Progress at Clandon Park

PUBLISHED: 13:40 28 March 2018

A ground floor room showing extensive fire damage at Clandon Park, Surrey _National Trust Images, Andreas von Einsiedel

A ground floor room showing extensive fire damage at Clandon Park, Surrey _National Trust Images, Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Following a competition to find a new architect for Clandon Park, which was devastated by fire three years ago, Allies and Morrison was appointed to breathe life back into this much-loved local landmark. Claire Saul finds out what’s in store for the National Trust building on the outskirts of Guildford

Flame-scorched, hollowed and roofless, Clandon Park is still an eerie sight three years after the fateful blaze of April 29, 2015, but be in no doubt that a beating heart remains. Clandon’s dedicated team is working tirelessly to ensure that the National Trust property will rise again to be appreciated and enjoyed by our generation and many more to come.

Enough remains in situ, or has been salvaged, to ensure that up to four-fifths of the Palladian mansion’s important and celebrated state rooms on the ground floor can be restored to their 18th century glory, including the Marble Hall, the State Bedroom and the Speakers’ Parlour.

Last year, an international design competition sought to appoint the right company for this considerable task and the re-imagination of Clandon’s less historically important rooms for a 21st century audience.

From 60 entries and a shortlist of six finalists, leading UK architects Allies and Morrison was the unanimous choice of a jury representing the fields of heritage, architecture and the arts, including Dame Penelope Keith, local resident and president of the National Trust West Surrey supporter group. The jury’s decision embraced feedback from the local community and from 500 comment cards received from the 3,000 visitors, who viewed the six design concepts displayed in the grounds for several weeks last year.

Clandon Park roof with scaffolding _ National Trust Images, James DobsonClandon Park roof with scaffolding _ National Trust Images, James Dobson

Allies and Morrison’s portfolio boasts many prestigious buildings, including World Heritage sites and Grade I-listed buildings. Locally they have worked on the regeneration of Guildford and on smaller-scale projects such as Richmond gallery, One Paved Court. Partner Paul Appleton says that the company is “delighted” to be working on Clandon Park with the National Trust.

“When we started to look at Clandon, we were just struck straightaway by two opposite reactions,” says Paul. “The sense of yes, destruction, but also the sense of continuity. You could really see the character and history of the building. While the principal rooms on the ground floor had been very much intact, the upper floors of the house had been changed over the years and compromised and now after the fire, it is possible to see the evidence of what had been before and how Clandon was actually built. The walls each have a story of their own. You can see where the bricklayer was working really precisely and also where he got bored.

“There is an amazing amount that can be read from the building and I think that partly what we have to do is to allow the evidence of what has been discovered to show through. The architecture is all going to come out of the story.”

Looking up through the fire damaged building at Clandon Park, Surrey _National Trust Images, Andreas von EinsiedelLooking up through the fire damaged building at Clandon Park, Surrey _National Trust Images, Andreas von Einsiedel

The architects are working closely with the National Trust, conservation architects Purcell, structural engineer Price & Myers and services engineer Max Fordham. A landscape architect will be appointed after further consultation with the National Trust. Final designs can be expected by early 2019 in what will be a major milestone for the project which is – tentatively – looking at a 2023 completion date.

“For Clandon we will look at what is there now, what was there previously and the evidence of the original building and then make a judgement in each case,” explains Paul. “So, for example, in the Marble Hall, an enormous amount of the ceiling has been salvaged. Also, it was an absolutely pivotal and iconic room so with the balance between the evidence, the fabric that was saved and the importance of the space, it would be madness not to substantially restore that room. The room itself tells us: ‘Do that.’

“Other less important and completely destroyed rooms require a different approach. So they will become a servant of the whole. Our approach will be to try and be effective as possible with as little as possible, so still recovering the character and the memory of the building but also having something that functions really well as, for example, a gallery, an exhibition room or a restaurant, which can still feel like quite a contemporary space. It must reflect the moment that it is and the use it will be put to, but while keeping the memory of the building alive in people’s experience.”

Reflecting on this recent milestone in the project, Clandon Park project director Paul Cook says: “Each phase of the project has been so interesting. The salvage phase was fascinating, although incredibly hard work and complicated. The competition phase has enabled a level of engagement with both the design communities, specialists and the community we have never had before and now we are in this planning phase, which is where we really set the project up for success. Then of course we will have the construction phase itself.

“The whole piece, restoration and reinterpretation of Clandon Park, has got to work together seamlessly, you can’t look at any on element of it in isolation. It is an incredibly complex project.”

South and East Fronts, Clandon Park _ National Trust Images, John MillerSouth and East Fronts, Clandon Park _ National Trust Images, John Miller

“We continue to make new discoveries about Clandon Park,” says project curator Sophie Chessum. “From the Speakers’ Parlour, which largely survived the fire, we have been closely studying the wallpaper panels. Originally it would have been a wood-panelled room, but as interior fashions or tastes changed, a scrim (canvas layer) was nailed over it and paper would then be pasted onto this flat surface. Additional layers of wallpaper would be added over time. We’ve discovered that in-between the yellow top layer, hung in 1907, and the green paper dating from the 1860s – previously visible under the room’s big, heavy picture frames because the yellow wallpaper had just been applied around them – was a third wallpaper. This has been identified as the arts and crafts style ‘Genoese’ design by Watts & Co. Additional, earlier paper layers found on the scrim panels of two walls have also allowed us to identify colour schemes from the early 1800s.

“It is unlikely we’ll be able to place the fragile, fire-damaged top yellow wallpaper back into the room. The question we are currently addressing is which one of the five historic wallpaper schemes we have identified is the right one to re-present for Clandon now?”

Clandon Park is open Thurs to Sun and bank holidays from March 29-October 28. Tel: 01483 222482 Web: nationaltrust.org.uk/clandon-park

Marble Hall pre-fire _ National Trust Images, Anthony ParkinsonMarble Hall pre-fire _ National Trust Images, Anthony Parkinson

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