In November 2018 I took on the role of Director for Marks Hall Estate Trust in north Essex. The estate covers some 2300 acres with a large geographically zoned public arboretum at its heart, and further comprises ancient woodlands, five farms, Essex barns, lakes, and several heritage buildings.
The last owner of the estate, Thomas Phillips Price, bequeathed his house and land to the nation in his will of 1927, to be administered under a Trust overseen by the then director of Kew Gardens. He stipulated that the estate should be used for the advancement of Agriculture, Arboriculture and Forestry for ever. He died in 1932, leaving a life interest for his widow who died in 1966, at which point the estate reverted to the nation.
In the early 1940s Marks Hall Estate, including the grand Jacobean mansion itself, was requisitioned as a base for WWII fighter and bomber forces, hosting RAF Squadrons and US Air Force Divisions. Some of the base infrastructure survives and we are always finding items which will help us describe this important part of the site's history in future. Sadly, Mrs Price had the mansion demolished in 1950.
Today Marks Hall Estate is a thriving visitor attraction and hire venue with a busy public programme and hosts large public events throughout the year. I am excited about taking Marks Hall Estate in to the next chapter in its history, finding exciting ways to relate its stories and secrets, and developing a very special place where people can experience and learn the value of nature.