Clandon Park: the salvage has begun

One of the central doorways of the burned-out Marble Hall at Clandon Park, with a bust of an African still in place. ©National Trust/John Millar

One of the central doorways of the burned-out Marble Hall at Clandon Park, with a bust of an African still in place. ©National Trust/John Millar

The devastating fire at Clandon Park the day before yesterday has left the house a burned-out shell. The fire started in the basement of the house and swept rapidly up to the roof and along and down through the building, fanned by a high wind.

Painting of an ostrich by Francis Barlow (c.1626-1704), saved from the Marble Hall at Clandon. Inv. no. 1441454. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Painting of an ostrich by Francis Barlow (c.1626-1704), saved from the Marble Hall at Clandon. Inv. no. 1441454. ©National Trust/John Hammond

This has shocked and saddened us all. But the team at Clandon, local volunteers and other colleagues have been determined to save as much as possible.

The Marble Hall at Clandon following the fire, showing a marble relief by John Michael Rysbrack still over the chimneypiece. ©National Trust/John Millar

The Marble Hall at Clandon following the fire, showing a marble relief by John Michael Rysbrack still over the chimneypiece. ©National Trust/John Millar

In accordance with the emergency procedures, the fire brigade crews were able to take out a number of objects from parts of the building not yet affected, working with the advice and support of National Trust staff.

Speaker Arthur Onslow (1691–1768) presiding over the House of Commons, by Sir James Thornhill (1675–1734) and William Hogarth (1697–1764), 1730, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inventory no. 1441463. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Speaker Arthur Onslow (1691–1768) presiding over the House of Commons, by Sir James Thornhill (1675–1734) and William Hogarth (1697–1764), 1730, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inventory no. 1441463. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The items shown here are among those saved. But until a full inventory check has been done we cannot confirm which items were not saved.

Cast of a classical statue, damaged and blackened but still in situ in the remains of the Marble Hall. ©National Trust/John Millar

Cast of a classical statue, damaged and blackened but still in situ in the remains of the Marble Hall. ©National Trust/John Millar

Teams have already been organised at Clandon and in the region to deal with the next steps.

Bible printed by John Basket in 1716 and 1717, in two volumes, presented by Arthur Onslow to St. Margaret's, Westminster in 1735, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inventory no. 1441240. ©National Trust/Nadia Mackenzie

Bible printed by John Basket in 1716 and 1717, in two volumes, presented by Arthur Onslow to St. Margaret’s, Westminster in 1735, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inventory no. 1441240. ©National Trust/Nadia Mackenzie

When our specialists are able to enter the building, the rubble will be carefully sifted for things than can be salvaged and fragments that could be used in reconstruction.

Rubble inside the remains of Clandon Park. ©National Trust/John Millar

Rubble inside the remains of Clandon Park. ©National Trust/John Millar

The remaining structure of the building will also need to be assessed.

The Clandon state bed, dating from about 1710. Its hangings had recently returned from conservation treatment and were salvaged still in their transport crates. Inv. no. 1440847. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Clandon state bed, dating from about 1710. Its hangings had recently returned from conservation treatment and were salvaged still in their transport crates. Inv. no. 1440847. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Only then can decisions be taken about the future of the house.

The south front of Clandon Park following the fire. ©National Trust/John Millar

The south front of Clandon Park following the fire. ©National Trust/John Millar

But we are heartened by the many expressions of sympathy and support.

Folding screen incorporating Victorian and Edwardian Onslow family photographs, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inv. no. 1440816. ©National Trust Images/Anthony Parkinson

Folding screen incorporating Victorian and Edwardian Onslow family photographs, saved from the Library at Clandon. Inv. no. 1440816. ©National Trust Images/Anthony Parkinson

And we want to thank the crews from the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and neighbouring fire brigades for their professionalism and team-work.

36 Responses to “Clandon Park: the salvage has begun”

  1. meredithbdesign Says:

    I was so saddened by this devastating news and of course, all we can focus on at first is what has been lost….but as time goes on and the great staff and the experts in rebuilding and reclaiming get to work, we will be heartened by all that has been saved….I visited Uppark recently and was amazed at what was able to be done to bring the house back to life…Clandon Park will be restored and all the advances in restoration and conservation will be paart of its resurgence..I can’t wait to see it again.
    Meredith

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you very much for your support and confidence.

  3. andrew.ethna@btinternet.com Says:

    Emile

    Please let us know if the Zoffany and the Wright of Derby were saved along with the other Barlow paintings.
    Many thanks
    Andrew Clegg

  4. Fiona Macalister Says:

    Really tragic to see the images and the scale of destruction and loss, but good to see the images of items that have been saved, including the wonderful ostrich. Good this evening to see the interviews with Alex and Christopher and to hear that the emergency procedures worked well, priority items were salvaged by firefighters with the support of NT staff and that the staff had had a drill only six weeks before. Thank you for posting this information so soon after the fire. Wishing you well in the next phase of recovery.

  5. Fiona Macalister Says:

    I also meant to say that it’s amazing that the beautiful hangings for the state bed were still in their travelling crates, and therefore easier to remove quickly without damage, having recently returned from being conserved. A wonderful survival.

