Thames Valley Country House Partnership



'The Thames Valley Country House Partnership'


Knowledge Exchange Fellow:
Dr Oliver Cox   |   Faculty of History  |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation:
The National Trust



The Thames Valley Country House Partnership is a University of Oxford initiative supported by the Higher Education Innovation Fund exploring how best to create sustainable partnerships between the heritage and higher education sectors. Established in 2013 as a collaboration between the University of Oxford and a number of country houses of differing sizes and ownership structures in the Thames Valley, London & South East, and further afield, the partnership actively promotes innovative multi-disciplinary research into the history and future of the country house.


Past Events




PhD Studentship, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, UK

Applications are invited for a collaborative doctoral award based on a cooperation between the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and Heritage Open Days/The National Trust, funded by the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH)*.

We are looking for an applicant who holds a master’s degree or similar postgraduate qualification in an arts and humanities discipline and can demonstrate an active interest in public history, heritage, participation and/or cultural policy. The studentship is also suitable for a professional currently working in the cultural or heritage sector who wishes to return to academic research.

The successful applicant will be based in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and supervised by Dr Claudia Sternberg and Dr Nick Cass at Leeds and Annie Reilly, Heritage Open Days Manager, London.

 For more information:

 The Future of England’s Heritage Open Days project

WRoCAH Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) scheme



The Summer Internship Programme offers hundreds of global internships every year exclusively for Oxford students. Placements are 2-12 weeks in duration, and take place in the summer vacation (between the end of June and the end of September). The programme offers opportunities in a wide variety of industry sectors, in partnership with SMEs, charities, multi-national organisations, including many world-renowned organisations and companies. See our interactive feedback map for examples of the types of projects offered through the programme.

What are employers expected to provide?

• Employers agree to reserve a specified number of internships exclusively for Oxford students who apply through the programme.

• Hosts should provide a meaningful work project with adequate supervision from a mentor appointed within the organisation.

• Organisations in the for-profit sector are expected to pay minimum wage or above. Not-for-profit organisations should make a contribution towards the placement, such as accommodation for example.


This step by step guide to submitting an internship gives instructions on how to register, and how to post your Summer Internship Programme opportunity directly on to the system.

This website includes examples of successful internships advertised previously through the programme, which may be helpful in developing your project proposal.

Please click here for more information.

Thames Valley Country House Partnership

Trusted Source



There is a call for papers for the upcoming conference Powering the Power House: New Perspectives on Country House Communities. The conference will be taking place on 25th & 26th June 2018 at the University of Sheffield and Chatsworth. The organisers are currently seeking abstracts of between 200 and 300 words for 20 minute papers and 10 minute lightening talks. We also would like to invite poster presenters to apply. Abstracts can be sent to the conference email address: by Friday 27th October 2017

Thames Valley Country House Partnership



The English ‘Country House’ is a central component of the British heritage landscape. Owned and managed in many cases by the National Trust, these houses are celebrated and enjoyed as ‘national’ treasures that tell a story about continuity and rootedness: the ties between a noble family and a particular rural community, the rise and fall of a branch of the English aristocracy. This is a story in which– ostensibly — there is no place for Jews, because English Jews, most of whom arrived in the late 19th and 20th centuries, put down roots in towns not in the countryside. Yet a surprising number of English country houses have a Jewish story to tell.

Some great houses, like Upton House in Warwickshire, belonged to Jews – in this case the oil magnate Lord Bearstead. Some like Oldway Mansion in Devon were built by Jews – in this case, the American sewing machine millionaire Isaac Singer who indulged his taste for ancien regime France. Others were reimagined by Jews. Trent Park, for instance, was an undistinguished Victorian property before it was essentially rebuilt at the behest of the liberal MP and socialite Sir Philip Sassoon, who turned it into one of the great houses of his age: “a dream of another world – the white-coated footmen serving endless courses of rich but delicious food, the Duke of York coming in from golf… Winston Churchill arguing over the teacups with George Bernard Shaw, Lord Balfour dozing in an armchair, Rex Whistler absorbed in his painting…”. Meanwhile, Sir Philip’s sister Sibyl married into Houghton Hall, one of England’s finest Palladian houses and, with her money and extraordinary art collection – renewed it, as Jewish heiresses often did when they married into the aristocracy.

