Few people would claim they work in 'the most wonderful office in Britain, if not in the world', as Jeremy Nichols does.
Headmaster of Stowe, he occupies a room called the Gothic Library, designed by Sir John Soane in 1804-05 for the Marquis of Buckingham, 'an island of romanticism in what is essentially a Neo-Classical building'. The ceiling is based on the fan-vaulted aisles of the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey (pictured), and has a central dome decorated with 726 armorial bearings. There are two lead canopies on the walls, two fireplaces and three French windows which look out on to a balustraded garden, green lawns, a lake and Thomas Pitt's Corinthian Arch a mile away. 'If I faced that view I would not do any work, so I've turned my desk sideways, ' says Nichols.
'Then there's a table which seats about eight people, which is where I do my committee work. By one fireplace - a marvellous original brass structure - there are two sofas and a chair, which is where I see parents. And there's another desk where I see good boys and girls. I think it's important that they come into somewhere splendid to be patted on the back.' (He sees bad boys and girls in a little ante-library. ) Nichols has made his office into a multi-purpose space. 'I think it's such a glory of the school that it ought to be used, rather than put into aspic and left in silence.'