National Trust reveals bold plans to breathe new life into fire-hit mansion

  • Charity to restore the most significant ground floor rooms to their original glory
  • Upper floors to become flexible, modern spaces
  • Competition to be launched later this year to find designer
  • Restore gardens as they were when the house was built

The National Trust today announced ambitious plans to bring a fire-ravaged Palladian mansion back to life in what will be the charity’s biggest conservation project in a generation.

Interior of the house, photo John Millar-National Trust Images

Interior of the house, photo John Millar-National Trust Images

Clandon Park, an 18th century stately home, near Guildford, Surrey, was hit by a devastating fire, which ripped through the building last April.

The conservation charity today outlined plans to restore the house’s most architecturally and historically significant rooms on the ground floor while at the same time creating vibrant, modern spaces, which would breathe new life into the house.

A competition will be held later this year to find the right architect to bring the space alive in a bold and imaginative way.

The Trust said it was now confident a number of principal rooms on the ground floor – including the Marble Hall, Speakers’ Parlour and Saloon – could and should be restored given their architectural and historical significance.

The Marble Hall, 1, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

The Marble Hall. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

The fact that so many features survived and items from the rooms are being recovered from the ashes made the case for restoration compelling.

But the Trust said it was not looking to recreate the rooms as they were the day before the fire. The enduring significance of the architect Leoni’s original designs means it will go back instead to look at the 18th century decorative schemes and layout of the house.

The Trust will discuss the restoration plans with specialists and a number of conservation bodies over the coming months.

On the upper floors, the Trust said that the rooms were less architecturally significant and had been considerably altered over the centuries.

So the proposal is for these floors to be transformed to create flexible spaces which could be used for exhibitions, events and performances.

Scaffolding around the entrance of Clandon, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

Scaffolding around the entrance of Clandon. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

Members, visitors, specialists and the general public would be encouraged to get involved and comment on a short-list of design options.

The Trust is also proposing to return the gardens to how they were designed when the house was originally built.

Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s director general, said: “Today marks an exciting new chapter in the Clandon story, and will represent one of most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the National Trust.

“The fire at Clandon was shocking, but gives us the opportunity not only to show our respect for the heritage of the past, but also to create new heritage for the future.

“Our plans involve returning parts of the house to its 18th century glory whilst at the same time creating a building of beauty and relevance for the 21st century.

“Given their historic and cultural significance, and the fact so many original features have survived, we believe we should restore the magnificent state rooms on the ground floor – the most architecturally important and beautiful rooms.

“This element of the project will also enable us to draw on the wealth of expertise within the Trust and beyond to utilise and develop traditional skills which are in grave danger of being lost.

“In the floors above, we can approach the design with more freedom and adapt the space, both architecturally and in its function, so that we can use it for exhibitions and events that bring our treasures and stories to a wide range of audiences.

“Recent research has also given us a wonderful picture of the original 18th century gardens, and so resources permitting, we also hope to bring those back to life in the spirit of a project that will both look back to the best of the past and create an exciting future”.

One of Clandon’s most important rooms – the Speakers’ Parlour – suffered only minor damage in the blaze and the entire external structure of the house as conceived by its Venetian architect remains in place.

Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images

Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall. Photo James Dobson, National Trust Images

Major architectural features such as fireplaces, panelling and decorative plasterwork survive in a number of rooms, including the magnificent marble chimney pieces and over mantels by the renowned sculptor John Michael Rysbrack in the Marble Hall.

Over the last nine months, the Trust reviewed a number of options for Clandon, ranging from leaving it as a ruin to a full restoration. It looked carefully at the architectural significance of what had survived the fire, the items salvaged from the building and what was technically possible within it.

It also applied a set of criteria, based on the charity’s core purpose, to guide its thinking. This included: ensuring Clandon Park remained open and accessible to the public; reflected Clandon’s historic and cultural significance; and generated enough income to maintain its long-term conservation.

The cost of the project is expected to be met largely through the Trust’s insurance policy – although not in its entirety. Once its plans are at a more advanced stage, the charity said it would be asking supporters for help.

Forecast Changeable

A wind-shattered tree on the shores of Buttermere, Lake District, Cumbria.

A wind-shattered tree on the shores of Buttermere, Lake District, Cumbria. ©National Trust Images/David Noton.

