The Onslow family at Clandon Park - Part 1

A portrait of Elizabeth Knight

The Onslow family have been associated with Clandon Park since 1641. Following their move to Surrey, the family's political fortunes began to grow, as did the house and the huge estate around them.

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 to Guildford, offending James II greatly.
A portrait of Sir Arthur Onslow
A portrait of Sir Arthur Onslow

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. Clandon was built partly with money inherited from Elizabeth Knight’s uncle, who profited from the slave trade. Thomas rebuilt Clandon as a fashionable Palladian mansion, the house we see today.
2nd Lord Onslow, responsible for rebuilding Clandon
A portrait of Thomas, 2nd Lord Onslow

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 embarked on a political career 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.
A portrait of the Great Speaker with Walpole
A portrait of the Great Speaker with Walpole
Arthur’s son George, 4th Lord Onslow, eventually inherited Clandon Park. He commemorated his father and the other Onslow men to hold the position, in the Speakers Parlour. He was made Earl of Onslow and Viscount Cranley by George III in 1801.

A parting of the ways

Thomas, 2nd Earl, was a fun loving eccentric. Like his father he was close to the King, his second wife was a favourite lady in waiting of Queen Charlotte. Unfortunately, Thomas and his son Arthur were cut from very different cloth. They shared a love of poetry but little else.
This mutual dislike eventually exploded in an argument over dinner and Arthur left Clandon for good. When Arthur inherited Clandon in 1827 he simply ordered it to be shut up. He sold the Great Speakers collection of portraits and his library and allowed the estate to fall into disrepair. Having lost his wife and son his only remaining child was his daughter, Lady Augusta, and so the estate passed to his nephew.