The Speakers' Parlour at Clandon Park

A portrait of the Great Speaker with Walpole

The Onslow family have provided three Speakers for the House of Commons over the centuries, each presiding over House debates and maintaining order. These men were celebrated in the Speakers' Parlour, miraculously much of this room survived the recent fire relatively intact.

The three Onslow Speakers

Richard Onslow is often called the Black Speaker and is important not only as the first Onslow Speaker, but also as the link between his family and Surrey by marrying Catherine Hardinge of Knoll in Cranleigh. He became Speaker on October 2nd 1566 and his task was to mediate between Queen Elizabeth and her MPs.
Richard Onslow, Speaker in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
A portrait of Richard Onslow

Lord Richard Onslow III became MP for Guildford in 1679. He was elected Speaker in 1708, at the second attempt. Richard was responsible for improving the old Tudor Clandon Park. It was Richard’s son, Thomas, who was responsible for completely rebuilding Clandon Park in the English Palladian style we see today.
 
Arthur Onslow, later known as the Great Speaker, became secretary to his Uncle Lord Richard III when Richard became Chancellor. Arthur was elected Speaker in 1728 and then unanimously re-elected in 1735, 1741, 1747 and 1754, setting a record for long service. Arthur was an outstanding Speaker, well deserving of the title Great and was widely eulogised when he eventually resigned.
 
 

A fine dining room

The Speakers' Parlour was a celebration of parliamentary achievement and this important family's pride in their ancestry. To celebrate the Onslow earldom in 1801 the new Earl redecorated and refurbished the room. The room remained themed around the Speakers and much of their memorabilia could be seen here right up until the fire in April. 
 
 

Saved from the blaze

We were delighted to discover that, as one of our most important and storied rooms, the Speakers’ Parlour had miraculously survived April's devastating fire almost intact, enabling access to the collections inside.
Firefighters rescue a painting from Clandon Park
Clandon Park fire salvage operation

Objects taken to safety included the ornate ormolu chandelier, a large Turkish carpet dating from the 19th century, the decorative fender from the fireplace and pieces of delicate, gilt-etched glassware. 
The decorative plaster ceiling has been carefully propped up to protect it and the original chimneypiece, designed by Giacomo Leoni, has also survived.
 
Items belonging to the Onslow Speakers such as Sir Richard Onslow’s silver christening mug from 1654 and a State Purse and metal embroidered red State stocking worn by the ‘Great Speaker’ Arthur Onslow were also rescued.
 
All the paintings from the room, including the portraits of Arthur Onslow and Richard Onslow, were rescued on the day of the fire.
 
 

Salvage operation


'We were greatly relieved that the Speakers’ Parlour survived the fire,' said Sophie Chessum, the curator who is leading our conservation team at Clandon Park. 'Three Onslow men held the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, a unique achievement, and to have rescued their portraits is wonderful.'
 
'We're looking forward to re-uniting the three portraits, which had to be cut from their frames on the night of the fire, with their elaborate gilded frames, which were discovered unharmed several days after the fire.’
" Three Onslow men held the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, a unique achievement, and to have rescued their portraits is wonderful."
- Sophie Chessum