The Daily Telegraph
Plans for building in Clandon’s burnt-out shell
sir – The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is alarmed by criticism of the National Trust’s imaginative and sensitive plans for Clandon Park, which was devastated by fire in 2015 (“National Trust ‘failing to protect listed sites’”, report, September 10).
The Society endorses the Trust’s vision for Clandon and its forwardlooking plan to conserve and repair the most significant rooms, while considering new uses for other parts of the building damaged by the fire. Far from wanting old buildings to be “preserved in aspic”, we believe that sympathetic changes made to a building over years, decades and centuries become an integral part of its story and fabric. The resurrected Clandon looks set to combine the best of old and new.
The 2015 fire, terrible and destructive as it was, is now a part of Clandon’s unfolding story. To pretend it never happened by restoring the building to a faithful facsimile of its former self would be a betrayal and a lost opportunity.
This is not new thinking. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded by William Morris in response to damaging and over-zealous Victorian enthusiasm for restoration rather than repair. Morris saw pastiche in the work of many contemporaries and realised that this was a form of destruction and obfuscation. In the Society’s founding manifesto he wrote that “a feeble and lifeless forgery is the final result of all the wasted labour”.
However, though there should be optimism about the house, the future of the Capability Brown parkland is of concern. Much of this land lies outside the National Trust’s control and is on the Historic England “at-risk” register.
The SPAB has urged the Trust and Guildford council to do everything possible to secure the unified care and management of the park as part of Clandon’s resurrection.
Director, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings