The chamber of secrets at Cliveden

The sounding chamber at Cliveden

In 2016, Cliveden marked our 350th anniversary, prompting us to re-open an historic chamber located below the South Terrace for the first time in 30 years. Although the chamber is now closed, you can still help us hypothesise the purpose of this mysterious room...

In 2012, we began a five year, £6 million restoration project on the Grade 1 listed South Terrace to ensure its future. 
 
As part of this project, we removed damaged and peeling rendering from the walls of the chamber. The discovery of hidden funnels in the ceiling and intricate brickwork that had evidently been adapted over time, furthered the mysteries surrounding the chamber’s past. However, the impressive acoustics of the domed space support the theory that the room was used for musical performances.
 

Art Installation

In 2016 contemporary sound artist Robin Rimbaud, alias Scanner, was commissioned to create a musical installation inside the Chamber to encourage visitors to reflect on 350 years of Cliveden’s stories.
 
Scanner said of his piece titled Ghosts: 'I wanted to create a work that draws people in, using music and sounds to paint an image of how Cliveden might have sounded over the last 350 years. 
 
'Music clearly played a key part in the sonic makeup of the building so I created a hypnotic background loop based on a piece of music by Vivaldi. This acts like a glue, holding the piece together, whilst elsewhere you hear elements of opera, Music Hall and even the audience awaiting a concert, chatting away, as the orchestra tunes up. I want people to feel as if at any moment a performance is about to start but is never quite revealed. I want them to see with their ears.
 
" Ghosts is an ode to history, and to an astonishing building. It attempts to capture the grandeur, scale and character of the architecture in a captivating and moving manner."
- Scanner, 2016

An unsolved mystery

Mark Bradshaw, our General Manager, said: 'The 2nd Duke of Buckingham built Cliveden at a time when lavish masques and balls were held. It would be tempting to imagine therefore that this room was always intended to be used for musical recitals, although we can’t say for certain. What we do know is that an inventory from 1849 refers to it as the ‘sounding room’, suggesting that at this time at least it was used for music. 

 
'The two funnels located in one half of the chamber are most intriguing. They were clearly built with a distinct purpose in mind, but whether this was to direct music up into another room of the house or to let light in is unknown. 
 
Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
Looking around the sounding chamber at Cliveden

'We’re also fascinated by the marble floor with its inlaid star. Such impressive marble would have likely been cut on site, requiring a huge amount of effort which no doubt the Duke would have wanted to show off. We’re beginning to explore the significance of the star to see if it reveals anything further about the room.'

The chamber was open in 2016 for a limited time only. Now that restoration work on the section of terrace above the chamber has started, it is no longer accessible.