Fire damaged mansion to be restored by National Trust

Fire engulfed Clandon Park last year Credit: ITV News Meridian

A grand 18th Century mansion is to be brought back to life after being reduced to a charred shell in a devastating fire, the National Trust has announced.

The charity revealed its biggest conservation project in a generation after the inferno at Clandon Park - which housed a major collection of furniture,porcelain and textiles.

Our reporter Sam Holder has been to see the current state of the mansion.

Sam Holder spoke to Helen Ghosh and Sophie Chessum of the National Trust.

Thousands of items were feared lost when the fire led to the roof and floorscollapsing last April 29 at the Grade I-listed stately home, regarded as one of Britain's finest Palladian mansions.

No-one was hurt, but 95% of the house, near Guildford, Surrey - which featured in the 2008 movie The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley - was damaged.

The National Trust looked at options, ranging from leaving Clandon as a ruin to undergoing a full restoration project.

Now it has outlined its plans to restore the house's most architecturally andhistorically-important rooms on the ground floor, while also adding modernspaces.

Officials said they were confident that a number of principal rooms on theground floor, including the Marble Hall, Speakers' Parlour and Saloon, could and should be revived.

But upper floors deemed "less architecturally significant" and altered overthe centuries will be turned into spaces for exhibitions, events andperformances.

The trust said it was not looking to recreate the principal rooms as they were before the fire.

Clandon Park was badly damaged in the fire Credit: ITV News Meridian

A contest will be held to find the right architect, a trust spokesman said.

The significance of the architect Leoni's original designs means it will goback instead to look at the 18th Century decorative schemes and layout of the house.

Helen Ghosh, the trust's director-general, said: "The fire at Clandon wasshocking, but gives us the opportunity not only to show our respect for theheritage of the past, but also to create new heritage for the future.<

"Our plans involve returning parts of the house to its 18th century glorywhilst at the same time creating a building of beauty and relevance for the 21st century."

She added: "The loss of so many of the contents of the house means that we cannot return it to how it looked the day before the fire.<

"However, we now know more about the original layout and recognise that the enduring significance of the house is its architecture and so we would like to return it to the 18th century design, making it a purer, more faithful version of Clandon as it was when it was first built."

Clandon Park is undergoing a restoration project Credit: ITV News Meridian

One of Clandon's most important rooms - the Speakers' Parlour - suffered only minor damage and the entire external structure of the house remains in place.

Major architectural features such as fireplaces, panelling and decorativeplasterwork, have survived in a number of rooms, including the marble chimney pieces and over mantels by renowned sculptor John Michael Rysbrack in the Marble Hall.

Much of the project's cost is expected to be met through the trust's insurance.

But once the plans have advanced, the charity said it would ask for supporters' help.

The fire started accidentally and was probably caused by a fault in anelectrical distribution board, a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service reportedrevealed last November.

Investigators said it was possible the distribution board was supplied with the internal wiring complete, and delivered from the manufacturer with the fault.