Run by and for independent heritage
We are a cooperative association and not-for-profit limited company, democratically run by representatives of the houses and gardens we exist to help and protect
Martha Lytton Cobbold
President | Since 2020
Martha, a dual citizen of the US and UK, graduated from NYU with a double major in Journalism and History of Art. She lives with her husband Henry in his ancestral home, Knebworth House, where they are the nineteenth generation since it was built in 1490. Martha has worked directly on the estate since 1993, and is today the Managing Director of the leisure-management business and estate, overseeing and running the lettings, day-visitor season, catering, events, concerts, films and diversification projects. She administrates the charitable trust on behalf of nine trustees and works with a number of regional committees in farming, business, and tourism, including as the current Co-Chair of Visit Herts. Martha and Henry have two grown-up children, and a pair of rescue Great Dane dogs.
Deputy President | Since 2020
After a career as an Old Master Paintings specialist at Sotheby’s London, Jason then dealt in 20th-century French Paintings. He inherited Hedingham Castle in Essex in 1998, moving there full time with his wife and family in 2004, running it as a wedding and events business. He is passionate about art and architecture and the great outdoors.
The Duchess of Argyll
Board member | Joined 2019
Eleanor has run Inveraray Castle & Gardens with her husband, Torquhil since 2002. One of Scotland’s leading visitor attractions, the house is also the seat of the Clan Campbell, welcomes over 120,000 tourists annually as well as hosting various events and festivals. With a background in public relations, Eleanor used to work for Charles Barker Public Relations, subsequently Weber Shandwick. Eleanor is also the President of the Georgian Group, Patron of Richmond’s Hope (the leading provider of support for child bereavement in Scotland) and Chairman of the Women of Achievement Lunch. Eleanor chairs the Business Development Committee of Historic Houses.
Sarah Callander Beckett
Board member | Joined 2016
Sarah Callander Beckett was born in London, educated in England and Italy and worked in the Far East and North America. In 1992 she inherited Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, undertaking a bold restoration of its buildings and renaissance from near collapse into a fully diversified estate mixing tourism and events with agriculture. A passionate supporter of the built heritage and conservation she is Chairman of the Historic Houses Northwest Region and an Historic Houses board director. She was a Director of the CLA, and is a Trustee of Cheshire Community Foundation, a Deputy Lieutenant for Cheshire and a past High Sheriff. She is married to Peter Beckett and has a son Peregrine.
The Earl of Carnarvon
Board member | Joined 2016
Lord Carnarvon has chaired the Thames & Chilterns HH region for 12 years and has been on the HH Board since 15th November 2016. Geordie and his wife live at Highclere Castle, renowned throughout the world as “Downton Abbey”. Their business is focused on tourism, events and the development of the brand through books, documentaries, speaking engagements, and now the creation of Highclere Castle Gin, just launched in the UK & USA as well as a recently planted vineyard. Lord Carnarvon farms in hand at Highclere with the production of oats and haylage for the horse racing industry a speciality. Gardens and conservation of ancient landscape is a key interest of Lord & Lady Carnarvon.
Board member | Joined 2019
Sheila moved into Layer Marney Tower, Essex with her husband, Nicholas, in 1989, and was immediately put on the Regional Committee of the HHA. She was its Chairman from 2003 – 2008. She became Chairman of Invitation to View in 2009 and was involved in the merging of Invitation to View with Historic Houses in 2018. She became the first Chairman of the Invitation to View Committee with Historic Houses and thus joined the main Board of Historic Houses. She retired from the committee after its first year and is now a co-opted member of the Historic Houses Board. She is also currently Chairman of the Braintree District Museums Trust, which looks after the internationally important Warner Textile Archive.
Board member | Joined 2019
Ursula Cholmeley joined the board in 2019 and chairs the Gardens Committee. She is a gardener, business owner and garden writer with an MA in History from St Andrews. An occasional tennis coach and polo umpire, in 2001 she began a lifelong project to restore Easton Walled Gardens. The 450-year-old gardens now welcome visitors throughout the year and have a growing reputation for quiet innovation. She has a passion for great horticulture and can be hard to remove from a conversation about plants.
