Simon Thurley
Chief Executive Officer of English Heritage
In office
Succeeded byKate Mavor
Personal details
Simon John Thurley

(1962-08-29) 29 August 1962 (age 61)
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Katharine Goodison
(div. 2007)
(m. 2008)
EducationKimbolton School
Alma materBedford College, University of London
Courtauld Institute of Art
University of Bath

Simon John Thurley, CBE, FSA, FRIBA, FRHistS (born 29 August 1962) is an English academic and architectural historian. He served as Chief Executive of English Heritage from April 2002 to May 2015. In April 2021, he became Chair of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Early life and education

Thurley was born in Huntingdon and grew up in Godmanchester. He feels that it was inevitable he became a historian since "by age seven I was helping out at Roman digs near my home ... and childhood holidays invariably involved ticking off stately homes and cathedrals".[1] He attended Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire (1972–82), before leaving to study for a BA degree in History at Bedford College (1982–85).

He passed with a 2:1, and continued his studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1985–89). There he gained a distinction for an MA degree in Art History, and obtained a PhD degree with the thesis entitled "English Royal Palaces 1450–1550".[2] In 2010 he was awarded an Honorary LLD degree by the University of Bath.


Whilst working on his doctoral research, he took up a post as Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage (1988–90), later becoming Curator of Historic Royal Palaces (1989–97) and director of the Museum of London (1997 to March 2002). He is also a prolific history broadcaster, presenting a history slot on BBC London for three years and – in television – presenting Flying Through Time, Channel Four's 2004 six-part series Lost Buildings of Britain (Channel 4), The Buildings that Shaped Britain (Channel 5) and a six-part history of London (Granada).[2] He also appeared as an expert in a number of episodes of the long-running Channel 4 archaeological programme Time Team.

In 2002, at the age of 39, Thurley was appointed Chief Executive of English Heritage; his relative youth at taking this post led him to be dubbed a "boy wonder".[3] Thurley was the highest-paid member of English Heritage's staff: his emoluments in 2009 totalled £163,000, comprising a basic salary of £136,000 and a performance-related award of £27,000, twenty per cent of basic salary.[4]

Personal life

Thurley married Katharine Goodison (born 1963), a lawyer-turned-hat-designer and daughter of Sir Nicholas Goodison (former Stock Exchange chairman). They divorced in 2007. His late father, a veterinarian, was born and raised in British India, and returned to England in the 1950s some years after India's independence in 1947.

Thurley married secondly Anna Keay (born 1974), a fellow historian, in February 2008. She was the Properties Presentation Director for English Heritage from 2002 to 2011, and is now Director of the Landmark Trust.[5] They had known each other for about 15 years, but got to know each other better when they worked on a documentary called The Buildings That Shaped Britain for Channel 5 in 2006. They live in London and a medieval merchant's house in King's Lynn, Norfolk, and have two children.[citation needed]


He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to conservation.[6][7]

Fellowships and other memberships



  1. ^ Thurley, Simon (16 July 2006). "My hols". The Times. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Simon Thurley - CV". Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  3. ^ "ViaMichelin Magazine". 5 December 2003. Archived from the original on 5 December 2003. Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  4. ^ "English Heritage" (PDF). Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  5. ^ "Anna Keay: Biography". Anna Keay. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  6. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Main list of the 2011 Queen's birthday honours recipients" (PDF). BBC News UK. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Trustees". Canal and River Trust. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
Cultural offices Preceded byMax Hebditch Director of the Museum of London 1997–2002 Succeeded byJack Lohman Preceded by Chief Executive of English Heritage 2002–2015 Succeeded byKate Mavor