We haven’t produced a full house history of Claydon House (that would be an amazing book to do!) but this is from an article that Cathy wrote for a local magazine.
Described as an “unexpected Georgian jewel tucked away in the Buckinghamshire countryside”, Claydon House, now run by the National Trust, is an 18th century country house near Middle Claydon that was built by the Verney family to showcase their wealth. The building did not turn out as originally planned but its sumptuous interiors and a museum to Florence Nightingale who was a frequent visitor make it a fascinating visit for all the family.
The current Claydon House was built by Ralph 2nd Earl Verney between 1757 and 1771. The Verney family has lived at Middle Claydon since 1620 and renowned members include
Sir Edmund Verney who was King Charles 1’s chief standard bearer during the English Civil War. Sir Edmund was killed at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, and according to a family story, the standard was found clutched in his severed hand, although his body was never recovered. His son Ralph initially supported the Parliamentarians but became disenchanted and sought exile in France. In 1661 following the restoration of the monarchy, King Charles II awarded him a baronetcy and he later became MP for Buckingham. His grandson Ralph was created an Earl in 1743. One notorious Verney was Edmund’s half-brother Francis who, unhappily married and pursued by creditors, left England for Morocco and converted to Islam. He became a feared Barbary pirate until he was eventually captured and spent two years imprisoned as a galley slave. He was freed by an English Jesuit on the promise that he would convert to Catholicism which he did but died soon afterwards.
Ralph the 2nd Earl planned on enlarging his late 16th century mansion at Claydon into an enormous dazzling Palladian country house which would rival nearby Stowe House. The new house was to have two large wings, one including a ballroom, with a huge domed rotunda in the centre of the building. Work started in 1757 but it proved troublesome and Lord Verney ran into financial difficulties and he died bankrupt in 1791. His niece Mary Verney inherited the estate and subsequently demolished the uncompleted north wing and centre leaving just the west wing which remains today.
The exterior of the house is quite unassuming; built on classical lines it consists of two floors, over seven bays, with the middle section having a pediment. Fortunately the interior of the wing was left intact and in contrast is extraordinarily grand featuring intricate ornate and lavish Rococo carvings and plasterwork. A highlight is the wonderfully exotic Chinese room on the first floor which features a carved pagoda inspired alcove and walls and doorways encrusted with chinoiserie – a Chinese inspired decorative style. On the first floor there is also a museum to Florence Nightingale, the sister of the wonderfully named Parthenope Nightingale who had married Harry Verney in 1858. Born as Harry Calvert, he had changed his surname by royal licence in order that he could inherit the Verney estates from his cousin Mary Verney. Florence was a regular visitor to Claydon House and did much of her writing there as well as entertaining groups of nurses who came out from London for tea parties and breaks from their training. Her four poster bed is still at the house and children can try it out for size.
The house was given by the Verneys to the National Trust in 1956 but the current 6th Baronet, Sir Edmund Verney still lives there. Now open to the public along with attractive gardens, parkland, the adjacent parish church and courtyard businesses there is plenty to do for all the family with regular special events taking place, see the website https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon for more details.