Nor is this just an English story. All over continental Europe, wealthy, cosmopolitan, aristocratic Jews were busy buying, building and redeveloping ‘Jewish country houses’ – although the nature of these properties varied from place to place. The German Jewish statesman, aesthete and industrialist Walter Rathenau bought a dilapidated little royal palace in the flatlands of Mark Brandenburg and restored it to its 18th century glory, adding just a touch of modern style. A neo-classical gem on the edge of an unremarkably picturesque Prussian market town, Schloss Freienwalde does not compete in size or grandeur with its English equivalents. Possibly as a result, its future as a museum dedicated in part to Rathenau’s memory is now in doubt.

The Riviera presented wealthy Jews with other possibilities. Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and French politician with a passion for ancient Greek culture, built his dream home in a classical Greek style that was both fantastical and restrained. Like Rathenau, Reinach and his brothers came to symbolize for anti-semites the place of Jews at the heart of the political establishment. Yet Reinach’s relationship with his Jewishness was ultimately positive: the Villa Kerylos boasts a Magen David motif on the mosaic library floor.

For many Jews, however, owning a country property was a step towards social acceptance, assimilation, and conversion. Castello Sonnino di Montespertoli was bought by the Jewish banker Isacco Saul Sonnino in the early 19th century. Isacco converted to Anglicanism and married a Welsh woman. His son served twice as Prime Minister of Italy and his descendants still live there, running it as a tourist destination and boasting of the family’s ‘Ancient bonds of history and land’. Like so many of the websites advertising country house museums with strong Jewish associations, this one fails altogether to mention the Sonninos’ Jewish origins.

Were these, then, Jewish country houses, and if so how can we integrate them into our understanding of Jewish heritage and the Jewish built environment?

The answers to these questions are not straightforward. These are all properties with individual stories, and the Jews who owned them related to their Jewishness in very different ways. Sometimes of course they were religious. Sir Moses Montefiore and Samuel Montagu were orthodox Jews. Their properties – East Cliff Lodge and South Stoneham House – were Jewish homes, replete with Sukkot, mezuzot and kosher kitchens. The Montefiore synagogue and mausoleum in Ramsgate mean that the Jewishness of East Cliff Lodge is part of its legacy. But the Jewishness of South Stoneham House has vanished from local memory – the Montagus and their houses are celebrated instead as ‘the last gasp of the Southampton aristocracy’.

Of course, most of the Jews who bought or developed country houses were relatively disengaged from their Jewishness. Many felt conflicted about it, and some sought to escape it through conversion. Yet their contemporaries – unlike the heritage industry – invariably related to these men and women as Jews. And in a rural landscape so powerfully shaped by Christianity, it is hard to argue that their Jewishness did not matter.

Thinking about country house museums like Trent Park, Schloss Freienwalde, Villa Kerylos and Castello Sonnino as Jewish country houses expands our understanding of Jewish heritage. It shifts our focus from the religious sphere epitomised by synagogues and cemeteries and encourages us to think about other ways in which European Jews have shaped the continent’s heritage and built environment. It illuminates the integration of Jews into European culture and society and the ways in which they helped shape it. By connecting Jews to ‘national treasures’ like Houghton Hall, it adds an unexpectedly cosmopolitan twist to a well-worn national narrative. And in their diversity and particularity these houses tell very individual stories that caution us against essentializing the European Jewish past.

– – – – –

May 7, 2017

– – – – –

Abigail Green, a Professor at Oxford University, is a coordinator of a new project on “The Jewish Country House.” The initiative is in very early stages, she tells JHE, “but already Historic England and the National Trust are taking an interest, and we are keen to forge partnerships with country house museums and heritage organizations in other European countries.”

