The National Trust is raising funds to secure the future of the Oxfordshire home of a philanthropist British engineer.
William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, was one of the first British industrialists to introduce mass-production methods.
Having left school at 15 to set up a business making and repairing bicycles, he spotted the market for small, economical cars.
He designed his first, the two-seat Morris Oxford ‘Bullnose’ in 1912, and a year later the Morris Motor Company began production.
In 1925, 56,000 cars a year were rolling off the production line, and by 1937 Morris was the largest motor manufacturer in Europe with sporting versions of its vehicles sold under the MG marque.
Made a viscount in 1938, Lord Nuffield was a frugal man who is estimated to have given away more then £30 million (equivalent to £11 billion today) to good causes.
He established the Nuffield Foundation to advance social welfare and founded Nuffield College, Oxford.
He was President of the Institution of Production Engineers, one of the IET’s predecessor organisations, and has both an IET prestige lecture and a room at the Institution’s London headquarters named after him.
Nuffield Place, the property near Henley-on-Thames where he and his wife lived from 1933, is described by the National Trust as a ‘time capsule’ that has been left almost exactly as it was when he died in 1963.
Since then it has been owned by the Oxford college that bears his name.
The house retains most of the furniture and contents acquired when he moved in, and several rooms are still decorated in the style of the period.
Lord Nuffield’s love of mechanical things can be seen behind cupboard doors in his bedroom, which hid a miniature workshop with his collection of hand tools.
It was here that he is said to have relieved nights of insomnia by doing delicate metal work.
The property has been open to the public since 1977, but at limited times and run by volunteers.
It has now been offered to the National Trust, which has agreed to fund an endowment provided the property can pay for itself as an attraction within five years.
However, an initial £600,000 is urgently needed to open the house to the public.
National Trust general manager Richard Henderson believes that Lord Nuffield remains relatively unknown, despite his extraordinary philanthropy and achievements.
"His home is a wonderful time capsule without any of the ‘show’ of a multi-millionaire and reveals so much about the man who changed many people’s lives for the better," he said.
"We are determined to open the house as soon as possible and to celebrate Lord Nuffield’s remarkable story.
"But we need to raise the funds to get the necessary visitor facilities in place."
E&T readers can make a donation via www.nationaltrust.org.uk/savenuffieldplace or by calling 0844 800 1895.