The Onslow family at Clandon Park (part 1)

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The Onslow family have been associated with Clandon Park since 1641, their changing fortunes reflecting on the house and the estate that surrounded them for almost 400 years.

The first Onslow at Clandon Park

Sir Arthur Onslow lived here from 1641 and, like his father and grandfather, served as MP for Surrey. He was a suspect in a failed plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother, later James II. Fines were imposed and Arthur retired to Clandon to concentrate on his passion for fishing. He was extremely popular locally, when he died the procession is said to have stretched ‘from Clandon almost to Guildford’, offending James II greatly.

Clandon gets a makeover

Arthur’s eldest son Sir Richard was responsible for laying out huge formal gardens with beautiful parterres, pools, fountains and avenues. He also commissioned the artist Knyff to paint a panorama of it all. Richard spent many years as MP for Guildford and Chancellor of the Exchequer, eventually becoming the 1st Lord Onslow and the second Onslow Speaker.

Thomas 2nd Lord Onslow was born in 1679 and was a favourite of George I and II. He married the heiress Elizabeth Knight, whose fortune was estimated at the enormous sum of £70,000. With her backing Thomas was able to rebuild Clandon as a fashionable Palladian mansion, the house we see today.

The Great Speaker

Thomas’ cousin Arthur became the most famous Onslow. His parents died young and so he was taken in by his Uncle Richard. He joined the family business of politics as a secretary to his uncle but rose to become MP for Guildford and the third Onslow to be Speaker of the House of Commons. He held the post for 33 years in five successive parliaments and was known as the Great Speaker.

Arthur’s son George, 4th Lord Onslow, eventually inherited Clandon Park. He commemorated his father and the other Onslow Speakers in the Speakers Parlour. He was made Earl of Onslow and Viscount Cranley by George III in 1801.