Clandon Park destroyed by fire

April 30 2015

Video: NPAS Redhill

Clandon Park, a National Trust property in Surrey, has been destroyed by fire. The initial reports were that one wing had caught fire, and the BBC is still reporting that 'at least one wing' has been gutted. But as the above aerial footage shows, the entire interior has gone. It seems extraordinary that the fire spread so extensively, and was not able to be controlled, despite the presence of 80 firefighters. Nobody was injured.

It looks, from the image below, that the fire started to the right of the photo. It was reported at about 4pm, and apparently began in the basement.

But soon the whole house was aflame. 

The early 18th Centuryhouse was the home of the Earls of Onslow, and was designed by the Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni. Three members of the Onslow family were Speakers of the House of Commons. From the outside, the house was not one of the most spectacular in Britain, but the interiors were as lavish as any you might find, including the marble hall. 

The house contained many fine treasures, including a state bed.

News reports described items being removed and being placed on the lawn to be 'wrapped in bubble wrap', so happily some things were salvaged. But given the speed with which things happened, doubtless many important works have been lost. Well done to those who were bravely involved in the rescue operation. 

Having a look at the online Your Paintings database, I see the pictures included; a Wright of Derby, a large Zoffany:

And a famous picture by both Hogarth and Thornhill of Speaker Arthur Onslow talking in the Commons to Sir Robert Walpole.

I seem to remember, when I visited a couple of years ago, that there were more pictures than I can see now on the Your Paintings site - perhaps there were further works on loan. 

The last serious fire like this at a Trust property was Uppark, back in 1989. Then, the Trust carried out an extraordinary restoration, and the house was re-opened in 1995. Although the first floor and the garret floor (where the fire started) were destroyed, and collapsed into the ground floor, the walls of the ground floor largely escpaed serious damage, allowing the restoration to go ahead. Looking at the latest photos from Clandon - and the fact that the fire started in the basement - I'm not sure we can expect that this time. What should be done?

Update - a reader tells me that six important paintings by Francis Barlow have been lost, as well as the series of Mortlake tapestries.

Update II - it's as bad as I feared. Dame Helen Ghosh has given a statement saying the house is 'essentially a shell'. More here.


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