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Sefton Park Palm House

Sefton Park Palm House is a Grade-2* listed, Victorian era building boasting a large collection of exotic plants from across the globe. The Palm House has a rich history in the city of Liverpool dating back to 1896 when it first opened to the general public. Gifted to the city by local benefactor Henry Yates Thompson, it became widely known as Sefton Park’s ‘Great Conservatory.’ After falling into dereliction after the Second World War, SPPH was restored and reopened in 2001, following a passionate campaign by local people, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Liverpool City Council and the Trust.

Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust

The Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust is a registered charity established in 1996. The Trust is governed by a Board of Trustees, who oversee the development and management of SPPH as a heritage visitor attraction and community hub. The Trust’s objectives centre around the preservation of SPPH for the benefit of local people, and the nation at large, with the aim of improving quality of life. The building and grounds are owned and maintained by Liverpool City Council.

The Trust employs a team of staff and is supported in its work by a wealth of volunteers. By generating revenue from heritage grants, private hire, events and donations, the Trust is able to keep SPPH open for everyone to enjoy, fund their programme of free community events and invest in the development of the team.

Search for a Chief Executive

In 2023, the Trust was looking to appoint a Chief Executive to lead Palm House and its team, delivering on the organisation’s ambition for the venue to be a vehicle for delivering further social impact, contributing to an increased quality of life for the diverse communities local to the Palm House.

Knowing Sherrington's pedigree in recruiting CEO's for third sector organisations, Sherrington Associates were appointed as the retained executive search partner in June.

Key to a successful appointment, would be to engage the interest of senior-level candidates across the spectrum of third sector, arts and heritage, leisure and visitor economy. Most of all, we needed to find a leader who could engage the team and deliver maximum social impact in line with the wider organisational strategy.

Recruiting in a challenging recruitment market, our researchers deployed a multi-channel recruitment methodology to ensure the widest reach possible and to achieve the client's wish to assemble a diverse shortlist with candidates from a broad range of leadership experiences and social backgrounds.

First, a target list was drawn-up of relevant visitor economy, charity, arts and heritage and leisure sector organisations. Our researchers mapped these organisations to identify suitable C-level candidates, as well as strong senior managers ready to step-up to a CEO role.

Simultaneously an advertising strategy was decided on, using key media partners and social channels. The campaign would supplement the main body of targeted headhunting work.

Finally, using our network of 20+ years recruiting charity leaders, we approached key referral sources to gain recommendations for suitable CEOs.


After the closing date, long-listed candidates were invited to in-person interviews with Sherrington Associates at our offices in Chester. Prior to attending interviews all candidates completed an online Personal Values Assessment, the results of which were scrutinised during a thorough biographical and competency based interview. Of the ten long-listed candidates, four were selected for our client to interview. Along with the results of the values assessments, a report was provided detailing strengths, weaknesses and personal details for all candidates, based on the insights gained from our interviews.

Short-listing & Selection

The final shortlist was assessed over a two-stage interview and selection process carried out by members of the Sefton Palm House board. Sherrington's team arranged interviews and collated two-way feedback from all parties. After a thorough and rigorous selection process where candidates were invited to meet key members of the Palm House operational team, an appointment was made to a candidate with a strong track record in both venues operational leadership as well as devising and delivering social value strategy.


Our client at Sefton Palm House fed back that the search process had been well managed and it was a pleasure working with the team at Sherrington Associates. The successful candidate joins as Chief Executive of the Palm House in November, after which a full press report will be published.

Sherrington's Managing Director Rob McKay commented on the assignment:

We were delighted to recruit the new Chief Executive for the Palm House recently. We look forward to hearing about their success in the role through 2024 and beyond.

Rob McKay - Managing Director, Sherrington Associates
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