Charles Bennion and his gift of Bradgate Park

After nearly 800 years of ownership, and following the death of the 7th Earl of Stamford without an heir, the Grey family Estates were broken up and the Bradgate Estate sold off in the 1920s.

Outlying parts of the Estate were sold in 1921, and the entire village of Newtown Linford and other nearby villages were sold in 1925.

The sale of Bradgate Park itself was held back until 1928, when Charles Bennion (founder of the British United Shoe Machinery Company, a major employer in Leicester at the time) purchased the Park.

Charles Bennion then, by prior arrangement with the City Council of Leicester, gave the Park in trust to be managed “in perpetuity as an open space or public park for the purposes of recreation” by the people of Leicestershire and visitors to the county.

This wonderful gift is commemorated on a plaque on a large boulder alongside the carriageway, mid-way between the Newtown Linford entrance and the Ruins of Bradgate House.

Swithland Wood

Swithland Wood

Swithland Wood was one of the first disposals of the Bradgate Estate by the Grey family in 1921.  It was purchased by a local timber merchant who felled much timber.  To prevent the removal of further timber and in order to preserve the Wood, as one of the richest and most attractive areas of woodland in the Midlands, the Rotary Club of Leicester launched an appeal to purchase the Wood in order to preserve it for public access for ever.

The Club purchased Swithland Wood in 1925 ,and managed it themselves for a few years for public recreation, before transferring it to the care of the Bradgate Park Trust in 1931.

This gift is commemorated in an inscription on the rock face of the former slate quarry in the centre of the Wood and on a plaque on the nearby surfaced track through the Wood.

The generosity of these two benefactors and others who have, over the years, also gifted additional land (or made it available for purchase on advantageous terms) means that the Bradgate Park Estate today extends to over 1,300 acres and includes not only Bradgate Park (830 acres) and Swithland Wood (146 acres), but also a peripheral belt of farmland and woodland which is managed by the Trust for agriculture and conservation.

The Bradgate Park Trust Today 

Bradgate Park as it is managed today

The Bradgate Park Trust cares for the internationally important landscapes of Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood and their rich wildlife, including Leicestershire’s largest wild red and fallow deer herds. These sites that form our Estate are nationally protected by legislation, as are many of the heritage features of Bradgate Park. 

The heritage of the sites in our care goes back 560 million years and tells 15,000 years of human stories. We care for some of the oldest in situ fossils in the UK, the ruins of one of the most important country houses of Tudor England and many species of locally scarce wildlife.

Our Office is at the Deer Barn in the heart of Bradgate Park. This is also the location of the Visitor Centre and Deer Barn Tearoom. We also have a Meeting Room (located upstairs) that can be hired. Full details are available from the Estate Office. 

The Bradgate Park Trust (or to use our full title ‘The Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood Charity’) is a Registered Charity (no 521476) with a total of ten Trustees. The Trust is governed by a Charity Commission Scheme of 1980 (amended in 2014 and 2018), which updated the original 1928 Trust Deed.

The trust and Bradgate House

The charity has two objects (charitable purposes):

The provision of a public park and recreation ground, and the maintenance and improvement thereof, for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Country of Leicestershire and of visitors thereto, with the objects of improving the conditions of life for such persons


To advance the education of the public in the appreciation and care of the environment.