Meet The Team – Sally Guile, Operations Manager of the Cowdray Heritage Trust
“We were absolutely delighted to have been awarded a £45,200 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2020. This money enables the Trust to carry out an options and feasibility study to secure the long-term planning for the future of the site. Fundamental to the project will be innovative engagement and consultation activities with local audiences to help shape our ideas and ensure that everyone can play their part in local placemaking.”
Can you describe what your day-to-day job as Operations Manager of the Cowdray Heritage Trust entails?
My role has changed since I started in May 2015, but currently my main day-to-day job is to oversee The National Lottery Heritage Fund Project as well as organising a series of events and guided tours for visitors in conjunction with the Cowdray Heritage Trust team. In 2020, a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was awarded to the Cowdray Heritage Trust to look at long-term planning for the future of the site, which is both a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I listed building.
What first attracted you to work at the Cowdray Ruins?
I had driven past Cowdray Ruins on several occasions and when the opportunity came up to work at this wonderful Heritage site, I jumped at the opportunity.
What was your role prior to working at Cowdray?
Prior to working at Cowdray, I was employed in a District Council managing a Wellbeing Activity Project. Part of this role was to manage events and I felt that these skills would be transferable to my current role.
Can you describe the team you work with?
I am lucky to have a great team at Cowdray Heritage. They are flexible as the opening date for the season changes primarily because of changing guidelines surrounding which areas of Cowdray Ruins are safe to use. However, when the team are not on site they help with the planning and execution of events and guided tours.
In a nutshell, can you summarise the history of the Cowdray Ruins?
The original Cowdray House, which is now known as Cowdray Ruins, was one of the country’s most important Tudor mansions. It was created by Sir David Owen, who was thought to be the illegitimate son of Henry VII’s grandfather. The house is known to have been visited by both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. In September 1793, whilst undergoing repairs and refurbishments for the impending marriage of the 8th Viscount Montague, a devastating fire took hold and most of the property was destroyed. The Kitchen Tower is the only part of the house to remain intact today and is now home to a stunning Renaissance Art Studio. Art courses are held in this hexagonal space located at the top of a spiral staircase.
Since 1793, Cowdray Ruins have remained largely untouched however the 1st Viscount Cowdray commissioned a restoration project between 1909 to 1914 which saved the Ruins from collapse.
From May 2007, Cowdray Ruins was opened to the public and visitors were able to freely walk around the site and have picnics in the ground. In 2018, several surveys were carried out on The Ruins, which resulted in areas being closed off and the construction of a cordon around many of the walls.
You are running historical tours and events over the summer. Can you explain what these consist of and how you book?
One aspect of the National Lottery Heritage Fund Project is to consult with visitors to Cowdray Ruins so in July and August we are running several short, guided tours. The tour includes a visit to the front of Cowdray Ruins and the Tudor Kitchen. The history of Cowdray Ruins is complex, and we have developed these tours to take account of the fact that we can only access certain areas of the site. The tour provides a brief history of the Ruins covering key historical points.
Following the tours, we will be asking visitors to complete a questionnaire with the answers feeding into the current project. Find out more about heritage events and to book.
How is the National Lottery Heritage funding being used?
We were absolutely delighted to have been awarded a £45,200 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2020. This money enables the Trust to carry out an options and feasibility study to secure the long-term planning for the future of the site. Fundamental to the project will be innovative engagement and consultation activities with local audiences to help shape our ideas and ensure that everyone can play their part in local placemaking.
There is an event taking place at the Ruins this summer to say thank you to National Lottery Players. Can you explain more about this?
We are holding a free event on Thursday 15th July to say thank you to National Lottery players who through buying a National Lottery ticket have helped raise money for many good causes. We are running a day of guided tours followed by light refreshments in Cowdray’s Walled Garden. Booking in advance is required and all bookings will need to show a National Lottery ticket on arrival for the tour. Find out more.
Are you looking for people to join your team?
Cowdray Heritage Trust is currently recruiting new trustees to join the board and to help with the strategic direction of Cowdray Heritage Trust. The role is voluntary and involves fundraising, audience engagement and heritage management. Applications close on 16th July. Find out more.
Is there an interesting fact that not everybody knows about the Cowdray Ruins?
The wonderful Tudor Kitchen was put to good use during the Second World War by several organisations for a variety of different reasons, for example as a classroom, a temporary clubhouse and to host “Lamb on a Spit Evenings”!
Do you have a favourite place on the Estate?
It sounds biased but I have to say the Cowdray Ruins and the surrounding area. I feel incredibly privileged to work in such a beautiful location and when I arrive at work, I stop and listen to the wonderful sound of bird song.
What do you pride yourself most on during your time at Cowdray?
I think getting to the point where we are. We are very pleased to have secured initial funding to carry out the feasibility and options study for the site. I also love working with the Cowdray Heritage Team to develop events and tours that enable visitors to still experience the Ruins even whilst much of the site cannot currently be accessed.
What are your hobbies?
Most of the time I really enjoy running! I only started about three years ago, but I love getting out into the fresh air, especially where I live as I can run along the seafront towards Littlehampton Harbour.
And how do you like to relax when not at work?
It probably is running.
Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?
I think anywhere I can read or listen to a book and watch the world go by.
Which three famous people would you invite round to dinner?
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, (just to see them dance afterwards) and Cowdray’s Tudor Celebrity Chef Robert May – just to hear what life would have been like in the Tudor Kitchen.
And finally, pub dinner or home cooking….
Can I say a BBQ?Back to News