Project Curator and Salvage Lead, Clandon Park
Prior to the fire Sophie led a team of National Trust conservation specialists and as a previous curator for Clandon Park she researched and wrote much of the Clandon Park guidebook. Since leading the emergency salvage operation she now advises on the significance and history of the house, its garden and wider setting and the collection.
Having studied art history, I went on to specialise in the English country house; its setting, architecture and the history of its collections. Having been a curator at the National Trust for a number of significant properties, I continued as curator for Ham House in Richmond-upon-Thames whilst leading a team of conservation specialists.
Like so many, I arrived to help on the night of the fire, part of the huge emergency salvage operation. It was a grim experience for so many of us to have to stand by and watch the destruction of a place that was at once a home, an architectural masterpiece, a museum full of remarkable artefacts, and an extraordinary workplace.
I led the salvage and conservation response for the collection immediately after the fire. Once this was safely stored I could focus working with colleagues on the preservation of the historic fabric of the house. Since the emergency response and salvage phase ended, my role now involves advising on the significance and history of all aspects of the historic fabric, garden and collection.
The first five months after the fire were the most challenging. Planning the protection of the house whilst planning the excavation, processing and conserving the collection within the debris was enormously challenging in such extraordinary reactive circumstances. Thankfully I’m part of a supportive and resilient team; we’re well led and focused on our task, comfortable with the constant review and evolution that was necessary as circumstances, knowledge and information changed, hour by hour, day by day.
" Ultimately I’m excited to bring my family to visit a completed Clandon Park, a beautiful building full of beautiful things in a beautiful setting which is relevant and where its significance is understood."
Why is Clandon worth all this hard work and effort? The house is architecturally and historically very significant and this is recognised in its grade I listing. Clandon was given to the National Trust by the Countess of Iveagh for us to preserve, protect and share, so we have a legal and a moral obligation to preserve the house’s significance. The same applies to the collection - we're an accredited museum caring for rare and in some cases unique objects that relate to Clandon Park, its history, its past owners, and for those who generously lent objects to us so that we could share them.
As the salvage phase of our project has ended the next milestone for me is to prepare for and then brief a brilliant architect who will repair, restore and renew the house. Ultimately I’m excited to bring my family to visit a completed Clandon Park, a beautiful building full of beautiful things in a beautiful setting which is relevant, and where its significance is understood.