14th December 2016

Townhouse Mouse wins Award for Innovation in Education

Fairfax House in York is the winner of the 2016 Frances Garnham Award, given by the Historic Houses Association (HHA).

The Award, now in its second year, commemorates the work and achievements of Frances Garnham who worked as the HHA’s Director of Policy and Campaigns until 2015. Frances was passionate about encouraging HHA Members to introduce educational components to their visitor programmes. The award therefore is given to a property with an innovative approach to its educational offering.

Fairfax House introduced its new educational initiative in March 2015, Gregory, The Townhouse Mouse. Together he and his friends lead children through Fairfax House to discover secrets of the property.

The Townhouse Mouse, brought to life by illustrator Nick Ellwood, offers a new and unique introduction for younger visitors. Gregory invites his mouselings to follow his trail and tale (tail). Exploring mouse holes in various rooms, families need to search for Gregory, and complete the puzzles in the trail guide to claim their reward at the end.

Gregory is joined by three other mice, Charles his country cousin from Gilling Castle, Molly the Maid, and Gregory’s daughter Anne, a very genteel mouse.

The award was formally presented to Fairfax House as part of the Sandford Awards Ceremony at Worcester Cathedral on Monday 21 November.

Hannah Phillip Director of Fairfax House commented: “Fairfax House couldn’t be more delighted to receive this tremendous acknowledgement of its work to bring the educational scope and learning opportunities of this special place to families, schools and wider audiences. It is a wonderful recognition of the direction in which Fairfax House is actively travelling and we are incredibly grateful to the HHA for all their support of our on-going work.”

Ben Cowell, Director General of the Historic Houses Association said: “We are thrilled to announce Fairfax House as the winner of this important award. Many HHA Member houses offer wonderful educational experiences, and Fairfax House has shown real creativity and flair with Gregory The Townhouse Mouse. The award is a splendid tribute to the HHA’s much-missed Frances Garnham, who had a passion for making heritage accessible to all ages.”

Peter Burke, the Historic Houses Association’s Education Advisor said: “As children proceed through each room, following a series of clues, they are learning about the contents, history and importance of Fairfax House in a most innovative way. The exercise is designed to develop problem solving and evaluation skills, as well as encouraging team working. It is certainly a novel approach to heritage education and Fairfax House is a very worthy winner”


The Historic Houses Association (HHA) is a not-for-profit organisation that represents more than 1,600 of the UK’s privately (and some charitably) owned historic houses, castles and gardens. Around 500 of these properties open their doors to visitors for days out, special tours, school visits, film locations, weddings and events, or as memorable places to stay. Members range from iconic stately homes such as Blenheim Palace, Highclere Castle, Castle Howard, Knebworth House, Longleat and Burghley House, to more intimate houses such as Traquair in Scotland, Treowen in Wales and Belle Isle in Northern Ireland.

Most are still private family homes. The Association was established in 1973 to help owners conserve these wonderful places in the interests of the nation and carries out lobbying, advisory and marketing work on behalf of Member properties. Over 47,000 Friends of the HHA can visit many of these houses for free.