Lord Onslow said he would have preferred the insurance payout to go towards restoring the Wentworth Woodhouse stately home in Yorkshire
James Dobson/National Trust
The Earl of Onslow has branded plans to restore fire-stricken Clandon Park a “bizarre hybrid”.
The National Trust (NT) announced on Monday it will return the ground floors of the 18th century mansion to its original 1720s design, while turning the upper floors into a modern exhibition space.
However, Lord Onslow said he was disappointed by the plans for his ancestral home,which was gutted by fire in April last year after an electrical fault sparked a huge blaze.
“My first thoughts is that it will produce a bizarre hybrid and that my opinion is still what I originally said,” said Lord Onslow.
“I think the money should be spent, not on a building that is 90% lost, but on a historic building that is 90% intact and just needs 10% repairs.”
The Earl, who last year praised the fire crews who tackled the blaze, said he had been consulted by the NT before Monday’s announcement and told the organisation his preference was to spend the money restoring another Grade I listed building.
“It was not a massive shock [the announcement],” he said. “But my opinion, both objectively and subjectively would remain the same, whether it was my family house or not.
“I believe it is a waste. There is a number of buildings that need repairing whether that be a building from the industrial revolution or an 18th century house. Personally, I would like to restore Yorkeshire Grade 1 listed Wentworth Woodhouse.”
Insurance broker Lord Onslow, whose family once owned Clandon Park, believes the National Trust will receive around £65m from its insurance claim as a result of the fire.
Damn Helen Ghosh, director general of the NT, said on Monday if the building was left a ruin, the NT would only recover from the insurer a small sum to complete the salvage operation.
However, Lord Onslow said he found Dame Helen’s comments surprising.
He said: “That is not necessarily the case but I can’t really comment on the insurance policy as I have not seen it.
“But if her insurance person is telling her that, I suppose that is how it is. I do find it quite surprising and insurance conditions can easily be negotiated.
“It does beg the question, if they could not spend the money anywhere else, why were they looking at so many different options, if it was either a rebuild or a hybrid?”
Asked what he thought visitors of the new Clandon Park will think when the restoration is completed, he said: “I think it will be quite strange, very strange I would have thought.
“I do not know how they will weld them together (the old and the new) but there is a lot of very clever architects out there.
“But if the NT members say this is exactly what they want, obviously I will respect that.”
Reflecting on the fire, Lord Onslow said he hope the NT would do everything in its power to prevent another Clandon Park happening in the future.
He said: “The fire was a great tragedy and I hope that lessons have been learnt and plans put into action to ensure it is less likely to happen in other properties.”