Top Historian in Search of a Country House in Winchester

Press Release: 20/02/2007

Simon Thurley

Winchester Museums' Spring Lecture on Wednesday 14 March 2007 brings the Chief Executive of English Heritage to the city to speak on one of his favourite subjects.   Dr Simon Thurley, the Government's principal advisor on the historic environment in England, will be sharing his insights into the King's House - now better known as Peninsula Square - in the latest in a well-supported series of celebrity lectures at Winchester Guildhall arranged by the City Council's heritage services team.

The lecture revisits the time of King Charles II, and follows his search for an elegant country house.  In particular, it will explore his ambitions to build a miniature Palace of Versailles in Winchester, with plans drawn up by the celebrated architect Christopher Wren.  Although the building was begun, the death of the king put an end to the project.  It was bought by the Army and used for many years as a barracks, and has more recently been converted into elegant private housing.

Dr Thurley is a noted international historian and former director of the Museum of London. He was the first curator of the Historic Royal Palaces where he was responsible for some of the largest restoration projects ever undertaken in the UK, including the repair of the fire damaged wing at Hampton Court Palace, the creation of a new jewel house for the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London and the restoration of the George I state apartments at Kensington Palace. He has written extensively on English royal palaces, the court and heritage issues including two books, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England and Whitehall Palace, together with many academic articles.

A regular broadcaster, Thurley presented a history item on BBC London for three years and has worked on a number of documentaries for Channel Four, BBC2  programmes such as Flying Through Time, a six-part history of London for Granada and Channel Four's six-part series Lost Buildings of Britain, for which he also wrote an accompanying book.

Eloise Appleby, head of cultural services for Winchester City Council, said:
"Dr Thurley's years of experience as a broadcaster and his reputation as a historian are certain to make for an excellent evening of insights, education and entertainment.  We are grateful to him for finding time to prepare and present this lecture as part of our increasingly popular series.  It is particularly pleasing that he will be speaking on a topic of such local interest and relevance."

Cllr Patricia Stallard, portfolio holder for culture, heritage and sport, added:
"As the council's nominated Historic Environment Champion, I am particularly pleased to welcome Dr Thurley to the city to speak about this very distinctive part of our city's heritage.  I shall be looking forward to hearing what he has to say, and am sure that many others will be keen to join us at the Guildhall."

Tickets for the lecture entitled King Charles II: Winchester and Newmarket - search for a country house can be purchased from Winchester Tourist Information Centre at the Guildhall, Broadway, or by calling 01962 840 500.  They cost £10 (£8 concessions).