Trust ‘hopeful’ of rebuilding fire-hit stately home

The National Trust today said it hoped to rebuild, in some shape or form, Clandon Park, the 18th century mansion which was reduced to a shell following a devastating fire.

The house, near Guildford, Surrey, suffered extensive damage in the blaze which ripped through the building on April 29. The roof and floors collapsed, the rooms were destroyed and thousands of items are feared to have been lost in the flames.

The external walls however remain largely intact and a specialist team are planning the archaeological salvage operation to recover further items from the building.

The conservation charity said the full extent of the damage remains unknown as structural engineers and insurers continue to assess the site.

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Photo: Chris Lacey

But despite the many uncertainties, the Trust said it was hopeful that Clandon could be rebuilt and would have a long-term future.

Helen Ghosh, director-general of the Trust said: “We’re hopeful that one day we can rebuild Clandon but quite how, when and in what form is far from certain at this early stage.

“The house has been left a shell, with the inside of the building almost completely destroyed. We’re still awaiting guidance from the structural engineers on the safety of the house.

“As we get more information on the extent of the damage, we will be able to take a clearer view on the potential options for Clandon.

“Despite the uncertainty, we would like to reassure all those people who love Clandon as much as we do that it will continue in some shape or form in the future.”

Work will begin shortly to erect scaffolding around the building. Once the scaffolding work is complete and the building confirmed as safe to enter, the painstaking salvage operation can start again.

Significant items from the collection were rescued from the fire during the initial salvage operation including paintings, furniture and silver.

Meanwhile further details of over 350 items rescued have been confirmed including Onslow family photographs, personal mementoes belonging to the 6th Earl of Onslow relating to his time as a prisoner of war, and a silver christening mug.

Poignant and personal mementoes of the Onslow family that have been saved include:

  • A metal prisoner-of-war identity badge worn by the 6th Earl of Onslow in Offlag 79, a prisoner-of-war camp in Brunswick, Germany, where he was imprisoned during the last months of the Second World War.
  • A tie-pin cushion made after the 6th Earl of Onslow’s return from war from the hoof of ‘Queenie’ one of his horses that had served him and had been destroyed because of the shortage of food.
  • The 4th Countess of Onslow’s dinner book of guests and menus for dinner parties. It covers the period 1875-1910 and includes a Parliamentary Dinner from 1908.
  • Two framed photographs of Lady Teresa Onslow as a baby; she later married the journalist and author Auberon Waugh.
  • Photograph of Arthur, 6th Earl of Onslow, and his wife, surrounded by their dogs and caged birds
  • Speaker Sir Richard Onslow’s (1654-1717) silver christening mug.
  • State Purse and metal embroidered red State stocking worn by the ‘Great Speaker’ Arthur Onslow (1691-1768).

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow as Chancellor to Queen Caroline of Anspach (wife of George II); worked in silver thread with the arms of George II.

    State Purse of Speaker Arthur Onslow 

Sophie Chessum, the curator who is leading the National Trust’s conservation team at Clandon Park comments:

“We are so pleased that so many significant Onslow family portraits and associated historic artefacts were saved.  Three Onslow men have held the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, a unique achievement, and to have rescued their portraits and the Great Speaker’s State Purse is wonderful. We are looking forward to re-uniting the three portraits which had to be cut from their frames on the night of the fire with their elaborate gilded frames.

“We were greatly relieved that the Speakers’ Parlour has survived the fire and the frames were discovered unharmed several days after the fire.  Also rescued was the huge carved and gilt chair that stood on the Stone Stairs. This 250 year old chair might have been a gift to Arthur Onslow, known as the Great Speaker, to commemorate his retirement from the post he held for 33 years.”

It won’t be possible to confirm the full list of items saved or lost until the final assessment and salvage operation is completed.

Photographic, 3D laser and geophysical surveys are all helping with the assessment of the site along with new aerial footage of the building which can be viewed here

One thought on “Trust ‘hopeful’ of rebuilding fire-hit stately home

  1. It’s a tragedy to have lost Clandon, but do we need to accept that it is gone? We can rebuild it, but then it is no longer a piece of our heritage, but merely a rebuilt building. If it must be rebuilt, perhaps it should be made into a hospice or similar (or large parts of it). If we don’t need to spend the insurance money on repairing it, perhaps the money would make a greater contribution to preserving our heritage if spent elsewhere.

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