WHP Trustee Angela Kidner

Angela Kidner trained and practiced as an interior architect, working on modern and heritage buildings, and as a lecturer in 3D Design at Kingston University. In 2000 she became Chair and later Projects Manager of the Environment Trust, working on Lottery-funded projects in partnership with many heritage and environmental organisations. She is now an independent Heritage and Design Consultant, with a particular interest in the natural environment.

Q-When did you first visit West Horsley Place and what was the experience like?

A- My first introduction to West Horsley Place was on 20th September 2015, when Bamber and Christina invited a group of friends from Richmond, including celebrated local boatbuilder Mark Edwards, to explore the extraordinary legacy that they had inherited. We had of course heard about it on the local grapevine, but nothing prepared me for my first glimpse of the glowing graceful building that seemed to open its arms in welcome. Like everyone who visits, I fell in love with the house, its many-layered history and its atmosphere of relaxed informality. It seemed to me quintessentially English, a home and not a trophy (even if it had served as such at times during its life) and profoundly connected to the land.

Bamber and Christina were ‘camping’ there at the time, in Lady Crewe’s bedroom, and as we wandered through the rooms still full of the Duchess’s possessions it felt as though she had briefly gone out, to the village or into the garden.

We explored the roof space where Mark pointed out the wonders of its medieval construction, with its forest of oak beams and trusses, all a bit precarious with the passage of time (no tours are allowed there yet!), and discovered the orchard and the many garden ‘rooms’ with their enclosing topiary and mellow brick walls.

Q- What made you want to become a trustee?

A- When Bamber invited me to become a Trustee of the West Horsley Place Trust I was both daunted and thrilled! Daunted because the responsibility felt enormous, and thrilled because the challenge spoke to all my interests. My first career was in Interior Design, initially working on modernist buildings such as those at Keble College Oxford and Trinity College Dublin, then as a lecturer in 3-D Design at Kingston University, later working on London listed buildings on the Grosvenor and Cadogan Estates. Around 1998 I also became interested in local campaigns and environmental issues and became the Chair and later Projects Manager of an environmental charity in Richmond, the Environment Trust, learning on the hoof with wonderful colleagues- including Bamber who agreed to be a patron. I continue to work as a Heritage and Design Consultant, currently with a project to restore the Grotto of Alexander Pope at Twickenham.

Q- Has your work with the Environment Trust informed the vision for WHP's future?

A- The vision for the future of WHP is a shared achievement - the outcome of many hours of work by the WHP team and trustees, with help from brilliant advisers. It was great to share in that work and yes, my previous experience was helpful to my contribution.

ladies loosThe Environment Trust was on a smaller scale than West Horsley Place Trust, nevertheless I guess all charities share the same principles of dedication to public good. The Environment Trust campaigned and cared for historic buildings and for the natural environment, and in both activities I learned (sometimes the hard way!) that solid partnerships with other organisations, and support from our audiences are the bedrock of good projects. I enjoy the process of fundraising, navigating the 3-dimensional chess involved in applying for grants from the Lottery and Charitable Trusts, and some of the happiest times have been working with volunteers, particularly outdoors in all weathers!

Q- In the challenging climate of Covid-19 is nature important?

A- The impact of the pandemic is horrendous for so many lives that it feels odd to be looking for and finding positives. But it has given many of us, and especially families, a chance to review what’s important to us, and to spend time in natural surroundings, slowing down enough to see, feel and listen to nature. For children this is massively important, as learning about nature will encourage them to be its custodians. But the downside of increased car parking, cycling, littering, and simply the increased footfall has imposed huge pressure on sensitive environments, and means that new choices are having to be made. West Horsley Place Estate is no exception, and we are working to balance our intention to share its beautiful acres with the need to protect its important habitats and species.

Q- What is your favourite room/space at WHP and why?

A- Difficult. I love so many of them, and share Adrian’s enthusiasm for the Geraldine room. However I have to choose the North West wing, the toilets, where Tudor meets 21st century! It is one of the earliest parts of the house, its timbers identified as dating from 1425. What I love about it is the careful conservation of all the historic features- the timber, plaster, wattle- exactly as they were found without embellishment, and the juxtaposition of well-designed modern elements -heating, lighting, sanitaryware, glass- which generates a real sense of excitement. It is a great model for treatment of other parts of the house and estate.

Q- In another life you would have been. . .

gentA- What a question! I had always wanted to be an artist and was fortunate that my parents encouraged me at a time when art schools were beginning to burgeon in Britain and abroad and an exciting counter culture was developing. The path I chose took me away from Fine Art and I do regret not spending more time drawing, but it’s never too late to meander back! I feel very lucky to have been able to hop onto waves that have carried me into several different careers.

Q- What inspires you?

A- Children; their optimism, humour and appetite for knowledge. Some of my happiest moments at West Horsley Place have been with my four grandchildren seeing them discovering and revelling in its amazing history. Collaboration, teamwork and kindness. The beauty and timelessness of mountains, shared with my husband Patrick.

Q- What makes you most excited in WHPT's vision for the future?

A- Of all the aspects of our vision I am especially glad we are embracing sustainability at West Horsley Place, and to be involved in a group that is working on the whole estate’s environment and sustainability. With climate and biodiversity breakdown threatening human survival, ensuring that the house and estate make a positive contribution to mitigating our impact will be essential. But it is not just about carbon emissions and trees, we are working towards making the whole organisation including every aspect of its life sustainable. It is about inclusion, fairness, wellbeing, learning about nature and opportunities for self-expression. It will take time to develop and it will be created by the organisation, our partners and the whole community around West Horsley Place. This will be a challenging and exciting aspect of our work, and it’s one in which many people are already giving their time and expertise just because they care. There is so much to learn as the world around us changes, and West Horsley Place has the opportunity to influence and contribute to the solutions.