The charity was founded in 2007 by Barbara Peacock, an architectural historian, and Ian Kennaway, formerly Director of the Regions at the National Trust. Both had been aware for some years of the astonishing variety, quality and sheer number of houses that exist in the Czech lands. The Czech Republic is a small country, with limited funds, but they had met many curators and owners who were immensely enthusiastic about their properties, and who were determined to restore the damage of the past.
The charity's registered address is 3 Yew Tree Cottage, The Street, Ripe, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BD.
The first Steering Group meeting took place in September 2006 at which the two founders discussed the way forward with people who had visited the Czech lands and wished to contribute to the work. The group met again in April 2007 and the launch of The Friends took place on the 8th October 2007 at the Czech Embassy, hosted by the Ambassador.
Our patron Eva Jiřičná, internationally renowned architect and designer with offices in London and Prague, is keen to help preserve the architectural and artistic riches of her homeland. "I was very moved to discover that a group of British people with no direct links to my home country other than admiration for its beauty and historic treasures wants to lend a hand and make sure the future generations can enjoy and learn from our rich traditions," says Jiřičná.'
Download the list of projects where the Friends have helped here (2.64MB PDF).
Eva Jiřičná CBE RA
Architect and interior designer, founder of Eva Jiřičná Architects, based in London, but operating internationally with associated offices in Prague. Grew up with the background of modernist traditions of Czechoslovakia of 1930s. Awarded CBE, several honorary degrees in UK, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Slovakia, honorary fellow of professional organisations in the UK and USA, elected Royal Academician.
Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham
Developed a strong interest in Eastern Europe since 1984, formerly a banker, elected MP in 2010. Served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury until 2016, then as Minister of State for International Trade, serving as number two to the Secretary of State, Liam Fox, until 2018.
Czech diplomat, politician, author, journalist, lyricist and psychologist. He is a former Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom, as well as to Israel and the United States.
Peter Jamieson MA RIBA – Chairman and Projects Coordinator
Peter is a retired architect and former founding partner in the firm of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. He trained at Cambridge and London Universities and has worked in private practice for over forty years. Since retirement he has assisted at the RIBA Drawings Collection, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and as an adviser on the Advisory Committee for the Diocese of Southwark.
Ian Kennaway FRICS, Joint Founder and first Chairman of the Friends. Vice-Chairman and International Coordinator. Former Director of the Regions for the National Trust. In 1990, Ian hosted a visit to the North Wales region of the National Trust from Kateřina Cichrová and Marie Petrmanová from the České Budějovice Office of the NPÚ, the Czech National Heritage Institute, and that began a 29-year history of successful exchanges and liaison.
James Robertson MA, ACIS - Trustee and Secretary
James has worked for many years in small business finance in the property, logistics and wine sectors. He first visited Czechoslovakia in 1974, and saw at first hand the impairment of the built heritage, both in Prague and in the countryside, caused by years of neglect and lack of funding for maintenance. As well as his interest in Czech castles, houses and parks, he is also interested in the Czech musical tradition.
Peter Kysel BA (Hons), CFA, ASIP - Trustee and Treasurer
Peter is an experienced Investment Banker and Consultant and has been actively involved in the voluntary sector since 1986. Formerly a director and chairman of the British Czech and Slovak Association, InterChange Trust, The Hamden Trust and WAP Performing Arts College.
Jana Sommerlad MA, Press and PR Consultant – Editor
Jana has had a long career in the British publishing industry. She has also worked as a translator, interpreter and teacher, and is the Editor of the Newsletter of the Friends of Czech Heritage.
Barbara Peacock FRSA, Joint Founder and former Vice-Chairman of the Friends is an architectural historian. She is the founder of Wessex Fine Art Study Courses. Her particular interest is the architecture of the country house. After the Velvet Revolution, her interest in the field stimulated research in the Czech Republic, an area rich in great houses and châteaux.
Milena Currall BA (Hons)
Milena is involved in translation and PR promoting the Czech Republic
Charles Thomson MA (Cantab) DipEcon. MSc. in Historic Conservation
Charles worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until he retired in 2002. Latterly he organised programmes for official visitors, many of whom were preparing their countries for accession to the EU. In 2005 he gained a Masters in Historic Conservation from Oxford Brookes University and now writes guidebooks and newsletter articles. He has visited the Czech Republic several times, covering most parts of the country.
20th-century Architecture Irena Murray-Žantovská