A new role has been appointed at the parent charity of St John Ambulance, the Priory of England and the Islands, to highlight and strengthen its connections with the international and historic Order of St John. 

Sarah Duthie, the former Director of Public Engagement at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, has joined the charity as Director of Priory and International Affairs.

The Priory is part of the Order of St John, which traces its roots to a hospital built in Jerusalem by monks in 1080. It is now a worldwide humanitarian charity recognised by the United Nations with 400,000 volunteers working in 40 countries.  

One of Sarah’s briefs is to develop the heritage assets of the Priory, which include the Museum of the Order St John, situated next to the charity’s London headquarters at Clerkenwell. It holds 60,000 artefacts, some of which date back more than 900 years.

Sarah’s previous roles include Chief Executive of the Bishop’s Palace, Somerset, where she managed a project to secure the future of the site. Sarah was also Operations Manager of Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, where she oversaw and grew public engagement at five sites in the city.

The new director explained how the charity’s history would support its healthcare work today:

“The Priory has a superb collection of artefacts demonstrating how the ethos of caring among today’s volunteers goes back a thousand years. 

“I’ll be using the power of storytelling to draw stronger parallels between the days when monks gave medical care to pilgrims and modern times, when we are dedicated to providing healthcare in our communities.

“I believe museum collections and their teams can change lives and, along with my other activities, look forward to further advancing the wellbeing agenda championed by the Priory and St John Ambulance.” 

One of Sarah’s first tasks will be to co-ordinate stronger ties with other Order of St John establishments internationally, starting with a meeting of the European members this month.   

Another of her remits is to progress the Priory’s recognition system, in which honours and awards are presented in the name of the Order of St John on behalf of HM The Queen to recognise distinguished service in line with the aims of the charity.

The main role of the Priory, which operates in England, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, is to fundraise for and promote first aid and caring in communities by St John Ambulance.

St John Ambulance chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown said:

“This appointment to my executive team is an important step towards our future, recognising that our heritage and historic values are the foundation of all that we do.”