The Attingham Trust

What is the Attingham Trust?

The Attingham Trust is an educational charitable trust. It offers specialised study courses, primarily for people professionally engaged in the field, on country houses, their collections and settings, and on the history and contents of English royal palaces.

Who set it up?

The first Attingham Summer School was set up in 1952 to offer American curators the opportunity to become acquainted with the fabric and contents of British country houses. Its founders were Helen Lowenthal, of the Education Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Sir George Trevelyan, a pioneer of adult education and Warden of Attingham Park. A Summer School has been organised every year since that date. The School has had a succession of notable scholars as Directors, notably Helena Hayward and Dr Geoffrey Beard.

What courses does the Trust provide?

Three residential summer programmes are organised by the Trust each year.

What do the courses offer?

The three courses offer a unique opportunity to became acquainted with the history, architecture and contents of historic buildings and their gardens and estates, and to study how they are managed and interpreted today by a wide variety of owners, both public and private. The schools aim to reflect the most up-to-date current research in the various fields they study, and to offer lectures and tuition of the highest quality.

The country houses and royal palaces of Britain hold exceptional collections of works of art far beyond the scope of British art. They are particularly strong, for example, in French decorative arts and Italian, Dutch and Flemish paintings. For specialists in a wide range of disciplines, and not just those interested in British art, the collections offer very considerable opportunities for intensive privileged study.

Members may only attend once on the Summer School and Royal Collection Studies: return visits are not possible.

Why the name?

Founded in 1952 as The Attingham Summer School Trust and named after the great Neoclassical house in Shropshire in which The Summer School was first held, the Attingham Trust has built and sustained an international reputation for academic excellence. It works in close collaboration with The American Friends of the Attingham Trust, established in New York in 1962.

Does the Trust operate on its own?

The Trust is a self-supporting organisation with its own boards in Britain and the United States. It collaborates with a number of heritage organisations and museums, including The National Trust, English Heritage, The Royal Collection, Historic Royal Palaces and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Members of the staff of these organisations are regularly involved in teaching, and others attend the schools.

How are the Schools publicised?

The three Schools are advertised in the relevant specialist press and through an extensive mailing list. From the considerable number of applicants from many countries, participants are chosen with an architectural, historical, conservation or academic background, or a close involvement with the fine and decorative arts. While traditionally most of the participants have come from the United States, in recent years the schools have been attended by a growing number of scholars and experts from Europe and Australia, and in recent years also from South America.

Does the Trust offer scholarships?

This is a non-profit-making organisation. From its own funds and from donations made by a number of trusts and private individuals, the Trust offers as many scholarships as possible to its students. The Trustees try to ensure that nobody who deserves a place is prevented from attending for financial reasons. All members who have attended one of the three residential courses run by The Attingham Trust are alumni and many are now working in museums, heritage bodies, universities, architectural practices, and conservation workshops all over the world.

In 1962 The American Friends of the Attingham Trust. was founded in New York, and all alumni from the United States who have attended the courses can become members of this organisation.

The Attingham Society was founded in 1985 for all alumni from Britain and continental Europe, Asia, Australasia, Africa, South America and Canada. As with the American Friends, its purpose is to encourage all members to keep in touch with one another and continue the sense of comradeship and common purpose which Attingham seeks to engender.