Published: 12:54, 11 January 2021
| Updated: 12:55, 11 January 2021
The charitable foundation behind Maidstone's Leeds Castle has appointed its new chief executive.
Helen Bonser-Wilton will take over the reins at the Leeds Castle Foundation from Sir David Steel who led the team for five years before being appointed by the Queen as Governor of Gibraltar.
Currently the chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth, she will take over the job in March.
It will certainly be a baptism of fire in the new role with the venue hit hard by the pandemic which has forced it to close its doors to visitors for much of 2020 and must limit the numbers accessing its grounds.
However, her pedigree suggests she is well armed to tackle the challenges ahead.
Her successes at the Mary Rose include the development of new visitor experiences and the launch of a new joint trading venture with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
She also brings a strong background in commercial businesses and the management of heritage attractions, including 13 years at the National Trust.
Helen Bonser-Wilton said: "Leeds Castle is a key player in the Kent and South East visitor economy, but the Covid-19 crisis has wrought huge damage on our income.
"As a charity that relies on income from visitors, we need the support of the public more than ever now to care for this extraordinary place. We will be developing our offer to encourage more visiting during this season, as well as caring for the unique heritage assets so that future generations can enjoy them as much as the current generation."
Since March of last year Robin Richman has guided the castle during the challenging period. He will continue in his role as deputy chief executive and financial director.
Niall Dickson, chairman of the Leeds Castle Foundation, added: "We are very much looking forward to Helen joining us in March. She brings a wealth of experience and a great track record. Leeds Castle enriches the lives of our many visitors and guests and Helen’s arrival will enable us to build on what has been achieved and create an exciting future, preserving this national icon and developing the experience for everyone who comes here."