Historic place review: Claydon House (National Trust)
Middle Claydon, near Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, MK18 2EY
Telephone: 01296 730349
OS Grid Ref: 165:SP720253
Claydon House – map
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Overall rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)
From Wikipedia about Claydon House: “Claydon House is a country house in the Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England, near the village of Middle Claydon. It was built between 1757 and 1771 and is now owned by the National Trust.
Claydon has been the ancestral home of the Verney family since 1620. The original house was rebuilt by Ralph 2nd Earl Verney between 1757 and 1771. The house as it stands today is only a third of its original planned size. The original conception was of a mansion to rival the richer Earl Temple’s huge mansion at Stowe, a few miles away near Buckingham.
What remains today is the ‘west wing’; this at one time had an identical twin, which contained the ballroom, and other state apartments. The twin wings were separated by a huge colonnaded rotunda surmounted by a cupola. The 2nd Lord Verney ran into financial problems before the latter two wings were entirely completed, and had to spend the final years of his life on the continent to escape his creditors.
Following his death in 1792 his estate was inherited by his niece Mary Verney (later created Baroness Fermanagh, in the second creation): a parsimonious woman, unlike her extravagant uncle, she had the house reduced to its present size.”
Review: For those who love remote English country houses, Claydon House is a dream made real! Everything about Claydon House is old, historic and charming! This house has to do nothing to win you over – it is so perfect and unpretentious! Before my first visit to Claydon House, I didn’t have high expectations of it. Compared to some of the other stately homes in Britain, not much is written about Claydon House, which as the above blurb states, was and still is the home of the Verney family. The pictures I have seen of Claydon House do not do it justice and therefore did not tempt me to make a visit to it a high priority. However once you get to the estate…. wow – you are in for a fantastic surprise!
Claydon House is located within the Buckinghamshire countryside. It is in many acres of land set back in extensive grounds and along a country road. It is best to have a car to come here as it is in the middle of nowhere. The countryside surrounding Claydon House, to begin with, is very beautiful a mix of fields and woods and some small hills. The house, when you finally finish your drive up to it, is a large stone building and cuts a handsome figure against the untamed countryside.
After you park in the small car park, you take a short walk to the house and its nearby courtyard. You can visit the several shops on the estate, including the newly opened National Trust shop (NB: it is small right now and mainly second hand books), an art shop, and a cards shop, the tea room and the Carriage House Restaurant. The shops are not a main draw and can be skipped. The tea room is quaint and a nice place to sit and, like the title says, have a cup of tea – either inside or out. It is small, clean and historic.
The house is magnificent and worth the time, effort and money to visit. There are two floors and numerous rooms (enough to feel like you have seen and learned a lot about the house, but also not be overwhelmed). The Verney family still lives in one part of the building, but it is removed from the part of the house that is open to the public. Upon visiting, you are able to go in a saloon, library, sitting and various bedrooms and other rooms. One of the rooms was famous nurse Florence Nightingale‘s (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) bedroom. Claydon House was her “second home” as her sister married into the Verney family. There is also an “Oriental room” within the house that is very bright and colourful.
The detail of this house is absolutely amazing – the cornices and sculpted plaster and wood ceilings, the sculpted fireplaces, the window trims and figure heads everywhere. There is also an inlaid wooden staircase that is so delicate and detailed that you are not allowed to walk on it anymore. This house is beautiful and elegant. So much work and care went into creating it. It is extremely detailed and ornate, but not gaudy. The affluent house, owned by the Rothschild Family, Waddesdon Manor, is nearby. This is beautiful but in some respects, after you see Claydon and its modest regal charm, you will think it gaudy! No expense was spared on the beautiful Claydon House. The doors are at least 9 foot 9 inches tall and the windows are also huge. The house is sunny and has wonderful views onto the surrounding country side.
There is also a lake and a church nearby. Visiting Claydon House and its grounds is a wonderful day out.
The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable and will help you as much as they can so that you have a good visit. Claydon House is also wise and puts easy-to-read information sheets in each room. Most rooms have nice furniture and affects in them but is not overly cluttered. A delight to come here. One slight problem which loses the property half of a star is that you cannot call the telephone number and get a live person if you have a simple question that will pertain to your visit. Nonetheless, you cannot help but fall in love with this magnificent country mansion.
Claydon House (National Trust)
Claydon Estate (official site)
National Trust (official site)
Claydon House (Wikipedia)
The Verney Family (Wikipedia)
Waddesdon Manor (National Trust) review (The London Reviewer)
Stowe (National Trust) review (The London Reviewer)