Executive Director, Trustees and Patrons

>>Executive Director, Trustees and Patrons
Executive Director, Trustees and Patrons2018-03-20T10:37:30+00:00


Executive Director

Dr Gillian Dow

Dr Gillian Dow is an Associate Professor in English at the University of Southampton. Gillian was seconded to Chawton House as Executive Director in 2014 following a long and productive association with the charity.

Since her initial appointment as Chawton Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in 2005, and her subsequent promotion to Director of Research in 2012, Gillian’s achievements have included establishing and growing our programme of evening lectures and international conferences, and launching and developing our successful Visiting Fellowship programme, which was run jointly with the Faculty of Humanities at Southampton University from 2007-2017.

Before her time at Southampton, Gillian studied at the University of Glasgow, and was a Snell Exhibitioner at Balliol College, Oxford. She has taught at several Oxford colleges, and at the Université Paris XII.

Board of Trustees

Louise Ansdell, Chair

Louise grew up in Hampshire close to Chawton, including part of her secondary education.  She read Classicsand English at Oxford, and then qualified as a barrister, practising family law.  This continues and she is a contributing editor of Butterworths Family Law encyclopaedia and Butterworths New Law Guide to International Adoption.  She has governed schools for over 20 years, and is Chair of Oxford High School’s Governing Board. She joined the Board at Chawton in March 2017 and was appointed its Chairman at the end of that year.

Catherine Bennett

Catherine Bennett is a journalist, working as a columnist on The Observer and occasional contributor to The Guardian. She has previously worked for publications including The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail on SundayThe Sunday Times and The Times. She has written and presented documentaries for BBC2. She joined the Guardian in 1990 and moved to its sister paper, the Observer, in 2008. In 2011, Virago published a collection of her satirical columns, Mrs Cameron’s Diary. In 2018 she began a Leverhulme doctoral studentship, at Royal Holloway, University of London. Born in Leeds and educated at Hertford College Oxford, where she graduated in English, she lives in London.

Rishi Bhattacharya

Rishi has spent more than two decades in communications. He is a senior leader in an international business communications consultancy and specialises in implementing integrated campaigns as well as issues and reputation management. Rishi spent the first ten years of his career in print and broadcast journalism. He joined the Board of Trustees in spring 2017. He lives in Hartley Wintney, Hants.

Dr Linda Bree

Dr Linda Bree is Senior Executive Publisher and Head of Humanities at Cambridge University Press, and also an expert in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fiction, including the work of Jane Austen.  She has been actively involved with Chawton House Library for more than a decade and is particularly interested in its presentation of the work of women writers through the ages.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is a retired Solicitor who practiced in the City of London and in Paris for over 35 years.  He is also a book collector and scholar, with a particular interest in English fine bookbinding from the seventeenth century to the Regency period.  Anthony is also a trustee of the Society of Antiquaries, the Bibliographical Society and the Ian Karten Charitable Trust which has for many years supported Southampton University.  He is actively involved in outreach projects for a number of charities, and is a qualified London guide.  Anthony also enjoys classical music and opera.

Richard Knight

Richard Knight is the freeholder of Chawton House and Estate. He is the great, great, great grandson of Jane Austen’s brother Edward. They both inherited Chawton—-Edward in 1794 and Richard 200 years later in a rather dilapidated state. In the early 1990’s he sold a long leasehold to the Bosack Kruger Foundation with whom he worked to restore the house and grounds and establish a library and research centre devoted to  Early English Women’s Writing. Richard recently retired from a lifelong career as a farmer in Gloucestershire which has given him more time to consider the lives and times of his family including “Aunt Jane”.

Simon Knight

Simon Knight is a Chartered Surveyor who specialises in estate management and was a partner of Smiths Gore for 30 years and Senior Partner from 1996-2014. He is currently a Director of Savills in their rural division. He became a Trustee of Chawton House in October 2017. He is also a Trustee of a number of family trusts and  charities – Chairman of Governors of St Mary’s School – Calne, Vice-Chairman of Sussex Heritage Trust, Trustee of the Weald and Downland Museum and a Trustee  of Impact Initiatives. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex and served as High Sheriff of the county in 2009/10. He lives near Petworth in West Sussex

Anne McMeehan Roberts

Anne McMeehan Roberts is a Trustee at Chawton House, Paines Plough (touring “new theatre to all four corners of the UK and around the world”), as well as Chair of Portsmouth High School’s governing body.  (She was previously a pupil there leaving in 1972 to study European Languages, Politics and Economics at Loughborough University.) Most of her career has been spent working in the City, latterly running a specialist communications firm, of which she was a founding director. Prior to this her appointments included Director of Communications of the investment funds industry’s trade association and director of Framlington Group and Managing Director of its unit trust subsidiary.  She won the Network Award for Business Woman of the Year in Finance in 1992.

Dr David Pearson

David Pearson retired in January 2017 as Director of Culture, Heritage & Libraries at the City of London Corporation, where he managed the Square Mile’s libraries, archives, art gallery, and tourism activities (including Tower Bridge, the Monument, and Keats House).  His career over the previous 40 years involved various libraries and collections, including senior managerial roles at the Wellcome Trust and University of London.  His advisory work has embraced universities and the National Trust and he currently holds several honorary academic positions to further his writing and teaching as a book historian.


Founding Patron, Dr Sandy Lerner OBE
Dame Mary Fagan, DCVO JP
Professor Isobel Grundy
Mr Nigel Humphreys
Professor Cora Kaplan
Dr Deirdre Le Faye
Mrs Gilly Drummond OBE DL
Mrs June Parkinson
Professor Michèle Roberts
The Earl of Selborne, GBE FRS DL
Mr Alan Titchmarsh, MBE VMH DL
Ms Claire Tomalin, FRSL
Professor Janet Todd, OBE
Joanna Trollope, OBE
Professor Richard Ovenden

Patron Joanna Trollope OBE

Patron Joanna Trollope OBE opening our Emma at 200 exhibition