  6. Susan Walter Says:

    I’ve just emailed you, just before I realised you had posted, but I’ll repeat my message here. Everyone must be shocked and exhausted, especially the local staff, but lots of good will come out of this, just like at Uppark. All that emergency training clearly pays off. Knowledge will be gained and people will have an opportunity to shine in difficult circumstances both during the emergency and in the aftermath. It was tremendous luck about the bed hangings (I expect they’ll have to go straight back to the conservator to have the smoke removed 🙂 I hope all those whose weddings were to be held there can be helped to find other venues, but that’s another layer of complexity to add to the work.

  7. columnist Says:

    Like everyone who has heard the news, the devastation of this fire is a truly sad event. I am sure the NT and its expertise will work as hard as possible to restore the Palladian jewel with time, effort and of course money. It is of course heart-rending that some items will be lost. I presume there is still no known reason for the fire starting?

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, I am afraid we are not sure yet about the fate of those paintings.

    Fiona, thank you. Yes it proves once again how important fire drills are. The items recovered were quickly taken under cover and wrapped, in accordance with emergency salvage procedures. And there was also some rapid support from colleagues at English Heritage and I think Historic Royal Palaces who were based nearby.

    Susan, thank you. Yes several colleagues I spoke to had gone to help and had been there all night. There were also lots of offers of help from volunteers and members of the public. As the investigation and salvage continues colleagues with various specialist skills will be drafted in nover the coming weeks and months.

    Columnist, thank you. At the moment the cause of the fire is not yet known, although it is thought to have started in the basemement. The investigation into that and the salvage work will happen in tandem.

  9. Ngaire Wadman Says:

    If the Barlow Ostrich was rescued, then hopefully its companion piece, the Rhea, will also have survived. The State Bed curtains were still in their crates by sheer happy chance. I hope the bed canopy survived – I see the matching chairs did. Thank the Gods the two massive paintings on the Stone Staircase (one a Barlow) were away for restoration! I’m a steward there and have a fairly encyclopaedic memory for objects and locations. The things I’m most concerned about are the scagliola table and portraits of the Earls in the Earls of Onslow room upstairs, and the portraits of Dicky Duck-legs and Elizabeth Knight from the Palladio room.
    So sad that Huia’s kiwi-feather cloak may have perished, and the incredibly rare and priceless stuffed birds from Australasia.

  10. Ngaire Wadman Says:

    The volunteer stewards are wanting to help, don’t forget. We share a deep love for Clandon and need to be involved, to mourn this properly.

  11. Ngaire Wadman Says:

    Does enough remain of the wonderful Uppark restoration exhibition to display it at Clandon in future, to encourage visitors? Could it be amplified with items from Clandon?

  12. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Ngaire, this must be particularly sad for someone like you, and the other volunteers, who knows Clandon so well and love it so much. I will foreward your offer of help, although I am sure the colleagues at Clandon are already thinking about how to involve the dedicated community of volunteers in the recovery work.

    I am afraid I don’t have any definite news yet about the fate of other objects – I expect more information will be given when it becomes available.

    I think the exhibition about the Uppark fire and reconstruction was dismantled some years ago. But certainly it will be important to show the public what we are doing at Clandon and how things are developing. Indeed this blog post is a – very small – contribution towards that.

  13. Zack Says:

    I am another one saddened by the news of the fire at Clandon. It’s one of those places I’ve been intending to visit for a long time but, not being immediately local, never got round to. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t fully aware of the house’s historical importance until I read about the damage in the news.

    A lot of thanks must be given to the firemen and volunteers who braved the fire to save as much as possible and I can only wish everyone in the NT the best of luck with returning Clandon to its former glory.

    I must use this space, though, to stress the importance of fitting sprinklers to these jewels of Britain’s history. I am aware of the complications regarding modifying listed buildings, but it is surely much better to allow some slight modernisation than risk a repeat of the terrible events seen at Uppark and now Clandon.

    • Philip Houldershaw Says:

      Zack, I couldn’t agree with you more on the subject of sprinkler systems. In fact, I would have thought it would have been law by now. Surely these treasured houses should have all the protection they can get? And to your point Emile, surely this latest tragedy is a perfect example of how ‘potential water damage to the fabric and collections’ is a lot better than a burnt out shell.

      I hope the Nation will come together to help restore this gem of a property.

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Zack. I am not sure what our position is on sprinkler systems in historic buildings. The potential for massive water damage to the fabric and the collections in the case of false alarms might be one drawback. But I will check with colleagues and let you know.

  15. Steven Says:

    Deeply saddened by the news about Clandon Park. I had the pleasure of visiting the great house a couple of years ago. I am wondering what has happened to the stunning Zoffany usually in the Palladio Room, and the beautiful Wright of Derby pendants in the Green Drawing Room. Also, if any of Mrs Gubbay’s porcelain, particularly the beautiful Chinese Birds, was saved?

