Salvage in the Saloon at Clandon Park

The saloon at Clandon Park

Robert Maxwell, our project archaeologist, explains more about the ground level salvage taking place at Clandon now that the cranes have removed the large timbers and steelwork from this area of the house. Here he describes what’s happening in the saloon and the archaeological techniques we're using to help recover items

The saloon was originally an impressive entrance hall and more recently a place in which many couples were married. It will be very familiar to many of our visitors and supporters.
 
Sadly, the fire destroyed the wood panelling and collapsed the ceiling, bringing down the burned contents of the floors above. Despite this, the enormous fireplace and chimneypiece has survived largely intact, along with some elements of the frieze which ran around the top of the walls.
The fireplace in the saloon at Clandon Park
The saloon at Clandon Park

On first entering the room the enormity of the job was immediately apparent. We were faced with over a metre of debris, all covered with a jumble of metal and timber fragments.
" On first entering the room the enormity of the job was immediately apparent."
- Robert Maxwell

We divided the room into grid squares and began to work through these one by one, starting from the door on the east side. First, we hand-pick the large pieces of debris. This includes the plasterwork, timber and metal which covered the top of the rubble. Then we trowel through the remaining charcoal, ash and rubble deposit, looking for any surviving material.
 
We’re finding lots of large fragments of the decorated plaster ceiling, much of it retaining significant detail. We’ve been particularly excited to find parts of the figures of Greek Gods and Goddesses which covered the ceiling, as well as large fragments of the frieze.
Plaster fragments from the saloon at Clandon Park
The saloon at Clandon Park

Quite a few objects, particularly metal items, have also been found. We’re using detailed mapping of where individual items in the collection were located in the house, to help us identify these as they’re recovered.
 
The whole process is like a huge, exciting jigsaw. As we discover more throughout the salvage we can slowly fit the pieces together. All this information will be invaluable in helping us to develop future plans.