 

Climate change poses the single biggest threat to National Trust places, bringing new, damaging impacts to a natural and cultural environment already under pressure, and a growing conservation challenge to our houses and gardens. Find out what we’re doing and how it’s affecting our places in our new report, Forecast Changeable: Forecast Changeable Report

The sounds of our shores

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Imogen Tinkler, communications intern for the National Trust, looks back at some of the highlights from the ‘Sounds of our shores’ project

After three months, over 680 uploads and around 67,000 listens, the ‘Sounds of Our Shores’ project in collaboration with the British Library and the National Trust for Scotland has come to a close.

As well as encouraging people to get out and explore the seaside, the aim of this coastal sound map was to create a ‘snapshot’ of the UK coastline that could be preserved for future generations. Yet the sounds that we have received not only create a sense of what our shores sound like in 2015, but also reveal much about our relationship with the coast.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon's Mouth, North Devon.

Waves crash against the rocks at Heddon’s Mouth, North Devon. Credit National Trust.

One discovery we’ve made through this project is the sheer diversity of sounds that can be heard near the sea. On the soundmap, the classic noises of seagulls and waves breaking on the shore sit alongside some more unusual contributions, such as the roar of ‘The Deluge’ chain flush inside the (now disused) ornate Victorian toilets on Rothesay seafront in Glasgow.   Continue reading

A coastal walk will make you sleep longer and feel happier

  • UK coast walkers sleep an average of 47 minutes longer after a walk by the sea
  • Coastal walking boosts feelings of calm and happiness and provides walkers with a sense of escape
  • Coastal walks offer a distraction from the stresses of everyday life (63 per cent) and make people feel positive about their lives in general (55 per cent)
Family walking along the clifftop at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs range, East Sussex. The Belle Tout Lighthouse (not NT owned) is seen in the distance.

Family walking along the clifftop at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs range, East Sussex. Credit National Trust.

A walk by the coast will have you sleeping an extra 47 minutes on average as well as providing you with feelings of calm (83 per cent), happiness (82 per cent) and a sense of escapism (62 per cent), according to a national report out today.

Over two thirds (69 per cent) of Brits state they fall into a deeper sleep after being by the coast with one in three (36 per cent) also saying that the thought alone of the sea helps them sleep at night.

The research has been carried out as part of the National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign, run in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, to look at how walking on the coast really impacts on our wellbeing and to encourage people to explore our UK coastline, of which 775 miles is cared for by the conservation charity.

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Sound residency set to make waves at the home of radio

 

Joe Acheson, Credit National Trust, Steven Haywood

Joe Acheson, Credit National Trust/Steven Haywood

Musician and producer Joe Acheson has taken up the National Trust’s first ever sound residency on the Lizard in Cornwall this week where he is recording sounds along this coastal jewel and tapping into Marconi’s time there to create a new piece of music. Continue reading

Wartime tunnels open at the White Cliffs of Dover

Second World War tunnels built on the orders of Winston Churchill underneath the White Cliffs of Dover, have opened to visitors for the first time following a two-year conservation project involving over 50 volunteers.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter, for blog post, credit Richard Crowhurst Corvidae (1)

Fan Bay Deep Shelter. Copyright National Trust, credit Richard Crowhurst Corvidae

Fan Bay Deep Shelter was built in the 1940s as part of Dover’s offensive and defensive gun batteries, which were designed to prevent German ships moving freely in the English Channel. The shelter was personally inspected by Winston Churchill in June 1941.

Carved out of the chalk cliffs, the shelter accommodated four officers and up to 185 men of other ranks during bombardments in five bomb-proof chambers and also had a hospital and secure store. It was decommissioned in the 1950s and filled in two decades later.

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Wildlife on the Great Orme

Matthew Oates, National Specialist on Nature and Wildlife for the National Trust, shares his love for the Great Orme in North Wales and the wildlife that calls it home.

The Great Orme is a place of pilgrimage for British naturalists.  Try finding a botanist or a butterfly enthusiast who hasn’t been there, or at least one who doesn’t desperately want to visit.  It is also on the birders’ radar, for its increasing Chough population and because it is a place where rare migrants turn up.  Bat, beetle, lichen, moss, moth and marine wildlife enthusiasts also know and love the Great Orme, as do geologists, geographers and archaeologists. In effect, it is a wildlife paradise.

The Great Orme, 12/05/15. Photograph Richard Williams richardwilliamsimages@hotmail.com 07901518159

The Great Orme, Credit National Trust, Richard Williams

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