Historic England Commissioners' Biographies

Biographies of the Historic England Commissioners.

Lord Neil Mendoza CBE


Lord Mendoza was appointed Chair of Historic England from 1 September 2023.

Lord Mendoza was appointed Provost of Oriel College, Oxford, in 2018, following a career building business in the creative and finance sectors. He is focused on successfully sustaining Oriel’s 700-year history for the College’s 550 students and 250 academic and support staff.

He was previously the government’s Commissioner for Culture and also chaired the Culture and Heritage Capital Board at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Prior to that, he served four years as a non-executive director at DCMS. He is Chair of The Illuminated River Foundation, Chair of Civic Future and on the board of the Ashmolean Museum. He is a member of the House of Lords.

Prior to joining Oriel College, he led the year-long Mendoza Review of Museums in England on behalf of DCMS (2016-17). He was also Chair of Children and the Arts, Vice Chair of Soho Theatre, and Chair of The Landmark Trust (2011-2021).

Lord Mendoza joined the Board of MeiraGTx, a US-based gene therapy company, in 2015 and co-founded Forward Publishing in the late 1980s, now a part of WPP plc.

He is an advocate of building and supporting talent, creativity and enterprise through high quality educational, cultural and heritage engagement. He is also mentor to young professionals across a range of sectors. He graduated from Oriel College, Oxford with a MA in Geography.

Lord Mendoza was appointed CBE in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to arts and culture.

Nairita Chakraborty

Nairita has over 16 years of experience in heritage, townscape and design. She has experience in ensuring sustained use of historic buildings whilst delivering large scale regeneration, housing and infrastructure projects. She has produced significant work on the adaptation and conversion of large and complex listed buildings, as well as town centre, public realm, and conservation area schemes.

She has recently set up her own practice Revive and Tailor which focuses on integrating existing buildings within regeneration proposals innovatively and resourcefully. Nairita is a member of Historic England's Advisory Committee alongside Havering and Kensington and Chelsea’s Design Review Panels. She is a full member of the Royal Town Planners Institute and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

Sandie Dawe CBE

Sandie spent 30 years in the tourism industry, most recently as chief executive of VisitBritain. She led the national strategy to maximise the tourism benefits of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, played a leading role in the UK Government’s ‘GREAT’ global marketing campaign, and saw tourism numbers to Britain reach record levels. Since leaving VisitBritain in 2014 Sandie has held a number of non-executive roles, including Trustee Heritage Lottery Fund and chair of Kids in Museums.

She is currently a trustee of Culture Perth & Kinross and adviser to Four Communications. In 2008 Sandie was awarded an MBE and in 2015 a CBE for services to the tourism industry.

Ben Derbyshire

Ben is Chair of HTA Design LLP, a leading multidisciplinary design practice specialising in housing and placemaking where his role also includes directing the practice’s internal design review processes.

He is a Commissioner of Historic England. He serves on the London Advisory Committee, High Streets Heritage Action Zone Board and is chair of the Historic Places Panel.

Ben is President of the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies and is a current member of the NHBC Council.

He was President of RIBA from 2017 to 2019 where he oversaw fundamental change in the financing and governance of the institute and the instigation of policies in relation to climate action, professional competence and codes of conduct.

Sandra Dinneen OBE

Sandra Dinneen is an experienced Chief Executive with roles spanning the public, private and not for profit sector. She has a background in economic growth and has led and advised on a number of successful development projects.

Sandra has a keen interest in organisational development, cultural change and commercialisation. She continues to deliver leadership development programmes and executive coaching.

Other roles include being a Non-Executive Director of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, a founder Trustee and Member of the Sapientia Multi Academy Education Trust and leading the Priscilla Bacon Charity to deliver a new Hospice for Norfolk.

Sandra is the Deputy Chair of Historic England. She also Chairs Historic England’s Business and Finance Committee and is a member of the Audit and Risk Committee.

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is the Chief Executive Officer of Age UK. Before Age UK, Paul was Chief Executive of Mind, the leading mental health charity working in England and Wales since May 2006.

Paul is also a Non-Executive Director for the NHS Frimley Integrated Care Board, where he chairs the Remuneration Committee.

Paul was Chair of the NHS England Mental Health Taskforce which brought together health and care leaders and experts to change mental health policy in England. He co-authored ‘Thriving at Work’ for the government, setting out how to transform mental health in workplaces.

Paul has an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of East London, is an Honorary Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford, and The Royal College of Psychiatrists, and was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours 2016.

As a Historic England Commissioner, Paul chairs the Remuneration Committee and is a regular visitor at English Heritage sites.

Jane, Lady Gibson OBE

Jane is a Commissioner of Historic England, appointed in 2022. She is also chair of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site Partnership Board.

She is the chair of Spirit of 2012, a spend-out trust set up by the National Lottery Community Fund as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy funder with a £47 million endowment.

She is also a director of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

She was the founding chair of Make It York which incorporates Visit York and was previously an advisory board member of National Trust Yorkshire & North East.

She started her freelance career in London in theatre, film, radio and TV before establishing a cultural regeneration consultancy in the north of England.

In 2022 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours List for services to volunteering, heritage and the arts.

Jane is a member of Historic England’s Business and Finance Committee, Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and Historic Places Panel

Professor Helena Hamerow

Helena Hamerow is Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Her research interests lie in the settlements, farming practices and economy of northwest Europe during the Early Middle Ages. She is a Fellow of St Cross College, where she was Vice-Master from 2005 to 2008, and an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.

