What is Clandon Park?

The Marble Hall at Clandon Park, Surrey

Clandon Park is a modern ruin. In 2015 a huge fire ripped through the Palladian mansion, destroying the upper floors and roof, and gutting the house. But the strong brick walls survived, and today Clandon Park is cloaked in scaffolding, sheltered from the wind and rain. Come inside and you’ll discover the bones of a great mansion stripped bare.

The house won’t stay this way for long because we’re working on plans to remake Clandon Park. A visit today reveals a vital moment in the house’s history, before the house closes to the sky.

Before the fire 

Clandon Park was one of the country’s most complete examples of a Palladian mansion. Built for the Onslow family in the 1720s, the house featured magnificent interiors with original ceilings and marble fireplaces. Given to us in 1956, the house was re-presented in the late 1960s to showcase a collection of furniture, porcelain and textiles.

The south front and parterre at Clandon Park before the fire
The south front and parterre at Clandon Park before the fire
The south front and parterre at Clandon Park before the fire

Fire at Clandon Park

In April 2015, a fire broke out. Everyone was evacuated from the building but the fire caused significant damage, effectively leaving the house a shell full of ash and debris. We immediately put together a core project team drawing from the wealth of expertise within the National Trust to begin to plan a way forward. 

Starting from scratch

In the 18 months that followed the fire, a huge salvage operation took place, slowly but surely removing huge timbers, dangling metal and pieces of rubble, to discover precious collection objects hidden in the ash. We protected the house from wind and rain with a huge scaffolding cocoon and temporary roof. Such a precise and fundamental support for the house took eight months to design, procure and install. 

A future for Clandon Park

In 2016 we announced that Clandon would be rebuilt in some shape or form. The house would come back to life. Rather than a straightforward restoration, the unique circumstances at Clandon Park have demanded a new direction. We’re creating a hybrid space, both old and new, unlike any other National Trust place. We’re working with award winning architects Allies and Morrison who will lead a design team including Purcell, our conservation architects, to help us to do this carefully and sympathetically.

Complex challenges

As one of the UK’s biggest heritage projects, there’s a lot to consider and get right. Working with a damaged building like Clandon Park requires great care and patience. At every stage we must act thoughtfully and sensitively to ensure we are making the right decisions for the house’s future. The varying levels of fire damage at Clandon Park make the process even more complicated, so our designs must evolve as we respond to our growing knowledge of the building and its challenges.

Where are we now?

Like many areas of the Trust’s work, the Clandon Park project was paused for much of 2020 due to Coronavirus. The project has now re-started, but the pause has caused significant delay to all aspects of our work and we face many logistical challenges caused by necessary Coronavirus restrictions. 

Fire damaged spaces at the heart of Clandon Park
The fire damaged building at Clandon Park, Surrey
Fire damaged spaces at the heart of Clandon Park

A two-and-a-half-year programme of conservation repairs has now begun at Clandon Park. Using craft techniques rarely seen today, the repairs will help to preserve the fire-damaged structure for generations to come.

This major conservation work follows debris clearance, research and investigation, and essential maintenance. A small team of expert brick and stone conservators have set to work investigating the most sensitive way to repair damage in the surviving external walls, chimney stacks and balustrade.

In the first phase this will focus mainly on an area in the south-east corner of the house. Thousands of new bricks will be made by traditional family brickmakers over two years which carefully match the colour and texture of those made by local brickmakers 300 years ago. Repairing this damage is a crucial step in our long-term project to bring the house back to life.

At the same time, we’re fine-tuning the masterplan for Clandon, working with experts in areas from fire safety and sustainability to programming and accessibility. One of the project’s key principles is collaboration, so we’re talking and listening with people as we hone our designs and ideas. We’ll be sharing our proposals with you as soon we can.

Explore the house

Often a project like this happens behind closed doors, but we’ve kept the house open for people to explore as we work on our plans. Keeping a building safe and accessible after a major fire is no mean feat but we’ve slowly revealed more and more of Clandon Park and welcomed over 75,000 visitors since the fire. 

In 2021, from March until the end of September, the garden at Clandon Park will be open to provide a small green space for our community. You can visit every day between 11am and 4pm. There’s no need to book a ticket, but parking is limited. The visitor reception building and toilets will remain closed on garden only open days. We ran weekly guided tours of the house between May and August 2021. These tours have now finished for this year but we hope to able to repeat the experience for those wanting to visit the house, beginning in spring 2022.