Surrey

Clandon Park House fire: Investigation 'will take time'

Clandon House damping down Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption The National Trust is due to meet structural engineers to assess the safety of the building

The investigation into the cause of a fire that ravaged Clandon Park House "will take some time" owing to its complexity, Surrey fire service said.

The blaze at the Grade I listed National Trust property near Guildford on Wednesday left the structure gutted.

Structural assessments of the building are continuing and will inform what happens to the 18th Century mansion in the future.

The trust said it was too early to discuss a restoration of Clandon.

But a "significant amount" of the Palladian mansion's collection had been saved according to Dame Helen Ghosh, the trust's director general.

'Shock and loss'

"Although the house was pretty well burned out, the operation rescued a significant amount of the collection, and we are hopeful there will be more to recover when our specialists are able to get inside the building and start the painstaking archaeological salvage work," she said.

"But there is a lot that we will never recover."

"The immediate sense of shock and loss amongst staff working at the property has quickly been replaced by a steely determination," Dame Helen added.

"When the overall impact of the fire is clearer, we will be able to decide on the longer term future of the house."

About 80 firefighters tackled the blaze at its height and crews managed to save a "significant" number of valuable antiques, that have now been "safely" put into storage.

A spokesman for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said: "The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing but due to the complexity of the incident this will take some time to complete."

The house contained a highly prized Baroque marble hall and valuable collections of 18th Century furniture and porcelain.

'Glimmer of hope'

Items that have been saved include:

  • A painting depicting speaker Arthur Onslow calling upon Sir Robert Walpole to speak in the House of Commons by Sir James Thornhill and William Hogarth.
  • An 18th Century board listing the rules to be observed in the servants' hall.
  • A bible printed by John Basket in 1716-1717
  • Silver, including some pieces by silversmith Paul Storr.

Parts of the hall remain intact and there is "a glimmer of hope" it could be restored, according to Christopher Rowell, who oversaw the restoration of Uppark House after a blaze in 1989.

Mr Rowell, now the National Trust's furniture curator, added: "There is a pile of debris in the central doorway which indicates there is plenty of material we may be able to sift through and find interesting things.

"It was covered with a fantastic ceiling, with wonderful plasterwork. All of that has collapsed to the floor."

He said two marble chimney pieces on either side of the hall had survived the fire.

Image caption Two chimney pieces have survived in the marble hall
Image copyright NAtional Trust
Image caption Some original pieces survive in the rubble, the National Trust says
Image copyright NAtional Trust
Image caption The National Trust expects it to take several days to damp down Clandon Park House
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The antiques salvaged from the fire have been catalogued in storage

Uppark fire

Mr Rowell said: "We have an expert who did the work at Uppark 25 years ago and replaced the ceilings, incorporating original material."

Uppark House, near Chichester in West Sussex, was devastated by a fire in August 1989, days before a restoration was due to be completed.

A fire broke out while workmen were using a blowtorch to repair lead flashing on the roof.

The building was restored by the trust and reopened in 1995.

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