to let the house to a third party on a 21-year lease, together with almost 39 acres of land, on the basis that the house requires “privacy”.

The MP for South West Wiltshire, Andrew Murrison, has criticised the decision, questioning "how it squares with the Trust's purpose".


Formerly called Dinton House, it was built between 1814 and 1817 for William Wyndham.

In 1916 the Wyndham family sold Dinton House to Bertram Erasmus Phillips. In the 1920s a ha-ha was constructed to the south of the House, and a kitchen garden was created to the north.

Dinton House was let to the YMCA as a holiday home c 1940 and in 1943 Phillips gave the House and park, by then known as Phillips House, to the National Trust, who started a long-term restoration programme. Dinton House and park remain (2002) in the care of the National Trust. The house has been unoccupied since 2015.

There is currently acres of open space used by hundreds of locals every week, and the lake is fished by the local angling club.

The house sits in about two acres of private grounds to which the public do not have access.

Salisbury Journal: This was sent in by David Richards of Dinton back in 2019.This was sent in by David Richards of Dinton back in 2019.

Lease to a third party

A statement from the National Trust said: "Since 2015, when the last tenants moved out of Philipps House, the Trust has been exploring how this can best be achieved to offer a viable long-term solution for the property.

"Following a lengthy and thorough review, the charity has decided that the best way forward is leasing the property to a third party, who can care for it in a way that will assure its future.

"The charity recognises how much the parkland is valued by the local community and are committed to maintaining this, however, the park boundary is close to the front of Philipps House and the charity is proposing to adjust the boundary and fence lines in the areas adjacent to the house itself to give a greater degree of privacy."

The Trust adds that it is meeting with representatives of the local community to go through the proposal in more detail and to find a solution "which works for both visitors to the parkland and for the privacy of a potential future tenant".

'Driving out the public'

Salisbury Journal: Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, Dinton Park and Philipps HouseAndrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, Dinton Park and Philipps House

MP for South West Wiltshire Andrew Murrison has criticised the decision, saying the trust "is acting like eighteenth century landed gentry intent on driving out the public to maximise value and preserve its own privacy".

In a letter seen by the Journal to Ms Hilary McGrady, the Director-General of National Trust, Mr Murrison says he accepts the imperative to maximise the return the trust get on the lease, the strategic aim to drop the mansion experience and the desire not to fund the park’s upkeep, but is "left wondering how on earth this latest squares with your statutory purpose".

He adds: "It seems the NT’s unpopular new direction has now reached south Wiltshire.

"Nearby Stourhead with its huge footfalls and rent rolls and similarly popular NT sites are meant to cross subsidise places like Dinton. Why have you changed direction?

"If you are disinclined to run places like this in the public interest, why are you not offering it to stewards that can, notably local authorities or community not for profit bodies?"

A further statement from National Trust said: "Philipps House has been a privately tenanted property for many years and needs someone who will be able to make the financial commitment it requires to repair and restore it. This will be a considerable investment for the tenant. One of the factors making this outcome less likely is the current lack of privacy due to the close proximity of the parkland.

"Our current proposal is for 110 acres of park and adjoining woodland to remain open access for public use and enjoyment, and give the tenant privacy by making 31 acres  unavailable for public access.

"However we are still meeting with representatives from the local communities to go through the proposals in more detail and to hear their views to see if we can accommodate their suggestions."

Get more Salisbury news

You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date.

If you want online news with fewer ads, unlimited access and reader rewards - plus a chance to support our local journalism - find out more about registering or a digital subscription.

Email newsdesk@salisburyjournal.co.uk with your comments, pictures, letters and news stories.