Conservation bricklayer Emma Simpson re-points historic brickwork at Clandon Park NTI Images, Andrew Shaylor


  • A two-and-a-half-year programme of conservation repairs has begun at Clandon Park.
  • Using craft techniques rarely seen today, the repairs will help to preserve the fire-damaged structure for generations to come.
  • This major conservation work follows debris clearance, research and investigation, and essential maintenance by the conservation charity.
  • A small team of expert brick and stone conservators have set to work investigating the most sensitive way to repair damage in the surviving external walls, chimney stacks and balustrade.
  • In the first phase this will focus mainly on an area in the south-east corner of the house.
  • Thousands of new bricks will be made by traditional family brickmakers over two years which carefully match the colour and texture of those made by local brickmakers 300 years ago.
  • Repairing this damage is a crucial step in the National Trust’s long-term project to bring the house back to life.

The long-term National Trust project to bring Clandon Park back to life has reached a major milestone this month. In a key step forward, a major programme of conservation and repair has begun at the Surrey property, which was severely damaged by a fire in 2015.

Since 2015, the conservation charity has been painstakingly working on the future for the house, which lost many of its intricate interiors and internal floors, as well as its roof in the devastating fire.

Before any construction work could commence, there were many key phases to complete; the house had to be stabilised, tonnes of debris sorted through and collections salvaged, while feasibility and developing design work was undertaken to assess what could be possible.

Project Director Kent Rawlinson said “This is a key step forward for Clandon. After so much work behind the scenes to ensure we are taking the best approach to the house, it’s exciting to begin this next phase of the project. The two-and-a-half-year programme of conservation to the house’s stone and brickwork is going to prepare the building for any future work we carry out as the project develops, so it’s a really important moment. The brick and stonework at Clandon is really special and although we see brickwork all around us in modern buildings, the skills needed to repair historic brickwork are sadly under threat, so we are very proud to be continuing their legacy here.”

Alongside their own team of experts, the National Trust are working with heritage conservation specialists Simpson Brick Conservation and Frew Conservation to carry out the work, who have worked at notable historic buildings including Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. It will begin with trialling of conservation approaches to explore the most sensitive and appropriate repairs to specific defects in slipped arches, damaged quoins and leaning chimney stacks, which moved during the fire.

Conservation repairs to brickwork and stonework is an intricate process, where historic buildings are assessed and recorded, before being carefully conserved using tools that would be familiar to 18th century craftsmen. Work can range from simple repointing of the joints in lime mortar, replacing individual bricks or stones to rebuilding damaged areas reusing existing historic material alongside carefully chosen new ones. While the repairs are an essential next step in Clandon’s story, to conservation bricklayer Emma Simpson it’s about far more than function alone; it’s a way to connect with people who came before us. ‘We’re immensely thrilled when we find evidence of the people that built Clandon in the 1730s;  we’ve seen the fingerprints of the original bricklayers and last week I found some etched graffiti on the bricks dated 1743.’ she says. ‘Working on a special building like Clandon, you feel a responsibility to the people who built it.’

Digital content

Read an interview with brickwork conservation expert Emma Simpson here.