Who we are

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is part of The Edward James Foundation, a registered charity which also comprises West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.


The Foundation's mission is to provide, through West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, the highest quality education in arts and conservation, and our vision is to be internationally recognised as a centre of excellence.

You can read our ten year vision (Vision 2027) here.

Through our work we aim:

To inspire creativity, champion traditional art and craft practices and advance the care of heritage objects.

Underpinning this is a commitment to:

  • Celebrate our heritage and Edward James' legacy to inspire and teach; using the house, archives and collection, gardens and estate.
  • Preserve an inspiring, creative and peaceful environment; for our students, visitors, guests and staff.
  • Be a great place to work where people share a common goal and feel respected and cared for; we listen, involve, communicate and develop.
  • Collaborate with partners who share our vision to enable each other to achieve our goals; including academic and cultural partners, donors, suppliers and clients.
  • Be resourceful and efficient in all areas to secure a sustainable future for the College; through stewardship, innovation, excellence and enterprise.
  • Be inclusive by ensuring we are welcoming to all; offering public access, bursaries and scholarships.

Whole Estate Plan

The Whole Estate Plan explains the context and history of West Dean Estate, it provides an audit of its assets and it also describes its current operation. Perhaps, most usefully though, the Plan enables a better understanding of the Estate's rich natural capital and how this might be conserved and developed in a sustainable and sensitive way. It seeks to do this with clarity and transparency, in order to help deliver the objectives of Vision 2027 while preserving and enhancing the special qualities of this part of the South Downs National Park for all who live, work, visit and learn here.

Read the Whole Estate Plan and more about the Estate here.

Board of Trustees

The Edward James Foundation which runs West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and Gardens was established in 1964. It is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company no. 6689362 and Charity registration no. 1126084.

The members of the Board of Trustees are:

Professor Paul O'Prey CBE, Chairman

Professor O'Prey is former Vice-Chancellor of Roehampton University, which went from strength to strength under his leadership. In his previous role as Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Bristol, he played a major part in the development and implementation of academic strategy in both research and education.

Professor O'Prey read English Language and Literature at Keble College, Oxford and gained his PhD from Bristol. His publications include several books and articles on writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, notably Graham Greene and Robert Graves and his circle, as well as translations of Spanish literature. Professor O'Prey joined the Board of Trustees in 2015.

Caroline Griffith

Caroline moved to the UK from Australia when she married, and read for the Bar at the Inner Temple as a mature student. For many years she sat as a magistrate working in the adult and family courts. She has been a Governor for both secondary and tertiary education boards and has a lifelong interest in art and the creative crafts. Caroline Griffith became a Trustee in 2014.

Professor Nigel Llewellyn PhD FSA

Nigel Llewellyn is an expert in Art History and taught at the University of Sussex for 25 years, during which time he also served as Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. This was followed by time at the Tate as Head of Research, leading on research projects across all four Tate sites.

Nigel is a published author of several books, articles and scholarly essays. He is involved with several other organisations including the Association of Art Historians and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Francis Plowden FCA

Francis Plowden is a chartered accountant and was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers until 2000. Since then he has been a Board member in the private, public and voluntary sectors, including eight years as Chairman of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College. He is a Trustee of the Anna Plowden Trust, which promotes skills in and awareness of conservation of the moveable heritage. He has also been Chairman of the National Council for Palliative Care, a Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission and a Board member of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, as well Boards in the private sector. Francis Plowden became a Trustee in 2014.

Mike McCart

Director of Development and Policy at Southbank Centre, whose cultural offering exemplifies London's global relationships, attracting world-class artists and 10 million visitors to its summer festivals programme alone.

David Seddon

David is from an Anglo American family and trained as an Occupational Psychologist, spending much of his career working in New York, San Francisco and Tampa.

With a keen interest in hand tools and building David has in recent years built a barn from green oak and a clapboard deck house. He also restored a medieval house in Chichester, a project which was filmed by The Discovery Channel and won a Heritage Award from the City Council.

David who is a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, joined the Board as Trustee in 2013. He is also a Trustee of Chichester Festival Theatre.

Martin Ashley MVO RIBA

Martin is an architect in private practice specialising in historic building conservation. Based in Twickenham, Martin's Practice of architects and surveyors assists clients and occupiers in the conservation and management of significant historic building estates, advising and enabling the repair, adaption, and development of historic properties to serve the ongoing needs of client organisations in the 21st century. Martin and his Practice are privileged to have worked over many years with The Royal Household, The Crown Estate, Royal Parks Agency, Historic Royal Palaces, The English Heritage Trust, and City of London Corporation amongst other government and local government agencies and charitable trusts.

Martin Ashley is Surveyor of the Fabric to the Queen's Free Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle, to the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, and to St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London. Martin is a member of Historic England Conservation Committee, and an active Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Masons.

Alison Richmond ACR FIIC

Alison Richmond was formerly the CEO of Icon (the Institute of Conservation) where she transformed the organisation into the leading membership body and voice for conservation of cultural heritage in the UK. An Accredited Conservator-Restorer (ACR), she is also a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation (FIIC). Alison was a Senior Conservator at the V&A for almost two decades.

Passionate about the future of conservation, she aims to help overcome the financial challenges she sees for people looking for a career in the conservation sector. Alison joined the Board as Trustee in December 2018.

Digest of The Edward James Foundation Ltd Board Actions and Decisions

Executive Management

The Foundation is run by a senior management team led by the Chief Executive. Together they take personal responsibility for every aspect of the smooth day-to-day running of the organisation. This includes teaching and research, student and staff welfare, financial management, hospitality, marketing and fundraising.

Alexander Barron ACA, Chief Executive

Alex was appointed Chief Executive in July 2015, having worked with or for the Foundation for over 10 years, most recently as Director of Finance & Enterprise. He is a Chartered Accountant.

Francine Norris BA (Hons) MA FRSA, Director of Education

Francine is a designer and academic with extensive experience of higher education both as a teacher and at senior management level. She is responsible for the College including all programmes of study, short courses, research, library and collections, student support and academic quality assurance.

Ian Graham, Director of Estates

Ian ensures all our students and visitors are well cared for in every aspect of their visit and is responsible for the care and upkeep of our historic buildings and gardens.


Across the School of Arts and School of Conservation, the role of research is essential in underpinning the College's academic ambitions, helping West Dean to be at the forefront of the specialisms it supports, positively impacting it as a teaching and learning environment. Research projects are key to establishing new and innovative practices, emphasising the importance of skills-based making and conservation, as well as demonstrating the value and scope of interdisciplinary collaboration. Research at West Dean College not only benefits students, staff and specialist audiences but also wider academic communities and the public.

The College is privileged to be on a site of historic significance, both in relation to the heritage of the West Dean Estate and its more recent associations with the life and work of its founder Edward James.

You can find out about the specific research groups here.

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us