Nick Merriman has been announced as the new chief executive of English Heritage, the charity that oversees the national heritage collection of more than 400 historic sites across England.
Merriman will step down as chief executive and director of content at the Horniman Museum & Gardens to take up his new position early in the new year. He takes over from Kate Mavor, who left English Heritage in June 2023 after eight years at the helm.
Merriman joined the Horniman in 2018 and, under his leadership, the south London museum was named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2022.
Merriman put environmental sustainability at the heart of the museum, with the launch of a Climate and Ecology Manifesto in 2022, as well as the Nature + Love redevelopment project, which will see the transformation of the museum’s indoor galleries and outdoor environment.
Merriman’s tenure also saw the signing of a landmark agreement to transfer ownership of the 72 Benin bronzes in the museum’s collection to Nigeria. The first six objects were repatriated to the country in November 2022.
Prior to the Horniman, Merriman was director of Manchester Museum, where he oversaw a 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, and roles in prehistory and early London history at the Museum of London.
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.”
English Heritage chair Gerard Lemos said: “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.”
The Horniman’s chair of trustees, Michael Salter-Church, 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.”