In this section:
This year, why not enjoy a day out at a National Gardens Scheme garden - you'll be helping fund the QNI too!
Providing vital funding for projects that help improve patient care.
Visit our nursing heritage website, a celebration of District Nursing around the world since 1859.
The Queen’s Nursing Institute has always relied upon donated income in order to carry out its work. The charity was originally founded with the money donated by the women of Britain for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, hence it’s original name, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses. A second collection was made ten years later on her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. However neither donation was sufficient to endow the charity in perpetuity and fundraising had to continue for the charity to survive.
In 1926 at a meeting of the Institute, Ms Elsie Wagg came up with the novel idea to raise funds by opening private gardens to the public and charging admission. Thus the National Gardens Scheme was born, originally as a fundraising committee of the Institute, in which role it continued until it became an independent charity in 1980.
In June of 1927, 349 gardens opened, including Sandringham in Norfolk and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Members of the public paid one shilling each to enter. The scheme was so successful it was continued into September by which time over six hundred gardens had opened and over £8000 raised. In following years a network of county organisers was established in order to encourage garden owners to re-open their gardens annually. As well as the royal family, the RHS, Country Life magazine, the BBC and the AA were all early supporters. By 1930 the number of gardens opened reached 900 and Sir Winston Churchill and Vita Sackville-West were among those who opened their gardens to the public.
The Second World War severely curtailed the scheme as gardeners downed tools, ornamental gardens were sacrificed to the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign and estates were requisitioned. The royal family led the way in subsequently rebuilding support for the scheme and opened royal gardens including Frogmore, Harewood and Coppins. From 1947 the National Trust also played an increasing role, opening estates that had been surrendered to the Exchequer by their former owners in lieu of tax and death duties.
In 2009, the amazing sum of £2,427,000 was raised for charity. As well as supporting the Queen’s Nursing Institute, many other charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices, Crossroads Care and The National Trust all benefit. In 2010, 3700 gardens opened for NGS, including 600 new to the scheme. To find out how you can get involved, visit www.ngs.org.uk .