Board member | Joined 2022
The Rt Hon The Lord Garnier QC was called to the Bar in 1976 and practises from 4 Pump Court Chambers in the Temple. Edward Garnier’s practice includes corporate advisory and financial services work, corporate crime, international human rights, defamation, privacy, confidence, malicious falsehood, contempt and related media law cases. He is a Bencher of the Middle Temple. He was the MP for Harborough in Leicestershire 1992-2017, Shadow Attorney General 1999-2001,2009-2010 and HM Solicitor General from 2010 to 2012. Knighted in 2012 and sworn of the Privy Council in 2015, he is now in the House of Lords.
Board member | Joined 2021
Philip began his career as a contemporary art dealer, based in London. In 2009 he and his wife Susie took over the running of Iscoyd Park, situated in North Wales close to the Welsh / Shropshire border. The house needed major ‘root and branch’ restoration and together they have developed it into an award -winning wedding and events venue. In 2018 Iscoyd brought their catering in-house and now run a team of chefs and have expanded the business to put on regular supper clubs, culinary and cultural events. They continue to live in the house with their three children.
Board member | Joined 2020
Henry joined the Historic Houses Board in 2020 as the representative of the non-open houses. He lives at Munden on the outskirts of Watford in Hertfordshire and manages a diversified rural estate. Munden House has often been used as a TV and feature film location, whilst also providing a venue for weddings and other events.
Henry’s career has been in property, and he still holds a number of director and trustee roles in the industry. He is also chair of the Hertfordshire Community Foundation.
Andrew, Earl of Hopetoun
Board member | Joined 2015
The Earl of Hopetoun is Chairman of Hopetoun Estates and resident trustee at Hopetoun House. Hopetoun, with its related estates, is managed as a diversified rural tourism, hospitality, events, agricultural and property business. With a background in nuclear physics and software and systems engineering, Andrew worked for Intense Ltd., a Scottish opto-electronics firm, and prior to that at the GEC group of companies (subsequently BAE Systems). Andrew chairs Historic Houses Scotland.
Board member | Joined 2020
Miranda moved back to her family home, Burghley House, in 2007 with her husband Orlando and their four children. As Executive Chair of the Burghley House Preservation Trust, Miranda oversees the running of the House and Estate on behalf of the charity and its board of trustees. Miranda has a background in Art History, an MA from London University and a personal passion for the history of the Grand Tour collections at Burghley. While maintaining the essential energy and spirit of family life within the heart of the house, she is tasked with continuing to explore new ways to diversify and regenerate commercial activities across the Estate. Now embarking on an ambitious 10 year Masterplan of the visitor business at Burghley, she is more often to be found in her wellies plotting the future restoration of the walled gardens.
James Saunders Watson
Board member | Joined 2013
James joined the Board in 2013 and became Chairman of the Tax and Political Committee in 2019. James and his wife have lived at Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire since 1999, when he inherited the house from his father. The castle is over 950 years old and has been owned by his family since 1540, having previously been a royal castle. Since moving in James and Lizzie have developed the castle business beyond being a visitor attraction, hosting weddings corporate events and major external events including the Rockingham International Horse Trials. James continues to maintain a career in finance alongside managing the castle.
Ben Cowell OBE
Ben is the Director General of Historic Houses. He has worked previously for the National Trust, English Heritage, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. He sits on the Government’s Heritage Council as representative for the interests of private owners of heritage.
Director of Finance and Operations
Rufus joined Historic Houses in October 2016 and holds responsibility for a wide portfolio including finance, HR, IT infrastructure, data management, and operational services. Alongside providing robust financial systems and processes, with his team, he provides our house and garden owning members with access to expert advisory services alongside a programme of educational and networking events. Rufus has a background in charity and private sector finance and a MA in Egyptian Archaeology.
