English Heritage appoints Dr Nick Merriman as its new Chief Executive

  • Dr Nick Merriman, Chief Executive and Director of Content at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, will be English Heritage’s next Chief Executive.

As English Heritage’s Chief Executive, Merriman will oversee the National Heritage Collection of over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across England (from Stonehenge to the York Cold War Bunker), their collections, and the London blue plaques scheme.

English Heritage’s Chair, Gerard Lemos CMG, said:
“We are delighted that Nick will lead English Heritage. Since English Heritage became a charity in 2015, we have attracted more visitors and members than even before, opened up more of our sites in bold and imaginative ways, and invested more money in their care and conservation. We want to build on those successes and one of English Heritage’s main ambitions is to place the landmarks in our care at the heart of their local communities and to engage far more people in our sites’ past and above all in their future. Given his expertise in public engagement and his brilliant track record at the Horniman, in Manchester, and at the Museum of London, Nick is perfectly placed to ensure we realise those aims. I’m sure he’ll usher in an exciting new chapter in the story of the great collection of historic sites in our care.”

Dr Nick Merriman said: “The collection of sites in English Heritage’s care is unique and I am extremely excited to be joining the charity. From the stunning footbridge at Tintagel Castle to its work in broadening the London blue plaques scheme, I’ve been impressed by what English Heritage has achieved since it became a charity eight years ago.
“Like many others, my childhood was spent clambering around English Heritage castles and I firmly believe that heritage is as much about people as it is about places, whether those who lived and worked there in the past or who like me, enjoy them today. I’m looking forward to introducing more people to these inspiring landmarks.”

Merriman joined the Horniman in 2018 and under his leadership, the south London museum with its displays of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments, won Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022. One of the award’s judges, Dame Diane Lees, then Director-General at the Imperial War Museums, praised the Horniman for “setting the agenda for how a traditional museum can reinvent itself through powerful ideas.”

Michael Salter-Church MBE, Chair of the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, said: “The Horniman has benefitted so much from Nick Merriman’s leadership and vision during his five and a half years as chief executive, most notably winning Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022 and helping steer our ambitious Nature + Love project. We wish him well in his new role with English Heritage, which will undoubtedly flourish under his guidance, just as the Horniman has done.”

Prior to the Horniman, Merriman was Director of the Manchester Museum where he oversaw a major programme of public engagement and the refurbishment of most of the museum’s permanent galleries. Previous roles include Director of Museums and Collections at University College London while at the Museum of London, he was Curator of Prehistory and subsequently Head of the Department of Early London History and Collections.

Merriman was born and raised in Sutton Coldfield. His early interest in history and archaeology was partly inspired by collecting old bottles from Birmingham’s junk stores, childhood visits to nearby Kenilworth Castle and from the age of 16, participating in excavations at the Roman site of Wall in Staffordshire (both Kenilworth Castle and Wall are in the care of English Heritage).

He went onto study archaeology at Cambridge University, and his PhD, on widening participation in museums, was published in 1991 as Beyond The Glass Case. He was Chair of the International Council of Museums (UK) from 2001 to 2004 and President of the Council for British Archaeology from 2005 to 2008. He is chairing Research England’s review of funding for museums and galleries in the higher education sector.

Dr Nick Merriman will start as English Heritage’s Chief Executive early in the New Year. He takes over from Kate Mavor CBE who left the charity in June 2023 after eight years at its helm. English Heritage’s Chief Financial Officer, Mark Stuart-Smith, is currently serving as its Interim Chief Executive.