DiCamillo Companion
England

Claydon House

  • Built / Designed For: Rebuilt for Ralph, 2nd Earl Verney.

    House & Family History: The Verneys had owned land in Buckinghamshire since the 13th century when they purchased the manor at Middle Claydon in 1463. Between 1757 and 1771 the 2nd Lord 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, designed by Thomas Robinson. 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). Lord Verney used the then unknown and now-famous 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. As a result of the scandal Lightfoot ended up as a victualler in Dulwich and 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 of the House 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 exceptional, with very fine inlay on the underside, extraordinary mahogany treads, 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 Sir Harry Verney and spent a great deal of time at Claydon; the room she used is named after her today. The Verney family is noted because of the publication of "Memoirs, Letters and Papers of the Verneys," which was edited by Frances Parthenope, Lady Verney, in 1892. Claydon today contains an archive of over 75,000 family papers dating from the 14th century. The 6th Sir 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. Sir Ralph and Lady Verney live in the South Wing of the House today.

    Collections: Claydon contains many Verney family pieces from their involvement in the 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: Designs for West Wing of House, which may or may not have been used by Sir Thomas Robinson
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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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: Not Listed

  • "Emma" (1996 - as the scene of the ball at Mr. and Mrs. Weston's home). "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).
  • Seat of: Sir Edmund Ralph Verney, 6th Bt.; Verney family here since 1620.

    Past Seat of: Ralph Verney, 2nd Earl Verney, 18th century; Sir Harry Calvert Williams Verney, 4th Bt., 20th century.

    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: claydon@nationaltrust.org.uk

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

    Historic Houses Member: No