The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets - an entirely privately funded body that saves spectacular buildings for us to enjoy.
© Richard Holttum
You could describe it as your local branch of the world’s largest architectural charity.
Its mission is simple: to save buildings and sites of international importance for future generations to enjoy, year in, year out.
Without government assistance, the WMF spends around £8 million a year. Every two years, it publishes the World Monuments Watch - a list of the 100 most endangered buildings and sites that need urgent help.
'WMF helped save Walpole’s wonderful Strawberry Hill'
In London, the WMF has helped secure the future of Horace Walpole’s wonderful Gothic villa, Strawberry Hill, and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s St George’s Bloomsbury church.
And WMF crusading doesn’t stop at Dover. Its reach includes the British Governor’s residence in Hyderabad, India, and repairing the stunning, sensual figurative lead sculptures by John Cheere that adorn the gardens of Queluz Palace, Portugal - two of which go on show from Friday at Tate Britain.
The next major priority is to secure the future of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, a public school with tremendously beautiful features, such as the (now crumbling) plaster ceiling in the library. Once restored, Stowe will let the public in for 200 days of the year.
© Angelo Hornak/WMF 2008
But the WMF can only keep going with public support. Annual membership is £45 and you can easily “get your money back” as it includes two-for-one entry to an array of amazing places, such as Hampton Court, Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Leeds Castle, Blenheim Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and Woburn.
There are also two lecture series a year, with speakers including Tony Robinson, Jung Chang, Stephen Bayley, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Julian Richards, John Julius Norwich and Tracy Chevalier, and members receive a discount to these.
From spring 2009, the WMF will offer exclusive study days sponsored by builder Symm, which give in-depth access to the best historic British architecture.
Members also receive two copies of its magazine, Monumentum.
For more information, visit www.wmf.org.uk.