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Claydon House

  • House & Family History: The Verneys purchased the manor at Middle Claydon in 1463 and erected a house here. Between 1757 and 1771 the 2nd Earl Verney waged an enormous building campaign at Claydon, first building a new stableblock, followed by the altering of the old manor house, and then construction of the 250-foot-long Neoclassical west wing. Lord Verney intended his greatly-expanded house to rival Stowe as one of the grandest houses in the county (he didn't succeed and came to financial ruin) and used the unknown Luke Lightfoot as his architect, master mason, and surveyor of works. In addition to creating spectacularly unique plasterwork, Lightfoot also purchased expensive materials for Claydon, then substituted cheaper products and pocketed the difference. When Lightfoot was taken to court by Lord Verney, it became apparent that, of the £30,000 that had been spent on Claydon, only £7,000 was actually used in the building of the house. Though he didn't serve time in jail, Lightfoot ended up as a victualler in Dulwich, while Lord Verney had to flee to France to avoid debtor's prison. There is a sad tale of Lord Verney secretly returning to wander the cobwebbed rooms of Claydon in 1771, ruminating over his uncompleted house. The contents were sold in 1783 and a large portion of the new Neoclassical wing of the house (almost two-thirds), including the huge rotunda, were pulled down in 1791, after the earl's death (a farmhouse in the nearby village of Mursley was built using stone from the demolished bits of Claydon House). The Claydon staircase is particularly exceptional, with very fine inlay on the underside, extraordinary mahogany treads inset with ivory, and an unusually fine ironwork balustrade. The most exceptional room at Claydon is the Chinese Room, designed by Lightfoot in 1769 and containing stucco work unlike anything else in Britain (it is part of the most elaborate surviving Chinoiserie interior in Britain). Florence Nightingale was the sister-in-law of the 2nd Baronet, Sir Harry Verney, and spent a great deal of time at Claydon; her bedroom is named the Florence Nightingale Room today in her honor. The Verney family is notable for the 1892 publication of "Memoirs, Letters and Papers of the Verneys," which was edited by Frances Parthenope, Lady Verney, who drew upon the archive of over 75,000 family papers, some dating from the 14th century, that remains today housed at Claydon. Francis Verney became a Barbary pirate in the 17th century; he was taken prisoner by Sicilians, served two years as a galley slave, and died in poverty in Messina in 1615. The 5th Baronet, Sir Ralph Verney, donated Claydon to the National Trust in 1957; the Verney family continue live in the south wing of the house today.

    Collections: Claydon contains many Verney family pieces from their involvement in the English Civil War.

    Comments: Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley, writing in "Creating Paradise: The Building of the English Country House, 1660-1880," state Claydon possesses "the finest suite of rococo rooms in England."

  • Chapel & Church: All Saints Church Middle Claydon stands within a few yards of Claydon House. The first rector was John de Blarewich in 1231. All Saints contains monuments of the Verneys and the Giffords; the south side of the chancel is virtually filled by a monument which Sir Ralph Verney erected in the memory of his father, Sir Edmund Verney, standard bearer to Charles I. Sir Edmund was killed at Edge Hill in 1642.

  • Architect: Luke Lightfoot

    Date: 1757-69
    Designed: Chinoiserie interiors (and possibly west wing) for 2nd Earl Verney

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    Architect: Thomas Robinson

    Date: Post 1768
    Designed: West Wing of House, probably including the Staircase, for 2nd Lord Verney.

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    Architect: Joseph Rose Sr.

    Date: Post 1768
    Designed: May have helped Sir Thomas Robinson with designs for West Wing of House
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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    Architect: James Sanderson

    Date: 1763-76
    Designed: Grounds and Park

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    Architect: George Gilbert Scott

    Date: 1860
    Designed: Altered South Front

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 85, 1852.

    Country Life: IX, 617, 1901. XXXI, 356, 394 plan, 1902. CXII, 1278, 1398 plan, 1480, 1952.

  • Title: V&A Guide to Period Styles: 400 Years of British Art and Design, The
    Author: Jackson, Anna; Hinton, Morna
    Year Published: 2002
    Reference: pg. 64
    Publisher: London: V&A Publications
    ISBN: 0810965909
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Creating Paradise: The Building of the English Country House, 1660-1880
    Author: Wilson, Richard; Mackley, Alan
    Year Published: 2000
    Reference: pg. 22
    Publisher: London: Hambledon and London
    ISBN: 1852852526
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: National Trust Magazine, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Autumn 2000
    Publisher: Swindon: The National Trust
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Emma" (1996 - as the scene of the ball at Randalls, Mr. Weston's country house). "Vanity Fair" (1998 - BBC/A&E TV mini series, as German hotel interiors). "Far from the Madding Crowd" (2015 - as William Boldwood's mansion). "The Aeronauts" (2019 - interiors). "Cinderella" (2021 - as the throne room). "Bridgerton" (2024 - TV series).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Sir Edmund Ralph Verney, 6th Bt.; Verney family here since 1620.

    Past Seat / Home of: John Verney, 1st Viscount Fermanagh, until 1717; Ralph Verney, 1st Earl Verney and 2nd Viscount Fermanagh, 1717-52; Ralph Verney, 2nd Earl Verney, 1752-91; Mary Verney, 1st Baroness Fermanagh, 1791-1810; Lieutenant General Sir Harry Calvert, 1st Bt., until 1826; Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Bt., 1826-94; Sir Edmund Hope Verney, 3rd Bt., 1894-1910; Lt.-Col. Sir Harry Calvert Williams Verney, 4th Bt., 1910-74; Major Sir Ralph Bruce Verney, 5th Bt., 1974-2001.

    Current Ownership Type: The National Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

    Ownership Details: Lived in, as tenants of The National Trust, by Sir Ralph and Lady Verney

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01296-730-349

    Fax: 01296-738-511

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No


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