The operating theatre project at Clandon Park

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At the outbreak of the First World War, Clandon Park was offered to the authorities to be used as a military hospital. The offer was accepted and the hospital opened its doors in October 1914.

As part of our commemoration of the First World War, we’ve undertaken a project to return one of our rooms to how it would have looked in 1914, when it was used as an operating theatre.

A versatile location

Formerly a dressing room for Lord Onslow, this corner room at the rear of the house has recently been used as the Onslow Museum. It housed family artefacts and memorabilia relating to the 4th Earl and his time as Governor of New Zealand.

It was the ideal location for the operating theatre, chosen because of the supply of running water and an even north-east light.

Transformation

Our first task was to entirely strip the room of its contents. Everything that was on display has moved to other parts of the house or into temporary storage.

The room was entirely repainted in white and refloored with marmoleum, the closest thing available to the kinds of flooring they would've used at the time.

To complete the look we’ve installed a replica of a trolley and stretcher that the operations were carried out on and opened up the sink closet where the surgeons scrubbed before operating.

Pieces from the period

We have some excellent records from this period of Clandon’s history, including the original hospital records book. There is also a pair of extraordinary autograph books kept by two nurses, containing drawings by the patients and pictures of staff and patients together.

We’ve put the books on display and enlarged some of the best photographs on to canvases hung around the room. Alongside these images you’ll see a poem by the famous war poet Siegfried Sassoon, who himself has a familial link to Clandon.

More to come

Our operating theatre will be on display for the next five years. We anticipate that this project will develop over time and we’d love your input. Perhaps an ancestor was a patient or nurse, or a great-grandparent lived in the village during the period. We want to hear your stories so, if you’re inspired, please get in touch.