Archaeologists discover evidence of the Jacobean house at Clandon Park

A ground floor room showing extensive fire damage at Clandon Park, Surrey

Sometimes the most unassuming spaces can yield surprising stories. One of the rooms in Clandon’s basement has been doing just that. The timber floor here, burnt through during the fire, revealing a chalk surface with bricks and tiles set into it. Our archaeologists have been investigating these features and have gained a tantalising insight into the building’s early history.

Since gaining access to the house, we’ve taken every available opportunity to learn more about Clandon. We want to understand more about how and when it was constructed and how it has changed through the centuries. This additional knowledge will help us to build a new future for the house which acknowledges its past.  

Mysteries of the Butler's Room

Following the fire we’ve numbered each of Clandons rooms. Room B14, tucked away in the south-east corner, was referred to as the Butler’s room in 1899.

Once the debris had been removed from B14 it was immediately clear that the floor was different. The stone in the other floors in the basement survived largely intact. But here we saw exposed chalk, pieces of embedded brick and tile, and bands of darker soil, perhaps indicating under-floor drains.

Detail of the archaeological excavation at Clandon Park
Detail of the archaeological excavation at Clandon Park

For the first time we were able to see what sits below the thick brick walls of Clandon. This offered us the chance to find evidence of the building which historic documents tell us was here before the Palladian mansion. 

We’ve excavated a number of small pits to test our theories, revealing a complex network of intercutting drains fanning out across the chalk bedrock. When the current house was built a set of cylindrical drains were added to remove waste water from the kitchens and laundry rooms.

In the 19th century the chalk bedrock which formed this floor was levelled, the old drains were removed and a new set added beneath a timber floor. This is the only room in the basement where a raised timber floor was added instead of the Purbeck limestone slabs used elsewhere. 

Evidence of the Jacobean House

Perhaps the most interesting feature was another set of drains. Based on their size and the composition the bricks and re-used roof tiles, we've been able to date the drains to the 16th or 17th centuries. The brown mortar bonding the brick and re-used roof tiles together adds further weight to the dating of these drains. We’re now confident that these are from an earlier period than the current building. 

" For the first time we have physical evidence of the Jacobean house which preceded the current building."
- Tom Dommett, Clandon Park Archaeologist

The offshoots of this early drainage system are aligned with the thin-walled window openings of the current building. This supports our suspicion that Leoni’s 18th century Palladian structure was located on the footprint of the original house.  

Built on solid foundations? 

Interestingly, and rather unusually, the excavations have revealed that Clandon has no foundations. Its immense brick walls simply sit on the chalk bedrock. Despite this the building has already proved it was built to last.

With each investigation we undertake, Clandon reveals more of its secrets. No doubt further revelations await and we’ll keep you posted on our discoveries.