The history of the building at Claydon

The west front of Claydon House

Claydon House has been the seat of the Verney family since 1620. The present house is almost entirely 18th century having undergone major redevelopment in 1757 and 1771 to rival the nearby manor house at Stowe. Today, only a fragment of the great house is still standing with its magnificent 18th century state rooms and much of the interior woodwork and elaborate carvings found throughout the house are unique to Claydon.

The many faces of Claydon


Ornamental front view

The principle, ornamental front of the house overlooks the park and the lake. It consists of a seven bay, grey stone cut frontage with a terrace that showcases the magnificent location of Claydon house.

North entrance

When you arrive, you'll first come across the imposing north front of the house. It was rebuilt in around 1791 of grey cut stone to replace the damage caused by the demolition of the original rotunda and second wing. You will also find the visitor reception gazebo to the right of the north face of the house.

East wing

The red brick east wing currently houses the private Verney family apartments, our shop and our offices. It overlooks the courtyard to the front and was built on the site of an older Jacobean manor house.

South view

The south view is only accessible from the gardens which remain the private property of the Verney family. For a small, separate entrance fee you can visit the gardens and see the impressive bay widows which adorn this side of Claydon House.

Bespoke architecture


Wood carvings by Luke Lightfoot

Luke Lightfoot was a brilliant and talented stonemason and carver, but not an architect. However, Sir Ralph Verney engaged him as such at Claydon where Lightfoot used his skills to make impressive carvings, most notably in the north hall here at Claydon. He was a very talented carver but not a very trustworthy one and he swindled away a lot of Sir Ralph's money before being dismissed.
Most of the work done by Luke survives today, including the painted wooden carvings in the Chinese Room. All of the wood was painted white, which is believed to be because it was all carved in pine which comes in many shades and discolours over time. Due to the preserving coat of paint you can still see the unique and amazing craftsmanship of the carvings today.
Download Luke Lightfoot's biography (PDF / 0.2MB) download

Sir Thomas Robinson

Sir Thomas was a gentleman architect, politician and collector. He was brought to Claydon by Sir Ralph and he soon discovered the discrepancies in Luke Lightfoot's work. Sir Thomas then instructed plasterer Joseph Rose to continue the decorative works at Claydon. Only two of the ceilings are not wood.
Download Sir Thomas Robinson's biography (PDF / 0.2MB) download

Main staircase by Joseph Rose

Rose was largely involved in the beautiful carvings found in the hall around the main staircase. His work complements the work started by Lightfoot. Rose went on to finish Claydon and work on other great properties around England including Chatsworth in Derbyshire. He was extremely well thought of, and his work was in high demand for the period. One of his descendants volunteers at Claydon today.
Download Joseph Rose's biography (PDF / 0.2MB) download

Ho Ho birds

You’ll find some very good examples of Georgian mouldings of the Ho Ho bird in the house. The Ho Ho bird is mythical creature and the Japanese version of the Phoenix. It is a strange creature with a long beak and a curved neck. It has claws and a flowing tail. It is said that the bird brings good luck and good fortune.