The Honours List recognises the achievements and service of people across the UK
We are proud that Helen Lloyd ACR FIIC FSA has been awarded an MBE in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours List, for services to Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The Honours List recognises the achievements and service of people across the UK, from all walks of life.
An MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) is awarded for ‘achievement in or service to the community which is outstanding in its field and has delivered sustained and real impact which stands out as an example to others’.
Helen joined the National Trust in 1981 and, over a remarkable span of 39 years was instrumental in developing and refining the methodologies and materials for the care of historic collections and interiors. Her evidence-based analyses and multi-disciplinary collaboration shaped the resource and organisational structure of the collections and house teams, and she also promoted and nurtured the development of trained Conservators who provided direct advice and support at properties.
By 2002, when she became the Preventive Conservation Adviser, Housekeeping and Deputy Head Conservator, there was a well-established team of Regional Conservators with responsibility for the care of allocated portfolios of properties.
For 30 years Helen developed, organised, and led the annual programme of Housekeeping Study Days training for National Trust house staff.
First held at Hughenden Manor in 1982, this unrivalled training course provided a solid understanding of the agents of deterioration and environmental preventive conservation work, as well as the rational and practical application for the methodologies and materials used to look after textiles, furniture & wood, books & paper, ceramics, metalwork, and stone & plaster.
These sessions were supported by teaching and practical guidance on the care of floors, paintings & frames, clocks, planning & protection for building work & events, maintaining records and engaging visitors with conservation in action and other Trust initiatives.
Generations of Trust staff (it must be at least 3,500!) have fond memories of the learning and networking they gained from attending Housekeeping Study Days. The course was always oversubscribed, but Helen always reserved 10% capacity for those working in the care of collections and interiors at external organisations and privately owned historic houses.
Helen worked on a series of seminal research projects, in 1992 investigating, with a PhD student, the physical impact of visitors on historic building structures. So began a long-term interest in determining a sustainable balance between conservation and access.
This led to an innovative internal cross-functional collaboration to develop what became known, a decade later, as the Conservation for Access toolkit.
By collecting data and monitoring the effects of visitor access the toolkit encourages a careful analysis of risks, and crucially the costs involved in maintaining or improving protective measures and standards of housekeeping and gardening, all designed to ensure that the balance between access and preservation is sustainable.
In 2000, Helen initiated a research partnership with English Heritage, Historic Royal Palaces and UEA Environmental Sciences, to investigate the sources and distribution of dust, and causes of ‘cementation’, a phenomenon recorded in the eighteenth century in The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman.
Starting with a three-year grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the project continued for 10 years with intermittent partnership funding, generating many papers and presentations, and earning Dust an international profile as a costly, labour-intensive agent of deterioration to be taken very seriously.
Helen’s most outstanding legacies include the internationally renowned 2005 and 2011 revised editions of the National Trust’s Manual of Housekeeping: The Care of Collections in Historic Houses.
In the early 2000s Helen led the project, involving over 40 conservation staff members and expert conservation advisers, to rewrite The Manual, originally compiled by Hermione Sandwith and Sheila Stainton and first published in 1984.
A member of the editorial committee which oversaw all 68 chapters and 7 appendices, Helen contributed five chapters herself and co-wrote six more. Ever since, the resulting bestselling volume has not only benefitted Trust staff but has also given access on a global scale to the Trust’s approach, methodology and materials, helping others to care for and protect historic collections and interiors in both public and private sectors.
In 2011 the Trust was reorganised, and the Conservation Department became part of a new Consultancy-based model for the delivery of advice, guidance, training and support across all disciplines within the Trust.
Helen found herself being interviewed for the permanent role of Consultancy Manager for 16 National Specialist curators and conservation advisers – her first interview in 32 years! It was her dream job, providing an opportunity to work collaboratively across curatorial and conservation specialisms, both indoors and out, combining Trust staff with 25 external advisers and the NT’s external Specialist Advice network of volunteers.
Helen took voluntary redundancy at the end of 2020 as part of the Trust’s reset during the Covid-19 pandemic. She continues to work as a freelance consultant sharing her expertise, vast amount of knowledge and wise counsel gained throughout her career and is a highly esteemed colleague.
The MBE marks Helen’s unparalleled dedication to promoting and improving standards of care and presentation, for the benefit of today’s owners and visitors as well as future generations, in a career in which she has influenced and led the field, both in the UK and across the world.
On accepting her MBE, Helen told us:
This award recognises the contributions of all conservators within and outside the National Trust, its network of advisers, and its committed house staff.
Without everyone’s support and hard work, little can be achieved - progress in housekeeping and preventive conservation is always a collaborative effort.
I have enjoyed almost four decades in the ‘university of the National Trust’, benefitting from the generous knowledge and experience of so many brilliant and inspiring colleagues, the friendship and sense of ‘family’, and countless opportunities to visit and encourage thesustainable care of historic places and their collections.
The many conservators, house staff and others that have worked with Helen during her amazing career at the National Trust are delighted by her MBE, which is worthy recognition of all that she has achieved herself, but also for and on behalf of the field of conservation and collections care more broadly.
Ksynia Marko ACR, Former NT Textile Conservation Adviser and Studio Manager
Hilary Jarvis, Preventive Conservator and (currently) General Manager Polesden Lacey