The Hall Bequest Trust

George Clarke Prize - for research pertinent to Stowe

Applications will be open from September for the 2025 biennial prize of £2000, run by the Hall Bequest Trust. The prize is named after George Clarke, who was associated with Stowe for more than 60 years - not least as a historian of the building and temples; as editor of The Stoic for seven years, he published definitive articles on the history of the gardens and its buildings. In 1990, the Bucks Record Society published his edition of the Descriptions of Lord Cobham’s Gardens at Stowe 1700 – 1750. He established a close working relationship with the Huntington Library, where the 350,000 Stowe papers are. He is a founding trustee and past Chairman of the Hall Bequest Trust, which was established in 1983 with three aims of : purchasing and displaying historic and cultural items relevant to Stowe, to support educational projects, and to provide bursaries for pupils at Stowe.

The George Clarke Prize is awarded for the best proposal for original archival research pertinent to Stowe within the fields of architecture, architectural history, the material arts such as sculpture, collecting or landscape design. The winner, who applies with evidence of their research record and a relevant and pertinent proposal, undertakes to pursue the research within the year of the award, and to write an article and to give a lecture within six months of completion of the research. Previous winners include Dr Myles Campbell, of the Office of Public Works, Dublin, Rhiannon Clarricoates, wallpaintings conservator at Lincoln University, and William Aslet, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge.

Please email the prize administrator - for further information. 

Previous Winner - Rhiannon Clarricoates

George C. Clarke Prize

Rhiannon is one of two recipients who received prize money in 2019 from the Hall Bequest Trust, through the George C. Clarke Prize, awarded to people for their research into the many different historical aspects of Stowe. The Hall Bequest Trust provides art bursaries for Stowe School and purchases artefacts that relate to Stowe House before it became a school in 1923. George Clark was a master at Stowe School between 1950 to 1985, and undertook research into the history of the Stowe estate for many years, including in the Stowe Papers at the Huntington Library, California. He was a founder member of the Hall Bequest Trust (1983), the Chair for the group for many years, and key in our current understanding of Stowe.

Following the discovery of an important scheme of wall paintings (c1740) in the East Staircase at Stowe, a small team of conservators, led by Rhiannon Clarricoates, have carefully uncovered larger areas of it. The work has revealed a multitude of decorative and iconographic motifs that underline the political and military power and riches of Viscount Cobham.

The 18th century guidebooks for Stowe House and Gardens attribute three ceiling paintings in the staircase ‘Fame & Victory’, ’Plenty & Constancy’ and ‘Justice & Peace’ to the little-known Venetian artist, Francesco Sleter, who was working at Stowe between 1731 and 1747. However, while the walls are described as being ‘adorned with war-like pieces’ - now hidden under layers of paint - they are without an artist's credit.

The composition of the wall paintings is reminiscent of a scheme of wall paintings by Francesco Sleter at St Lawrence’s Church, Little Stanmore, but stylistically they are more strongly evocative of William Kent’s work, such as that at Raynham Hall and Houghton Hall, who was also working at Stowe in the 1730s. In this talk, Rhiannon will discuss the investigations carried out to date, including the study of comparative schemes and the analysis of samples taken from the paintings with those from other known schemes by William Kent and Francesco Sleter using SEM-EDX, polarized light microscopy and cross-sectional analysis, in an attempt to make an attribution.


Rhiannon Clarricoates is an accredited paintings conservator and architectural paint researcher, with over 17 years of experience in the field. In 2018 she became a senior research fellow in history and heritage at the University of Lincoln, where she continues as a practicing conservator alongside teaching and academic research.

Since 2004, Rhiannon has sat on the Institute of Conservation’s painting group committee, helping to organise numerous conferences, and has co-edited four sets of post-prints. She has published several articles in peer reviewed journals.

Rhiannon is an assessor for the Conservation and Collections Care Technician’s diploma, a work-based qualification being offered by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Institute of Conservation. She is also a full member of the Lincoln Diocesan Advisory Committee, where she advises on all matters relating to fine art and decorative surfaces.