Ever since I was old enough to look out of the car window I’ve been fascinated by our incredible historic landscape, our cultural heritage and the people and organisations that do so much to conserve and celebrate these amazing places.
When I left school I headed up to Scotland to study Archaeology at The University of Edinburgh, and what a place to learn! Set in a geological melting pot and surrounded by the most striking architecture, Edinburgh is a city that you cannot help but fall in love with.
From the gothic Old Town with its discreet passageways and subterranean streets through to the neo-classical architecture of the New Town, Edinburgh is one of my favourite places on this planet.
On graduating, I headed south to Sandhurst to start my career in the British Army at the Royal Military Academy. For a whole year I mainly got shouted at, learnt how to iron creases a butler would have been proud of, and became pretty adept at dressing like a tree and living in (often very damp) holes in the ground.
After walking up Old College steps for the final time having been inspected by HM Queen Elizabeth II, I joined the Royal Tank Regiment.
Seven years later and with two operational tours in Afghanistan to reflect upon, I left the Army and headed into the City.
But that didn’t last very long.
Working in the City turned out to be rather dull.
It wasn’t because of the people or the place (Canary Wharf is quite a remarkable setting – giant, glass fronted financial powerhouses set amongst London’s former industrial past), it was the fact that for 10-12 hours a day I was fixed to a computer screen in a standard, corporate-issue grey cubicle. And that does wonders when it comes to sapping your enthusiasm for Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
So, after a year commuting from Wiltshire into London each day, I swapped my Oxfords for loafers and relocated to the West Country to start a new role as the General Manager of an incredible National Trust property called Cotehele.
Cotehele is one of those enchanting properties that people fall in love with, from the main house and gardens, right down to the quay on the River Tamar and the mill (still producing flour after all these years) tucked down a valley on the 1,300 acres estate. I absolutely loved my time there and each day was so incredibly varied. One day you would looking at holiday cottage conversions, tapestry restoration projects and the Christmas events list, the next would be spent looking at garden development plans, meeting tenant farmers and reviewing woodland management plans. And of course none of it would be possible without the 330+ team of hugely dedicated staff and volunteers who bring Cotehele to life.
After Cotehele I joined the team at Powderham Castle, the family home of The Earl and Countess of Devon. As Castle Director my remit was far reaching and encompassed not just heritage but a suite of incredible events that would take place annually. My first weekend on the job involved working with a dedicated events team to deliver a 3-day music festival called Lockdown – little did we know then that 3 years later we would be well versed with the term, albeit for totally different reasons.
Set on the bank for the River Exe, Powderham Castle has the ability to run large-scale events alongside a visitor attraction. A few months before I arrived, BBC Radio 1 held their Big Weekend in the Deer Park – a testament to the team’s ability to deliver to audiences reaching upwards of 25,000.
A year later we welcomed Mary Berry as part of her BBC series on Country Houses, Tony Buckland and his Garden Festival, as well as a vintage car weekend, Bryan Adams and Little Mix – what more could you ask for in an annual events calendar.
Against a backdrop of a fully-packed events programme, the Earl and Countess continue to make huge progress on the restoration of the 600 year old castle and develop of the visitor business, all whilst maintaining fantastic engagement with the local community.
In February 2018 after making the move from Devon to West Sussex, I joined the Cowdray Estate in a very different role based at Cowdray House – an exclusive events venue set in the heart of the South Downs National Park and packed with every luxury amenity you could ask for. The big difference between Cowdray and previous roles was that the house was exclusively for private hire and not for day-to-day visits. However, Cowdray Ruins (sometimes referred to as the original Cowdray House) is open for guided heritage tours.
Throughout the course of my career I have been fortunate enough to be invited as a headline speaker at the NEC Country House Innovation Show, at the Walpole Trade Delegation in New York and most recently as a guest speaker with the University of Oxford Saïd Business School in 2022 and 2023.
So why Monty’s Guide….
Having said my farewells to the Cowdray family just before COVID19 hit our shores, I started my own business supporting country estate, historic houses and visitor attractions to develop their offering. Needless to say the pandemic and resulting lockdowns hit the UK visitor economy hard. Whilst building my own business I decided that I needed to diversify and follow another passion – website and eCommerce development. So, bringing together my tech knowledge and passion for the heritage economy has been my most exciting project to date. And in short, that’s why Monty’s Guide was born.