A major blaze at an 18th Century stately home in Surrey
BBC report from yesterday early evening:
Some 60 firefighters are tackling the fire at Clandon Park House, a mansion just outside Guildford run by the National Trust.
The fire is believed to have started in the basement just after 16:00 BST, before spreading to the roof.
A National Trust spokesman said the building had been evacuated and everyone who was in the house was safe. He added: “We are devastated.”
Eyewitnesses reported seeing thick black smoke pouring from the building.
At least one wing of the Grade I listed building appears to have been gutted and the roof has caved in.
Geri Silverstone, from the National Trust, said items from inside the house were being removed carefully from the ground and middle floor by conservators.
“I can see lines of them filing past me with chairs and pictures and porcelain, which they are taking out on to the lawn and wrapping in bubble wrap before taking them to a secure storage place nearby.
“Luckily, it has been a dry day.
“The conservators are just devastated. This is worse for them than if it was their own house burning. It’s hard to communicate the esteem with which they hold these things for the nation.”
Mr Silverstone said five hours on since the fire began the energy of the volunteers had not waned. Among the items in the house is Lord Onslow’s famous state bed, which the Speaker of the House used when Parliament had all night debates.
A total of 16 fire engines were sent to the building after Surrey Fire and Rescue Service answered an emergency call at 16:09.
A spokesman said: “On arrival, firefighters were faced with a significant fire throughout the building which is believed to have started in the basement and quickly spread to the roof.
“The operation is expected to continue throughout the evening, with fire investigation officers on scene looking to establish the cause.”
There are no reports of any injuries, the fire service said.
Wildlife artist Richard Symonds, who lives nearby, said: “It’s a huge mansion and they have a party space downstairs. I used to play in a rock covers band and we were down there loads because it’s the place where all the locals go to have a party, for weddings and birthdays and things. I spent a lot of happy times there.”
Lucy, who also lives nearby said: “It’s absolutely tragic. It’s a relic of history. It contains the Surrey regimental records too.”
Clandon Park was built by a Venetian architect for Lord Onslow in the 1720s and the estate was passed down through generations of the family.
The building, which has become a popular wedding venue, was left to the National Trust in 1956.
The trust says the Palladian mansion contains a “superb” collection of 18th Century furniture, porcelain and textiles and features original stucco ceilings and marble fireplaces.