Stephen Castle

Senior Project Manager, Clandon Park

Stephen Castle - Senior Project Manager, Clandon Park

Stephen joined the National Trust in 2014 following a career spent managing large scale construction projects and teams of consultants in the commercial sector. A member of the team at Clandon Park since early 2016, Stephen is the Senior Project Manager on one of the largest and most complex projects the National Trust has ever set out to achieve.

The Project Team in the Marble Hall at Clandon Park, Surrey

Project management begins with forming and assembling an internal and external team, working out the best approach to achieve our organisational aims and then managing the delivery of that.

On a project like Clandon Park it’s a mixture of people management and technical considerations. A large proportion of our work requires people to carry out tasks which we need to manage. On the technical side, you need a good knowledge of how big construction projects work. The job is a mixture of planning, co-ordinating, managing, motivating, directing and leading; it’s like a complex recipe with lots of different pots to keep an eye on.

The coming year

The first half of 2019 is focused on continuing our current work with the feasibility study for the restoration of Clandon. The word feasibility suggests: can this or can’t this be done, but actually it’s not quite like that. There’s usually a number of different ways of doing something. A feasibility study is really about looking at our options and deciding how we’re going to achieve what our brief sets out. 

In our case, thanks to the International Design Competition, we have initial design ideas and the feasibility study involves testing those proposals in more detail. We’re now looking in depth at the logistics, how we’re going to do the actual physical work, which in turn allows us to consider how long the project will take and how much it will cost. 

" It’s so important for everyone to understand that, although the new spaces are exciting, we need to balance that by making certain that we’re protecting what’s already special about the house and its gardens. "
- Stephen Castle, Senior Project Manager

At the same time we’re doing an assessment of the collection. We’re looking at the significance of all the saved and salvaged collection items, allowing us to prioritise what we conserve. We’re also continuing to look at the visitor experience, both the visitor offer that we might have during the project phase and then the visitor experience after the rebuild. 

Previous work

I’m a chartered surveyor and also did a post-graduate qualification in building conservation. I was a director at Jones Lang LaSalle, an international property advisor, where I was managing large scale construction projects and a team of consultants. I didn’t want to continue working on the commercial side; I wanted to do more than that. I felt that my values and interests had become more focused on historic buildings and the not-for-profit sector really appealed to me.

I joined the National Trust in October 2014 and began working at Cliveden on the South Terrace project. I did that for just over a year by which time the fire at Clandon Park had happened and I joined the project in early 2016 at the point where it transitioned from disaster response into a large scale project to rebuild and restore the house. 

New experiences

Coming into a situation where people have been living and breathing it 24 hours a day for almost a year can be really challenging. Every big project begins with uncertainty and there’s often a moment of self-doubt where you wonder if you can comprehend everything or if it’s just too complicated. However, I’ve always found that when you get to working on something on a daily basis, everything soon becomes familiar. At the same time it’s a project that has the eyes of the world on it and a building that’s close to all our hearts, so that brings with it a little more pressure. 

I’ve worked on projects of a similar size in the commercial sector, but Clandon is the most complex that I’ve been a part of. The building we’re working on is very special, it’s Grade I listed, it’s open to visitors, there’s a historic collection and it involves an insurance claim. All those extra elements make it more complicated but also make it more interesting. 

Rewarding moments

I’m so pleased with the appointment of Allies and Morrison as the lead architect, Purcell as the conservation architect and Robert Myers Associates as the landscape architect, who make up our core design team. I think we’ve got a fantastic team with design flair, technical ability and vast heritage experience, but who are also able to work collaboratively in a positive and constructive way. 

We set out our conservation policies clearly in advance of the International Design Competition and gave the architects a good understanding of what’s special about Clandon Park. Since then we’ve built on that work through really positive discussions with our design team. It’s so important for everyone to understand that, although the new spaces are exciting, we need to balance that by making certain that we’re protecting what’s already special about the house and its gardens. 

A fantastic team with design flair, technical ability and vast heritage experience
The Project Team at Clandon Park, Surrey
A fantastic team with design flair, technical ability and vast heritage experience

Being able to pull together a great team and then working with them really is the best part of my job. As a Project Manager, the opportunity to help create an environment in which those experts can flourish and do their best work in a collaborative and open way (whilst enjoying it at the same time) really is the dream.
We’ve all got the same goal but that goal is not an easy one to achieve. That feeling of striving to achieve the same thing brings us all together and you get to know people better. 

Clandon in the future

I want to see different types of people with the opportunity to connect with Clandon Park in their own way. Of course I want to see people enjoying the place, but actually it’s not all just about simple enjoyment. There are so many different emotions that a place with Clandon Park’s history could convey. If you visit right now, it could stoke feelings of excitement about building something new but it could also be about sadness and the loss caused by the fire. It’s a complex place, a complex project and it will inevitably provoke complex feelings.

I want to protect what’s special about Clandon Park but also create something that’s awe-inspiring. I want visitors to be excited about the building they’re going into, both for the amazing restoration of some areas and also the sensitive reimagining of those new spaces. Everyone is different, everyone has their own enthusiasms and passions and I’d like to see Clandon connecting with as many different types of people as possible.

Lastly, I want the rebuilt Clandon Park to be sustainable and able to support itself. It will have a great new life, allowing visitors to engage and connect with it all year round, so that it can last well into the future and be enjoyed for generations to come.