A new life for Clandon

Published : 18 Jan 2016 Last update : 17 Feb 2016

We have ambitious plans for Clandon Park which will honour its rich history but also create vibrant, modern spaces to breathe new life into the house.

The 18th-century mansion was hit by a devastating fire in April 2015, but despite suffering extensive damage, many significant historic features survived. More than 400 items were rescued and more are being recovered from the ashes.

Major architectural features survived such as fireplaces, panelling and decorative plasterwork including the magnificent marble chimney pieces and overmantels by the renowned sculptor John Michael Rysbrack in the Marble Hall.

One of Clandon’s most important rooms – the Speakers’ Parlour – suffered only minor damage in the blaze and the entire external structure of the house as conceived by its Venetian architect remains in place.

Restoration plans

Given their historic and cultural significance, and the fact so many original features have survived, we believe we should restore the magnificent state rooms on the ground floor – the most architecturally important and beautiful rooms.

Significant features survived in the Marble Hall at Clandon Park
Marble Hall features that survived at Clandon Park
Significant features survived in the Marble Hall at Clandon Park

Recent research has also given us an insightful picture of the original 18th-century gardens, and so resources permitting, we also hope to bring those back to life in the spirit of a project that will both look back to the best of the past and create an exciting future.

We will be discussing our restoration plans with specialists and a number of conservation bodies during 2016.

Creating new spaces

The first and second floors of the house collapsed during the fire and were completely destroyed.

Although they could be restored from visual records, they were less architecturally significant and had been considerably altered over the centuries.


Our vision for Clandon

Hear about the future plans for the restoration and re-build of Clandon from Sophie Chessum, Project Curator and Salvage Lead.

Our proposal is for the upper floors to be transformed to create flexible spaces which could be used for exhibitions, events and performances, and we will hold a competition later this year to find the right architect to bring this space alive in a bold and imaginative way.

Members, visitors, specialists and the general public will be encouraged to get involved and comment on a short-list of design options.

Considering the options

For nine months, we reviewed a number of options for Clandon, ranging from leaving it as a ruin to a full restoration. We looked carefully at the architectural significance of what had survived the fire, the items salvaged from the building and what was technically possible within it. 

We also applied a set of criteria, based on the charity’s core purpose, to guide our thinking. This included: ensuring Clandon Park remained open and accessible to the public; reflected Clandon’s historic and cultural significance; and generated enough income to maintain its long-term conservation.

" Our plans involve returning parts of the house to its 18th-century glory whilst at the same time creating a building of beauty and relevance for the 21st century."
- Helen Ghosh, former Director-General

A new heritage

'This marks an exciting new chapter in the Clandon story, and will represent one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the National Trust,' said our director-general Helen Ghosh.

'The fire at Clandon was shocking, but gives us the opportunity not only to show our respect for the heritage of the past, but also to create new heritage for the future.  

'Our plans involve returning parts of the house to its 18th-century glory whilst at the same time creating a building of beauty and relevance for the 21st century.

Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall
Clandon Park's statue damage
Statue of Venus in the Marble Hall

'The loss of so many of the contents of the house means that we cannot return it to how it looked the day before the fire. However, we now know more about the original layout and recognise that the enduring significance of the house is its architecture and so will look carefully at how we could return it to the 18th century design – making it a purer, more faithful version of Clandon as it was when it was first built.

'This element of the project will also enable us to draw on the wealth of expertise within the Trust and beyond to utilise traditional skills which are in grave danger of being lost.

'In the floors above, we can approach the design with more freedom and adapt the space, both architecturally and in its function, so that we can use it for exhibitions and events that bring our treasures and stories to a wide range of audiences.

The cost of the project is expected to be met largely through our insurance policy – although not in its entirety. Once our plans are at a more advanced stage, we will be asking our supporters for help.