Director of Marketing and Development
James heads up our visitor membership scheme, external communications, and commercial development. He has been with Historic Houses since 2017 but has a background in education, volunteering, and communication in the charity sector.
Director of Policy and Public Affairs
Emma joined Historic Houses as Director of Policy & Public Affairs in 2015. Emma’s roles before this include three years in policy & communications at The Heritage Alliance, a couple of years running education-related strategic projects in a Vice-Chancellor’s private office, and a few years working in public sector PR. Emma holds an MSc in Political Science, a PGcert in Heritage Management and a BA (Hons) in English Literature. In her free time, Emma has sat on the Executive Committee of Women in Public Affairs (WiPA) and is an occasional guest speaker and mentor at Birkbeck Politics.
Historic Houses Scotland Coordinator
Natalie joined Historic Houses in January 2022 as a part-time Finance Assistant, supporting the Finance Officer with admin, client tour accounts and Sage accounting. Natalie previously worked for the IET in the publishing department, editing scientific journals for the inhouse database. Natalie spends her free time with her husband, two children and two dogs, enjoying trips to the seaside whenever the opportunity arises.
Fiona joined Historic Houses in 2004 taking on the role of Marketing Executive until 2009 when she relocated to Derbyshire. Since then, Fiona has continued to work for Historic Houses as their Events Co-ordinator, working along side the Operations team to produce their Seminar programmes and Annual National Business Conference.
Tours & Access Officer
Pat is part of the marketing team and deals with visits to our properties. She has been arranging tours through Invitation to View since 2004 and joined Historic Houses following the merger between the two companies in 2018. Pat has a background in children’s publishing as an author, editor and translator.
Board Secretariat & Governance Officer
Anna joined Historic Houses in October 2022, having recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh. Anna looks after the association’s governance and committee meetings, whilst also acting as a point of liaison between head office and the regional sub-committees. She is also currently creating a digital archive for the association.
Policy & Education Officer
Sarah co-ordinates our policy and education work alongside Emma and Ben, as well as contributing articles for Historic House magazine. Before joining Historic Houses in early 2022, she worked in various history and heritage sector roles, including in communications, digital media and collections/curation work.
Digital and Marketing Officer
Tolu joined Historic Houses in June 2022 as Digital and Marketing Officer, having recently graduated from the University of Nottingham. Tolu looks after the website and digital side of things, as well as covering all marketing, partnerships, and communications including writing our weekly newsletters, writing articles for the website, and contributing features to the Historic House magazine. He also operates the digital marketing/advertising activities and social media.
Design and Brand Officer
The first and only Design and Brand Officer in Historic Houses history to date, Rosie has tinkered every single piece of design members see and hold in their hands since the association’s rebranding in 2018. She takes members’ feedback seriously and has never stopped experimenting with new solutions.
Fascinated by art, culture, and history, Rosie spent a total of ten years working at The National Gallery and Museum of London before joining Historic Houses. A keen traveller herself, she loves that her design can inspire people to travel off the beaten path and experience the wonderfully intriguing but lesser-known independently owned historic places.
Natalie joined Historic Houses in January 2023 and is part of the Operations and Events teams. She also helps the Next Generation Committee and provides membership registration support for our house and corporate members. Natalie’s background is in education and heritage, and she has a PhD in Early Modern British History.
Wales Policy Advisor
Adrian started his after studying at the University of Wales in Bangor and Aberystwyth (MSc EIA). Over the intervening period Adrian has specialised in tourism, heritage and environmental policy having held senior management positions within the private and third sector throughout his career. He is a keen advocate of debate and consultation and has chased the issues of the day in Wales for many years with regard to his specialist subject areas particularly where there is likely to be significant resource implications for the tourism and heritage sector. Adrian has been Policy Advisor for Historic Houses in Wales since 2018.
Robert Parker has been Technical Adviser to Historic Houses since 2005. He is well placed to offer advice to members, being, also, the owner of the Grade I-listed Browsholme Hall, Lancashire.