About Helen Langley

Trent Park - Interior

The interior of the Trent Park orangery (photographed by kind permission of Middlesex University, 2006).

Helen Langley is a historian and curator and was until her recent retirement the modern political manuscripts curator at the Bodleian Library. She writes about aspects of the cultural heritage principally manuscripts, houses and gardens.  Helen’s interest in the historic environment is longstanding. For many years her research focused mainly on the private papers of public figures. A fascination with the houses and gardens where their letters and diaries were written was furthered by participating in commemorations marking the centenary of Erno Goldfinger in 2002, and while curating the Bodleian Library’s exhibition for the bicentenary of the Victorian prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli 2003-4.

In 2008 Helen was invited by the National Trust to be one of four contributors to the filmed interviews available to visitors at Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire, the former home of Disraeli and his wife, Mary Anne.

In March 2015  Helen revisits and re-evaluates these representations of Disraeli’s legacy in a paper to the Oxford University TORCH symposium convened by Sandra Meyer and Megan Kearney, ‘The Many Lives of Benjamin Disraeli: Fame, Legacy and  Representation.’

With a background in manuscripts and historical studies, Helen finds the notions of gardens as metaphors and living documents particularly interesting.  Helen studied the conservation of historic gardens at the Architectural Association (part time), graduating in 2006. She subsequently researched and wrote about six orangeries belonging to the National Trust.  An article on the subject compiled by Helen appeared in the National Trust’s publication, ABC Bulletin in July 2009.

An article by Helen, ‘The Coombe Royal Citrus Wall and the Outdoor Cultivation of Oranges in Devon’  appeared in The Devon Gardens Trust Journal, Issue 2.

For the University of Oxford, Department of Continuing Education she devised and taught a five week ‘taster’ course, ‘Place and Power’. The course which ran in April 2009 focused on three Oxfordshire gardens: Nuneham Park, Ditchley Park and Buscot Park.  Helen ran an extended version of the course, ‘Historic gardens in Oxfordshire: place and power’ in 2010.

The next project brought a return to writing about manuscripts. To commemorate the centenary of the journalist Honor Balfour in 2012 Helen wrote ‘Honor Balfour and the Liberal Party: an archival perspective’ which subsequently appeared in the Journal of Liberal History.

Current projects include

  • Delivering the 2015 Speaker’s Advisory Committee of  Works of Art International Women’s Day lecture, ‘Irene Ward  MP (1895-1980), doughty parliamentarian and campaigner’.
  • A paper to the Oxford symposium on Disraeli (please see above)
  • Contributing to plans for a series of seminars in Brighton, Oxford and London marking the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations

If you would like more information about past or current projects please contact Helen directly.