It was the 29th April 2015 and news started to come in – Clandon Park near Guildford was on fire. Beautiful Clandon Park – a Grade I listed mansion. But there’s good news – Clandon is being rebuilt.
Clandon Park is a mansion near West Clandon, near Guildford. On the 29th April 2015 a fire gutted the mansion, all bar one room. The fire started in the basement and spread to the upper floors.
Fortunately several things were saved and retrieved before the fire took hold. However, a lot was lost – including the inside of the house. Clandon Park is just a shell.
As National Trust members, we’ve combined Clandon Park and nearby Hatchlands Park in a single visit. When H was a baby Clandon was the better of the two for little legs. It has now reopened, and things are changing.
From January 2019 work will begin on restoring Clandon. The ground floor will be as close as possible to how it was, with the upper floors having an exhibition area which will continually change. On the top floor there’s talk of a dining area with spectacular views across the Surrey Hills.
We were given hard hats and hi-vis vests and had a look inside the house.
There is a walkway through a section of the house, and it’s fascinating. Obviously it goes without saying it would be better the fire never happened, though because it did, the people who volunteer at Clandon have learned so much about how the house was built.
For example, in the Royal Chamber; a room which was always ready for any passing Kings or Queens to stay, should they need to; it was discovered the walls had several layers. Initially wood was nailed into the walls which were then covered in hessian. Wallpaper was placed over that, leaving what everyone saw up to 2015. But now you can see the layers underneath.
How about some 1930s fireproofing? There is a tiny section which hangs across the upper floor. Sadly ironic, it’s the only part which still stands up there.
Incredibly, the marble fireplaces remain intact. The staff at Clandon Park found that pillars thought to be marble were in fact painted to look that way – and were just plaster. On the first floor statues (again, marble) are intact. You can see smaller fireplaces which survived as well.
What H thought would be a boring hour or two ended up being a really fascinating hour or two. Seeing the structure of the house, how thick the walls are and seeing where wood and stone staircases once were is really interesting.
If you visit Hatchlands Park, I’d recommend a trip to Clandon Park as well. It’s just up the road, the grounds are open too. I wish it wasn’t interesting and that we were visiting as normal (the cafe in the basement was always one of our favourite National Trust ones), but love that H came away asking different questions about the build of the house.
In the gardens we spotted loads of newts in the pond in the Dutch Garden – with the glorious sunshine it was a lovely day to get out and enjoy being outdoors. Looking across the bulb meadow to the house there was a hint of sadness, though knowing things will change in the coming years means this view will happen again.
To visit Clandon Park, please check their opening times. You can turn up to visit the house, you don’t need to pre-book. Spending money at Clandon Park also helps vital funds needed for this rebuilding project.