Early life and education
Thurley grew up in Godmanchester - he feels that it was inevitable he became a historian since "by age seven I was helping out at Roman digs near my home ... and childhood holidays invariably involved ticking off stately homes and cathedrals". He attended Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire (1972–82), before leaving to study for a BA degree in History at Bedford College (1982–85). He passed with a 2:1, and continued his studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1985–89). There he gained a distinction for a MA degree in Art History, and obtained a PhD degree with the thesis entitled 'English Royal Palaces 1450–1550'. In 2010 he was awarded an Honorary LL.D degree by the University of Bath.
Whilst working on his PhD he took up a post as Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage (1988–90), later becoming Curator of Historic Royal Palaces (1989–97) and director of the Museum of London (1997 to March 2002). He is also a prolific history broadcaster, presenting a history slot on BBC London for 3 years and – in television – presenting Flying Through Time, Channel Four’s 2004 six part series Lost Buildings of Britain (Channel 4), The Buildings that Shaped Britain (Channel 5) and a six-part history of London (Granada). He has also appeared in other programmes (such as Time Team) as a 'talking head'.
He married Katharine Goodison (born 1963), a lawyer-turned-hat-designer and daughter of Sir Nicholas Goodison (former Stock Exchange chairman), in October 1998 in Tower Hamlets. They renovated a 30-room 17th-century rectory, formerly owned by Tower Hamlets council. They divorced in 2007; Thurley married Anna Keay (born 1973), a fellow historian, in February 2008. She is the Properties Presentation Director for English Heritage since 2002. They had known each other for about 15 years, but got to know each other better when they worked on a documentary called The Buildings That Shaped Britain for channel 5 in 2006, They live in London and a medieval merchant's house in King's Lynn, Norfolk, and have two children.
Thurley is the highest paid member of English Heritage's staff: his emoluments in 2009 totalled £163,000, comprising a basic salary of £136,000 and a performance related award of £27,000, 20 per cent of basic salary. His relative youth at taking this post has led him to be dubbed a "boy wonder".
Fellowships and other memberships
- Visiting Professor of the Built Environment at Gresham College
- Honorary Fellow and Visiting Professor of London Medieval History at Royal Holloway, University of London
- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (F.R.Hist.S.)
- Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA)
- President of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society
- President of the Huntingdonshire History Society
- Chairman of the Society for Court Studies
- Serves on the Council of St Paul's Cathedral
- Trustee for the Canal and River Trust
- The Royal Palaces of Tudor England: A Social and Architectural History, 1993
- Hampton Court Palace: The Official Guidebook, 1996
- Whitehall Palace: An Architectural History of the Royal Apartments 1240-1698, 1999
- Hampton Court: a Social and Architectural History, 2003
- Lost Buildings of Britain, 2004 (accompanying the Channel Four TV series)
- Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated History, 2008
- Somerset House: The Palace of England's Queens 1551-1692, 2009
- Excavations at Oatlands Palace 1968-73 and 1983-4, 2010 (with Rob Poulton and Alan Cook)
- Men from the Ministry: How Britain saved its Heritage. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-300-19572-9.
- Thurley, Simon (July 16, 2006). "My hols". The Times. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- Daily Mail, 'Heritage king bags his own Nell Gwyn', 3 January 2008
- ViaMichelin - interview with Simon Thurley
- The London Gazette: . 11 June 2011.
- "Main list of the 2011 Queen's birthday honours recipients". BBC News UK. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Trustees". Canal and River Trust. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
- Simon Thurley - official website
- Anna Keay - official website
- English Heritage - Executive Board
- Interview - Channel 4
- BBC's English Heritage TV series - Daily Mail 25 April 2009
|Director of the Museum of London
||Chief Executive of English Heritage