She adds: “If you work on Jewish country houses or in them, if you are interested in developing and thinking about this aspect of Jewish heritage, please consider attending or contributing to the conference we are holding in Oxford next March.” For more details see here

This article originally appeared on Jewish Heritage Europe. You can view it here

Humanities & Identities

Thames Valley Country House Partnership

THE JEWISH COUNTRY HOUSE 5-6 MARCH 2018 Call for papers


The Jewish Country House

University of Oxford

5-6 March, 2018

Organised by Professor Abigail Green, Professor David Rechter and Dr. Oliver Cox, University of Oxford, and Dr. Juliet Carey, Waddesdon Manor.

This workshop aims to establish the Jewish country house both as a focus for scholarly research and as a site of European memory. By focusing on a hitherto unidentified group of country houses – those that were owned, renewed and sometimes built by Jews – we aim to establish the importance of Jewish country houses like Port Lympne Mansion, Schloss Freienwalde, Villa Kerylos and Castello Sonnino as variations of a pan-European phenomenon deserving serious consideration from an academic and a heritage viewpoint.

The workshop aims to bring scholars working on Jewish country houses, castelli, chateaux, Schlösser and Villas together with curators, museum and heritage professionals working either in ‘Jewish country houses’ themselves or in the area of European Jewish heritage more broadly. The two day workshop will be held at TORCH, University of Oxford, with a visit to Waddesdon Manor [], the only surviving Rothschild house with its collections and interiors intact.

Jewish country houses have so far escaped systematic study because they do not fit existing paradigms either in modern Jewish history or country house studies. The historiography of European Jewish elites has tended to focus on the grande bourgeoisie in its urban setting and does not consider the role families like the Bischoffsheims, the Bleichröders, the Péreires and the Sonninos assumed through their rural estates, nor the role of Jewish country houses in the self-fashioning of many leading Jewish figures such as Benjamin Disraeli, Ferdinand de Rothschild and Philip Sassoon in the UK, Leopoldo Franchetti in Italy, Walter Rathenau in Germany, and Théodor Reinach in France. Conversely, the literature on country houses, which typically focuses on the landed aristocracy, has paid little or no attention to the existence of country houses and rural estates in Jewish hands, or to the particular challenges this posed in a rural landscape and social context so powerfully shaped by Christianity.

We are seeking proposals for two types of contributions:

(1) Scholarly contributions exploring Jewish country houses in the UK and continental Europe, their architecture, furnishing, collections and social functioning, and their cultural and political role in the self-presentation and perception of European Jewish elites.

(2) Case studies of specific country house museums presented by country house and heritage professionals, which will allow us to consider the Jewish country house as a site of European memory and a significant aspect of European Jewish heritage and material culture. These case studies are designed to illuminate more generally the issues of presentation and display presented by specific Jewish country houses.

Particular questions likely to arise in either or both strands of the programme include:

- What, if anything, was Jewish about these properties besides their owners?

- What can be gained from comparing Jewish country houses with each other, both within and between national contexts?

- Is it possible to identify personal, artistic or political connections between them, both nationally and internationally?

- How do these houses and their rural estates relate to and/or challenge paradigms either of Jewish cosmopolitanism/ exoticism or of landed, aristocratic rootedness?

- What was the relationship between these country houses and their urban counterparts?

- How far, if at all, did these houses figure as ‘Jewish’ in public discussions of their owners, architecture, collections and preservation?

- What particular issues of presentation and display do Jewish country house museums raise for curators and heritage professionals both in general, and perhaps in relation to the ruptures of the Nazi era?

- How can we engage these issues sensitively without generalizing or over-simplifying the many different ways in which the Jewishness of individual estate owners both did and did not find expression in their properties and collections?

We anticipate that the British dimension of this workshop will be disproportionately important both in terms of scholarship and for heritage professionals, partly because of the cultural significance of the country house in Britain, but also because without a National Trust similar properties (and the archival record) have been less well preserved elsewhere, while the depredations of the Nazi era had a devastating effect on Jewish houses and their collections in continental Europe. Given this reality, we would particularly welcome contributions from scholars and heritage professionals related to Jewish country houses in continental Europe that will enable us to make scholarly connections between the Anglo-Jewish country house and its continental counterparts, and to promote ties between heritage professionals working in this area both in the UK and in continental Europe.

Confirmed speakers: Leora Auslander, Todd Endelman, Paolo Pellegrini, Thomas Stammers.

