The grants we make are made possible by the assets put into the Trusts by its founder Sir David Wills (1917 – 1999) and his son Martin Wills (1953 - 1992)
The assets include farming and property interests and a portfolio of listed investments.
The farming operations are carried out on estates at Ditchley in Oxfordshire and Ousden in Suffolk. On both estates the highest standards of environmental and wildlife stewardship and conservation are sought.
The Ditchley estate was bought by Sir David Wills in 1953. Sir David then gave the main house on the estate, the 1722 James Gibbs-designed mansion of Ditchley Park together with 280 acres of land around it to the Ditchley Foundation. Sir David created the Foundation to ensure the UK and the United States had a venue for strengthening trans-atlantic dialogue through discussions on matters of mutual concern. The Ditchley Foundation held its first conference in 1962 and a wide variety of conferences are still regularly held there. www.ditchley.co.uk
The remaining 3,550 acres of the Ditchley estate was gifted to the Trust by Martin Wills on his death in 1992. It is held by The Martin Wills Fund, a subsidiary of the HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust. The estate is primarily an arable farming operation on 2,780 acres, with managed woodland making up the remaining 770 acres. There are two sets of farm buildings and 29 cottages and houses owned by the Trust on the estate.
The Ousden estate was bought by Sir David Wills in 1964. It was also gifted to the Trust by Martin Wills and is part of The Martin Wills Fund. It comprises 2,570 acres, with 180 acres of managed woodland, some 550 acres let to a tenant farmer, and 1,780 acres farmed by the Trust itself. There is one farmhouse and three other let properties on the estate.
The surplus income from the farming, property and forestry operations on the estates together with income from the portfolio of stocks and shares provides the annual resources for the Trust to make its various grants.