Barnwood Trust has a long history. Our roots go back to the late 18th century, when a group of people came together to build a new mental health hospital in Gloucestershire.

Today, Barnwood Trust is a charitable foundation which draws its income from a portfolio of investments. We are not a fundraising charity. As a financially independent organisation, Barnwood uses its funds to benefit disabled people and people with mental health conditions in Gloucestershire.

An old view of Barnwood House.

The origins of the Trust

Barnwood Trust was set up almost 230 years ago. When George Floyd was murdered and the Black Lives Matter movement re-erupted, we looked into the origins of the Trust’s funds. In light of our British history, we needed to investigate likely links with slavery and the slave trade.

Between 1793 and 1859, wealthy landowners and businessmen donated money to buy farmland to build the Barnwood House Hospital. This land was later sold off for residential and commercial development in the 1970s and 1980s. Moneys from the sale were invested in stocks, shares and property, which now generate income for the Trust.

Our researchers found that there were 238 original donors when the Trust started. We believe that 58 of those people were likely to have financially benefitted from slavery and the slave trade. We have written up this research which can be read in summary here or a fuller version here.

Click here to read the Barnwood Trustees’ statement 

Click here to read our Chief Executive Officer, Sally Byng’s statement


Barnwood House Hospital

In 1860, Barnwood House Hospital was opened. The former ‘gentleman’s residence’ was a private hospital for the ‘care and treatment of the mentally ill’. The hospital offered a high level of care and respect for patients. Those who couldn’t afford to stay at the hospital were subsidised by wealthier patients. Rooms had open fireplaces and were warmed by hot water pipes, and there was a good sewerage system for an ‘asylum’. This was unusual at the time, when people with mental illness were more often confined to poor houses or prison cells.

After World War II, Barnwood House Hospital became a centre for research into the biochemistry of the brain. William Ross Ashby, psychiatrist and pioneer of cybernetics, built his ‘homeostat’ machine in a laboratory at Barnwood House, which in the 1950s, was ‘the closest thing to a synthetic brain so far designed by man’.

By 1967 patient numbers had dropped, with the arrival of the NHS and rising research costs, so the main hospital closed. Most of the estate was sold at this point. The next year a smaller nursing home was opened at the Manor House. Later, sheltered housing bungalows opened at the site in 1981. And, from the early 1980s the Trustees embarked on a broad grant giving programme.


Barnwood Trust today

Today, Barnwood Trust acts primarily as an agent of social change, working with disabled people and people with mental health challenges to change conditions impacting on them, using both the Trust’s financial and people resources to support that social change.


Governance and accountability

Barnwood Trust has a Board of Trustees drawn from applications from people across the county.  New Trustees are appointed by the existing Board of Trustees.  We currently have 9 Trustees.

The Trustees are responsible for agreeing the Trust’s strategic direction and the plans to implement it. They ensure that the management and administration of the Trust are properly carried out. They also appoint the Chair of Trustees and Vice Chair. The Trustees delegate delivery of the Trust’s strategy and policy, and day-to-day operations, to Barnwood’s Chief Executive Officer.


How does Barnwood Trust get its funds?

Barnwood Trust gets its funds from dividends and interest generated from capital investments and from property rental. If you are interested to learn more about the Trust’s funding sources for cultural or religious reasons, please get in touch with the Funding team to discuss this further on freephone 0800 4220404 or email