My Britain: Interview with Matt Thompson, English Heritage’s Head Collections Curator
As part of our ongoing interview series, we spoke to Matt Thompson, Head Collections Curator at English Heritage, about his work overseeing more than 400 English Heritage sites and monuments across the country.
We care for over 400 sites, but I have recently been spending a lot of time at Boscobel House in Shropshire. Our most prized “object” is the Royal Oak, a descendant of the tree inside which a future Charles II hid to escape the Parliamentarians in 1651. It represents one of the best parts of my job: bringing pivotal points in this island’s history to life.
We’re currently working on a complete re-representation of the house. Its role in the Civil Wars is only one snapshot in time and we want to tell more of its fascinating story by drawing from its other lives as a hunting lodge and a farmhouse.
My favourite English Heritage sites are those that I visit with my family. I live near Ludlow in Shropshire so we can easily get to Stokesay Castle and Mitchell’s Fold, a bronze age stone circle on high ground with 360-degree views. I find prehistoric sites particularly magical.
I grew up in the Yorkshire Dales in the small village of Marske. My brother and I were the only children there and had the run of the place. I remember it being snowy every winter and having lots of time out of school because of it.
The industrial landscape of nearby Grinton Mines captured my imagination. There was a long narrow chimney leading from a derelict stone building that wound through the hills to a stack at the top that I would play in as a child. I’d love to go back there again now.
I’ve been to the Solway Firth almost every year since 1976. We’ve climbed every hill and seen every castle countless times, but it’s this combination of finding familiarity far from home that makes it the perfect holiday.