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

National Trust calls for urgent action to manage threats to our coastline

The National Trust is calling for urgent action from Government and agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure all coastal areas are ready for the enormous challenges presented by severe storms and rising sea levels.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire. Credit Joe Cornish

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Pembrokeshire cottage restored to former glory

Treleddyd Fawr Cottage

Treleddyd Fawr Cottage St David’s

The National Trust is delighted to have completed the restoration of Treleddyd Fawr Cottage, a Grade II listed property near St David’s, and one of the last surviving examples of a traditional Pembrokeshire cottage.

Now it’s ready to open the door to guests as cosy holiday accommodation, a decision taken by the Trust to allow more visitors to experience this rare slice of Welsh history.

Nestled in the coastal countryside, the one-bedroom cottage and its outbuildings date back to the early 1800s and were bequeathed to the Trust by Mr Glyn Griffiths, with the wish to preserve their personality and charm for others to enjoy.

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Trust welcomes record numbers of visitors

We welcomed record numbers of visitors to our houses and gardens last year (21m), up 4% on the previous year. An estimated 200m visits were also made to our countryside and coast locations. Interest remains as high as ever.

Our latest membership scores also show satisfaction is at an all-time high. And our membership has grown to over 4.2m members.

The overall proportion of visitors rating their experience of the Trust as either ‘enjoyable’ or ‘very enjoyable is 96%. This reflects very high levels of satisfaction and is broadly in line with previous years.

The picture is very positive and we’re proud more people than ever before are visiting our special places and supporting our charity.

But we recognise there is always room for improvement. We’re not complacent and as we outlined in our 10-year strategy earlier this year we know we need to do even more to engage with people and make our places relevant and inspiring to them.

The proportion of people rating their experience as ‘very enjoyable’ has fallen slightly to 60%, which is below the stretching target we set ourselves.

We believe there are a number of reasons for the fall.  We have developed a new system whereby members can provide feedback online . This has nearly doubled the number of visitor surveys we collect (some 170,000) so we now have a much more accurate picture than we have ever had before and know where we need to improve.

At peak times properties can get busy and this can have an impact on attaining the very highest enjoyment scores.

People’s tastes are changing and their expectations continue to grow. We’ll work harder to give our visitors experiences that are emotionally rewarding, intellectually stimulating and inspire them to support our cause. We will invest in major changes at our most visited houses to transform how we tell the story of why they matter.

We’re not standing still. Many properties are already finding new and imaginative ways to refresh their offer, and where we get it right the results have been spectacular both in terms of visitor numbers and enjoyment scores.

Our recreation of a First World War hospital at Dunham Massey made it to the final of this year’s Museum of the Year; our Mr.Turner exhibition at Petworth was a huge hit, and Fan Bay tunnels in Dover have consistently sold out of tickets every day since it opened earlier this year.

And we’re continuing to challenge perceptions and stir up debate, most recently on brutalist architecture.

Fine Farm Produce Awards to be announced this evening

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Award winners will be announced at an exclusive event at Selfridges in London this evening.

This year is the 10th anniversary of these prestigious awards which recognise the very best of the conservation charity’s 1,500 tenant farmers and producers.

We go behind the scenes of the judging process with Helen Beer, deputy editor of the National Trust magazine, who gives a behind the scenes glimpse of what happens during the ‘taste test’ element of the rigorous judging process.

The National Trust's Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

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New technology saves exquisite Tudor stained glass

Visitors to The Vyne in Hampshire can witness a unique project to conserve beautiful 16th-century stained glass windows in the Tudor Chapel. Having survived Civil War armies and Second World War bombing raids, this precious glass is now under attack from a new enemy.

The Chapel contains the finest stained glass in our care, considered to be among the most beautiful 16th-century glass in Europe. Famous for its jewel-like clarity, it features images of King Henry VIII, who visited The Vyne several times, as well as his sister Margaret and first wife Catherine of Aragon, together with their patron saints.

But condensation is eating away at it, causing pitting and corrosion. Thankfully modern technology is coming to the rescue. The glass is being removed so that it can be re-fitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing by specialists Holy Well Glass.

Stained glass conservator Steve Clare removes Tudow window depicting King Henry VIII, from The Vyne's chapel ©National Trust Images James Dobson

Stained glass conservator Steve Clare removes Tudor window depicting King Henry VIII, from The Vyne’s Chapel ©National Trust Images James Dobson

Scaffold platform offers once-in-a-lifetime view

As the stained glass is removed, the empty window spaces will be temporarily filled with clear glass featuring simple lead tracery that matches the outline of the original imagery. This will offer a previously unseen perspective of the Chapel during the work from a scaffold viewing platform.

‘Our viewing platform will give visitors a fantastic view of the Chapel’s other historic features,’ says house steward Dominique Shembry. ‘These include the incredible detail on the Tudor wooden stalls, which are carved with heraldry, plant motifs and cherubs, and the 18th-century trompe l’oeil artwork on the walls.’

Get up close to superb Tudor craftsmanship

The viewing platform also provides a unique opportunity to study up close the superb workmanship of the Chapel’s central window. This stained glass, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, has already been successfully fitted with new glazing as part of a pilot project and is remaining in place.

The external wire grills currently covering the Chapel windows are also being removed so that the stained glass can be seen in its original 16th-century splendour when it returns later in the year.

The Vyne Chapel - L to R Henry's sister Queen Margaret of Scotland with St Margaret of Antioch, ©National Trust Images, Helen Sanderson

The Vyne Chapel – L to R Henry VIII’s sister Queen Margaret of Scotland with St Margaret of Antioch, ©National Trust Images, Helen Sanderson

Technology captures conservation in action

A new exhibition reveals more about the stories portrayed in the stained glass and the legends surrounding its mysterious past. There’ll also be a chance to examine some of the original glass before it’s reinstated in the Chapel.

Film footage of the conservators working on the glass in their studio will be captured using audio-visual technology supplied by Panasonic, including wearable cameras.

This, together with time-lapse photography of the glass being removed from the Chapel’s windows, will be projected into a new exhibition space, giving visitors a unique opportunity to follow the work as it progresses.

A Tudor power house

The Chapel, together with the Oak Gallery, are the most complete surviving Tudor interiors at The Vyne which was the home of Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys. Sandys entertained Anne Boleyn at The Vyne, but was later to escort her to her prison in the Tower of London.

The glass itself was made, not for The Vyne’s Chapel, but for the nearby Holy Ghost Chapel. The myths surrounding its survival are many, but it is thought to have been rescued from the Chapel during Civil War hostilities, and hidden, later to appear at The Vyne.