Please submit your proposal with title, abstract of no more than 300 words, and a short bio/CV in one pdf or doc to by Monday 12 June

We are grateful for the funding and resources towards this event provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Brasenose College, the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, and the University of Oxford John Fell Fund.

Click here to view the event listing.

Knowledge Exchange

Thames Valley Country House Partnership

VISITOR EXPERIENCE MANAGER Job opportunity at Stowe House Preservation Trust


With the pending departure of the current Visitor Experience Manager at Stowe House Preservation Trust, an exciting opportunity has arisen for a heritage professional to join the small team responsible for creating a memorable experience for visitors to Stowe House. The successful applicant will have a passion for historic houses, proven leadership skills and the flair and imagination to continue to develop our visitor experience. You will be commercially astute, self-motivated and adaptable. You will have excellent budget management experience and will be always looking for opportunities to develop and maximise the potential of our operation. You will also be a champion for our visitors and our volunteers.

Permanent Contract. Salary dependent on Experience. 

Please see the job description here for further details and the website for an application pack. 

Closing date: 13 March 2017.

Thames Valley Country House Partnership


MOVING, TEACHING, INSPIRING: THE NATIONAL TRUST & UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD IN THE 21ST CENTURY Interdisciplinary lecture series exploring the challenges and opportunities facing both the higher education and heritage sectors


A Lecture Series

Over the past three years the Humanities Division at Oxford has developed an exciting relationship with the National Trust, culminating in the Trusted Source Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Celebrating our collaboration, this interdisciplinary lecture series will explore and interrogate the many challenges and opportunities facing the higher education and heritage sectors in the 21st century, and highlight the many points of connection between our two institutions from a number of perspectives; from caring for collections and landscapes, to gaining support through brand and marketing.

The lectures are FREE but spaces are limited – please RSVP to to reserve

LECTURES: Open to Oxford University (staff, students and researchers) and National Trust staff only.

VENUE: St Luke’s Chapel, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG

9th February: History, Vision, Ambition – 5.30pm

In this introductory lecture Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, and Professor Karen O’Brien, Head of the Humanities Division, discuss the history, current vision and future ambition of their respective organisations.

23rd February: Land, Outdoors & Nature – 5.30pm

Join Peter Nixon, the National Trust’s Director of Land, Landscape and Nature and Professor Heather Viles, Head of The School of Geography & the Environment as they discuss the challenges and opportunities we face today in caring for and studying the natural environment.

9th March: Our Collections & their Audiences – 5.30pm

Join Simon Murray, the National Trust’s Senior Director of Strategy, Curatorship and External Affairs, and Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum as they discuss heritage and audiences, exploring the need – and means – of making historic collections relevant in the 21st century.

4th May: Heritage as Business – 5.30pm

Join Hilary McGrady, Director of Operations & Consultancy at the National Trust, and Dr Pegram Harrison, Fellow in Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School as they discuss the business of heritage and explore the challenges and opportunities such organisations face as businesses in supporting their charitable causes.

11th May: Supporting our Causes –  5.45pm

Join Jackie Jordan, the National Trust’s Director of Brand and Marketing, Susan Foster, the Trust’s Fundraising Director, and Liesl Elder, Head of Development at Oxford University, as they discuss the ways in which fundraising and branding are fundamental to supporting both the National Trust and Oxford University.

PUBLIC DEBATE – All welcome

1st June: The Future of Heritage  -  5.30pm 

Join our panel of experts as they discuss the opportunities and threats facing heritage today, and debate their own visions of a sector fit for the 21st Century and beyond.

Confirmed speakers:

Dame Helen Ghosh – Director General, National Trust

Carole Souter – Master, St Cross College, University of Oxford (formerly Chief Executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund)

Sandy Nairne – National Trust Trustee & Former director of the National Portrait Gallery

Professor Peter Mandler – Professor of Modern Cultural History, University of Cambridge

John Orna-Ornstein – Director of Museums, Arts Council England (Chair)

VENUE: St John’s College, Garden Quad Auditorium.

This event is FREE and open to all, but reservation is required – RSVP to

Thames Valley Country House Partnership

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