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Artefacts saved from mansion blaze

Published 01/05/2015

Fire crews taking a break after their efforts to tackle the Clandon Park blaze
Fire crews taking a break after their efforts to tackle the Clandon Park blaze

A "significant amount" of the collection has been saved during a salvage operation at fire-hit Clandon Park, the National Trust has said.

Fire crews continued to damp down following the blaze which left one of Britain's finest Palladian mansions, housing a stunning collection of 18th Century furniture, porcelain and textiles, as a burnt-out shell.

Only one room in the Grade-I listed mansion near Guildford, Surrey, is believed to have been left relatively untouched by Wednesday afternoon's inferno.

But, as staff assess what has been lost and as the future of Clandon Park remains unclear, the National Trust released details of some of the objects that survived the blaze.

Among the items saved was a painting depicting Speaker Arthur Onslow calling upon Sir Robert Walpole to speak in the Commons, by Sir James Thornhill and William Hogarth.

Also retrieved was an 18th Century board listing the rules to be observed in the servants' hall in Clandon, and a Francis Barlow painting of an ostrich in a classical landscape.

The National Trust said a Bible printed by John Basket in 1716-1717, from the library, and a folding screen incorporating Victorian and Edwardian Onslow family photographs have also survived.

In addition, silver, including pieces by noted silversmith Paul Storr, from the Speaker's Parlour, and a set of hall chairs with the Onslow crest, from Clandon's Marble Hall, were saved.

A National Trust spokesman said that it could not confirm which objects failed to survive the fire until a full assessment had been completed.

The Trust's director-general, Dame Helen Ghosh, said: "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. 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"The immediate sense of shock and loss amongst staff working at the property has quickly been replaced by a steely determination. The team at Clandon, staff from other properties and local volunteers, have responded with tremendous fortitude, calmness and professionalism to the event.

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

Dame Helen praised the "awe-inspiring" job of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, and said they have been touched by offers of support, concern and goodwill from across the country.

Around 80 firefighters tackled the blaze at its height, after staff and volunteers had been safely evacuated when the alarm was raised just after 4pm.

The fire is believed to have started in the basement before spreading through voids to the roof space. Fire officials have refused to confirm speculation that an electrical fault might have caused it.

Clandon Park - which featured in the 2008 drama The Duchess starring Keira Knightley - is a popular wedding venue and the fire has disrupted the plans of some of those hoping to hold their big day there.

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