Helena has previously served on the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum and the Board of Curators of the Bodleian Libraries and was an elected member of the Council of the University of Oxford from 2016 to 2020. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, a former President of the Society for Medieval Archaeology and Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Oxford Archaeology and the Board of Visitors of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and chairs the Historic England Advisory Committee.

Dame Julie Kenny

Dame Julie Kenny is a successful South Yorkshire-based entrepreneur. Following the sale in 2016 of award-winning Pyronix Limited which she built from start-up in 1986, Julie continues her involvement in serving business and local communities.

Founding Chair of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust which is committed to securing a sustainable future for the largest restoration project in the country. A true Levelling Up project in the North. Julie also Chairs Robson Handling Technology Limited, a NED of AES Engineering, Chair of Maltby Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust Chair of RISC and Joint Chair of SRGP, two national committees dealing with Security, Resilience and Growth for the Defence, Security and Tech UK Sector.

Julie served as an Intervention Commissioner with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council between 2015 and 2018.

Julie was honoured in Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2019 with a Damehood for her work with heritage. Julie’s CBE in 2002 and Honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University in 2005 were conferred in recognition of her contribution to business in the region. Julie was awarded Freewoman of Rotherham in 2020.

Julie has 3 grown-up children and had a successful career as a litigation lawyer in local authority and private practice before changing direction and founding Pyronix Limited.

Sir Jonathan Marsden

Jonathan Marsden was Director of the Royal Collection and Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art from 2010 to 2017, having previously served as Deputy Surveyor since 1996. Prior to this, he worked for the National Trust for eleven years as a Historic Buildings Representative in North Wales and Oxfordshire.

He has served as a trustee of several arts and heritage organisations including Historic Royal Palaces, the Georgian Group, the Art Fund and the City & Guilds of London Art School.

He has published and lectured widely on sculpture and the decorative arts and is the author of the forthcoming catalogue of European Sculpture in the Royal Collection.

Patrick Newberry

Patrick holds a number of non executive directorships in the financial and professional services sectors, sitting on, or chairing, audit and risk committees. He was a partner in PwC for 25 years, working in the financial sector in the UK, USA and Continental Europe. He also served as a member of PwC's Supervisory Board, Chair of the Strategy, Governance and International Sub-Committee and a member of the Audit and Risk Committee. He was a board member and former President (2010 to 2011) of the Management Consultancies Association.

In the not for profit sector, Patrick is a Trustee of the Georgian Group, Chairman of The Cornish Buildings Group and a member of The Duchy and Bicton Agricultural Colleges Advisory Board and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Robert Sackville-West

Robert Sackville-West studied at Oxford University, where he read History, and at London Business School, before a career in publishing, creating illustrated books for an international market. As executive chair of Knole Estates, the property and investment company which – in parallel with the National Trust – cares for Knole, he has experience of land management, planning, conservation management, listed buildings and public access.

Since 2021, Robert has also chaired the Kent Community Foundation, which raises money for and distributes grants to, some 400 volunteer-based charities in Kent. He has been involved with education in both the private and state sector, as a governor at Sevenoaks School and Knole Academy, and as a former UK board director of the International Baccalaureate. He is Vice-Chairman of the Royal Oak Foundation, the US-based fund-raising affiliate of the National Trust.

Robert has a great interest in British history and is committed to communicating that interest. His experience at Knole led him to write two critically acclaimed books on aspects of English history: Inheritance (2010); and The Disinherited (2014). His most recent book, The Searchers (2021) is broader in scope. Telling the stories of Britain’s quest to recover, identify and honour the missing soldiers of the First World War, it tackles the enduring impact on British society of the First World War.

Susie Thornberry

Susie is a director, producer and writer. She is currently Artistic Director and CEO at Metal Culture, which works to transform places through art and creativity; a trustee of Battersea Arts Centre; and a member of English Heritage's Blue Plaques Panel. She has experience across the arts including at Artichoke; The Tower of London; The Gate Theatre; and Imperial War Museums, where she was director of public engagement. As a writer, she was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.

Susie is a member of Historic England’s Remuneration and Appointments Committee.

Richard Upton

Richard founded the specialist regeneration property developer, Cathedral Group, and was previously a co-founding director of Mount Anvil. He has extensive experience in the field of major complex regeneration projects throughout the UK. He was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive of U+I the FTSE quoted specialist regeneration property and investment business in July 2015, following the merger of Cathedral Group and Development Securities. In January 2021 Richard was appointed Chief Executive of U+I and immediately restructured the business leading to a sale of the business to Land Securities Plc in December 2021. Richard is now a senior advisor to LandSec alongside family office investments in regeneration projects focussed on social impact

Richard has served as a Historic England's London Advisory Committee member since 2012 and has campaigned extensively for sustainable restoration of heritage buildings, including the campaign to save Smithfield Market which he funded and fought successfully; the historic market buildings will now house the new Museum of London.

Sue Wilkinson

Sue Wilkinson was an executive board director at the National Trust until the end of 2016 and the executive lead on tourism. During her time there she led much of the charity’s income generation, oversaw the membership growth to nearly five million members, and led major IT projects and a brand review.

Currently, Sue is a trustee of English Heritage and deputy chair of the Churches Conservation Trust. She is also vice chair of the Medical Research Foundation.

Sue was previously a board director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and a trustee of the Canal & River Trust and chair of the Living Waterways Awards. Prior to this she was a trustee at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and served on the Visit England Board and as a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising.