Claydon House has been the seat of the Verney family since 1620. The present house is almost entirely 18th century having undergone major redevelopment in 1757 and 1771 to rival the nearby manor house at Stowe. Today, only a fragment of the great house is still standing with its magnificent 18th century state rooms.
The original house consisted of two wings, just the right hand wing remains today. The 2nd Earl had a taste for grandeur and lavish entertainments and so he greatly extended the house with an immense addition to the north, which almost trebled the length of the existing house.
The work began in 1766, just as an earlier phase of building work was being completed. This chiefly consisted of two huge reception rooms, a circular entrance hall or rotunda and a ball room. When you visit, stand before the west front of the house and try and imagine a second, duplicate building to the far left where the current car park stands.
Built but not completed
Behind its facade lay an immense columned ballroom or 'Egyptian Hall', seven bays long and two storeys high. Between the two wings stood the rotunda with by six giant Corinthian columns on the outside, with the front door in the centre. It was never completed internally and soon fell into disrepair.
Do you enjoy a good ghost story, or want to see if you can find one? We're said to be haunted by several ghostly apparitions. The most frequent ghostly sighting is of Sir Edmund Verney, standard bearer to the King at the battle of Edgehill in 1642. He died at the battle and his hand was severed and clung in death to the standard. The hand was eventually reinterred hereand Sir Edmund has been sighted inside the house without his hand or riding his horse in the grounds.
Visits from a ghostly grey lady, thought to be Florence Nightingale have also been experienced and the 1st Earl is sometimes seen on the staircase. Several staff members have experienced strange happenings. The house isn't open at night but in October you can come and join a creepy guided tour, held after dark. Bring along a torch as no lights are switched on and see if you can spot one of our ghostly residents as you listen to strange tales.
Much of the Rococo plaster work, woodwork and elaborate carvings found throughout the house are unique to Claydon.
Luke Lightfoot, a celebrated master stone mason and carver, was employed by Lord Verney in 1757 to build chimneys for the Verney's London home. He was later commissioned for more elaborate building of here, probably to Lord Verney's own design.
The intricate carvings were painted white, and this has preserved them for us to enjoy nearly 300 years later. Today we employ master carvers to make the repairs when needed.
When the building of Claydon begun in 1757 by Ralph, 2nd Earl Verney, it was to the delight of a Rev. Samuel Rogers, who penned a poem on 'the magnificent seat' in 1782:
' No more let Egypt's Pyramids Surprise
That crowd a Province & insult ye skies
No more his Walls ye proud Assyrian boast
Rais'd by ye labours of a countless Host...
One mighty fabric rais'd by Verney's Hands
Trancends Ecomium & unrivall'd stands. '