Tag Archives: 18th century

Witness Clandon Park Rising From the Ashes

The exquisite Marble Hall, pictured in the National Trust image above, was the entrance to Clandon Park, a Palladian mansion built in 1720 by a Venetian architect. 

The house, near Guildford in Surrey, about an hour from London, was considered the finest and most complete example of the Palladian style in Britain.

Then in 2015, a disastrous fire took the roof and damaged or destroyed much of the contents and decor – including the lovely marble entrance hall and the saloon, pictured below.

Clandon Saloon before the fire.
The Saloon at Clandon Park, Surrey, before the 2015 fire. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Restoration work got underway almost immediately and now you can visit Clandon Park to learn about how the house is being restored and reimagined and see the current state of play. 

Before work even began, experts recorded every inch of the house with 22,000 digital images. If you are interested in architecture, historic restoration and reconstruction, this is a remarkable and rare opportunity.  

If you are interested in architecture, historic restoration and reconstruction, this is a remarkable and rare opportunity.”

On a generous selection of days between now and October 29, visitors are being invited to don hard hats and high visibility vests (provided by the National Trust at the site), and follow an extended walkway through the Marble Hall and the Saloon. There you can get a close-up view of the structure and the remarkable survival of some of the marble statues and decorative artwork.

Covered walkway high up in the Marble Hall at Clandon Park gives a glimpse of what remains, what has been lost and the challenges ahead. Photo courtesy of The National Trust.

Visits are by timed admission and must be booked in advance on the National Trust Clandon Park website. After, you can picnic in the gardens and follow a trail of historic pictures about the house and the people who lived there.

By the way, if the Marble Hall looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it before. Its cool, spacious beauty played an important role in the film The Duchess with Keira Knightley.

Visitors on a hard hat tour of Clandon House. National Trust Image by Arnhel de Serra,

 

 

Strawberry Hill – London’s Little Suburban Castle

When it comes to visiting historic houses, it’s rare to find an empty one as interesting as one that’s full of antique treasures. Strawberry Hill is an exception.

This mini-castle in Twickenham, one of London’s western suburbs, is a true jewel box of a house — but its collections were sold off in the 19th century and it’s completely empty. 

It hardly matters.

Horace Walpole, an 18th century dandy, Member of Parliament, collector, world traveler and writer (his novel The Castle of Otranto was the world’s first Gothic novel) was enamored of Medieval Gothic. So much so that he kickstarted the fashion for neo-Gothic architecture decades before it really took off.

His house, built to show off those now vanished collections, was the first in the style and one of the only examples of it in domestic architecture, inside and out.  And Strawberry Hill’s very emptiness adds to the Gothic romance, the ghostly whispers that follow when you walk from room to room, armed with the guidebook Walpole wrote himself.  Gilt ceilings, gothic windows, stained glass, mirrors and the most amazing fireplaces and chimney pieces are everywhere you look. 

And it’s just a Tube and bus ride from Central London.  Check out the pictures below, then click here for more pictures and to find out more about English eccentric Horace Walpole and how to visit  his fantasy house, Strawberry Hill.

Strawberry Hill House
Pictures of Strawberry Hill often make it look like a substantial mansion. In fact, as castles go, it’s really tiny. It was built from two suburban cottages.

The Long Gallery at Strawberry Hill

All the rooms at Strawberry Hill have gilt details but the Long Gallery, with it’s elaborate ceiling, has more gold than any other room in the house. It was inspired by a chapel ceiling at Westminster Abbey.

The Holbein Chamber
The Holbein Chamber once displayed a collection of copies of Holbein drawings. The chimneypiece was inspired by a tomb in Canterbury Cathedral and the red hat of Cardinal Wolseley (hounded to death by Henry VIII) was once part of this room’s collection.
Walpole's gothic chairs.
The black, gothic style chairs in the Great Parlour were designed by Walpole and his friend, Mr. Bentley. These are copies – the originals are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Gilt frame at Strawberry Hill
This picture frame combines 18th century Rococco style with very modern technology. It was made by creating 3D photographs from 2D drawings, then printed in plastic as a template from which the gilt plasterwork frame was finally made. It was put together from more than 30 pieces.

Plan a visit to Strawberry Hill.

Read traveler reviews and find a place to stay near Strawberry Hill.