    Further, is there any news of the State Bed, (I understand most of the hangings are safe), as well as Barlow’s Cassowary in the Marble Hall, and Knyff’s birds-eye view painting of Jacobean Clandon? These are just so important to the house’s story. I am hoping for some good news. I wish you well at this very difficult time and hope, like Uppark, Clandon Park will rise again.

  16. Ray White Says:

    Good that no one was hurt. I’m just sad that everyone had to be evacuated as soon as the fire was detected. I would gladly have risked death or serious injury to attack the fire before it got out of control but we have a culture of safety first these days. What happened to the Dunkirk spirit? Far more could have been saved if people were allowed to take risks. Instead, valuable time is wasted waiting for the fire Brigade who are equally risk averse with “health and Safety” rules. But it doesn’t stop there. We are told that the water pressure dropped. Couldn’t the fire appliances have pumped water from the pond next to the house?
    I can appreciate the risks of fitting sprinklers but in my opinion there should at least be powerful fire hoses on each floor of large historic houses that staff could operate to save the buildings that mean so much to them.
    Give them a chance N.T. or is bravery too controversial these days?

  17. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Ray, I understand you are upset, but let’s not get carried away. Human life is always more valuable than material objects. We should be thankful that nobody was hurt, and that the fire crews did manage to save a significant number of objects, under difficult circumstances.

  18. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    A blog post from the colleagues at Polesden Lacey, many of whom have gone to help out at Clandon: http://bit.ly/1GTzlKb

  19. trewinb Says:

    Many thanks for your report on this tragic event. Having practised as an architect in Canada for many years, I have to emphasize the importance of fire-stopping in containing the spread of such fires. Unstopped wall cavities act as chimneys to accelerate the damage.

    At Uppark much time was lost debating the ‘ethics’ of reconstruction. Hopefully the success at Uppark will help us to leapfrog this discussion and get on with reconstruction.

  20. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes the investigation into how the fire started and how it spread is now underway. The structural condition of the walls is also being checked. It will take some time to properly assess all that and to consider what the options are.

    I understand your point about minimising ‘chimney’ effects. Unfortunately we cannot always use the full panoply of modern fire prevention methods in historic buildings.

    You cannot really replace a paneled mahogany door in a state room with a modern fire door. Equally, as historic structures are relatively porous and need to ‘breathe’ to a certain extent, you cannot always stop up all of the cavities, as that would lead to chronic damp problems.

    But of course some fire prevention methods can still be taken, even in a historic building, and all that will be part of the ongoing investigations and discussions.

  21. kshand72 Says:

    I was so saddened to hear of the dreadful destruction caused to this wonderful place! It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear of the loss of a masterpeice and the beautiful treasures inside. Hopefully Clandon can be restored as Uppark House was. Out of something so tragic hopefully something good may happen and skilled craftsmen may be able to demonstrate their abilities and possibly train apprentices and give others a modern day insight into fantastic skills which are unfortunately in danger of being lost.Stucco plasterwork, ornate carving and stonework etc.
    I truly wish you all the best and hopefully there may be some better news soon.

  22. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you very much for your support.

  23. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I have been given a bit more information about our fire prevention practices, which may answer some of the questions raised above:

    Our historic houses are protected by fire alarms of varying types, and the specific type of alarm used is determined by an assessment of the fire risk at each individual property. We generally have a presumption against sprinklers, as these can cause extensive damage to collections, especially if it turns out to be a false alarm. However, they are not ruled out, it all depends on the circumstances.

    Most of the fire alarms at historic houses are linked to remote monitoring centres which automatically alert the emergency services in the event of an alarm. Each property has a fire log book with details of the alarm system and records of individual drills and tests. Our staff and volunteers receive fire safety training and we also provide salvage training to help protect the collections in the case of a fire (or another threat such as flooding). In addition, we have a ‘hot works’ permit system to control and monitor any maintenance work which may carry a fire risk.

  24. Andrew Says:

    Thanks, Emile. Like many areas of life, the question of sprinklers is one of balancing different risks – the risk of water damage versus the risk of fire damage.

    It must be possible to find a sprinkler system that will only be switched on when a fire is confirmed, not automatically when a fire alarm goes off, and possibly divided into zones so only the area that is actually on fire is sprinkled?

    Obviously no-one wants fire damage *or* water damage. Is the risk assessment that catastrophic fire damage every few decades (Dunsland, Coleshill, Florence Court, Uppark, Clandon, etc) is better than water damage possibly more often?

  25. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes indeed Andrew, it is about balancing different risks. The investigation into the fire at Clandon has started, but it is too early to draw any conclusions.

  26. Tony Piers-Gaunt Says:

    I am getting old now but i hope i live long enough to see it reopen all as good as new.

  27. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Tony.

  28. Andrew Says:

    I see some items have been found in the ruins. http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/clandon-park-fire-regimental-colours-10052383

    Any update on progress in the last 6 months? When might we expect a report?

  29. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, work is continuing, but I haven’t been given any major updates jut recently. Some news can be found on the Clandon web pages: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clandon-park

  30. Andrew Says:

    I understand there are ambitious plans for a partial restoration of the main rooms, with new facilities upstairs. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/news/a-new-life-for-clandon and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35345238

  31. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks!

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