Claydon House is a country house in the Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, near the village of Middle Claydon. Claydon has been the ancestral home of the Verney family since 1620. The church of All Saints, Middle Claydon lies less than 50 yards from the house and contains many memorials to the Verney family: among them Sir Edmund Verney, who was chief standard bearer to King Charles I during the English Civil War. Sir Edmund was slain at the Battle of Edgehill on 23 October 1642, defending the standard. His ghost is reputed to haunt the house. In 1661, following the Restoration of the Monarchy, Sir Edmund's son (Sir Ralph Verney) was awarded a baronetcy by King Charles II for his and his father's loyalty and bravery during the preceding period of unrest. He was later, in 1703, made Viscount of Fermanagh and his son was, in 1743, created an Earl.
The original house was rebuilt by Ralph 2nd Earl Verney between 1757 and 1771. The house as it stands today is a fraction 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.
In the mid nineteenth century, Sir Harry Verney’s first wife had recently died but she very much admired Florence Nightingale. It was following her death that Sir Harry met and married Florence's sister Parthenope. Following the match, Florence was a regular visitor to Claydon. After 1861 Florence was asked for advice on the building of hospitals and the training of nurses. Sir Harry gave Florence a number of rooms at Claydon to work on her numerous books on nursing and to meet important people. She spent many years at Claydon, particularly in the summer and although she never married or had children she was a favourite aunt to the children of Edmund Verney, Sir Harry's eldest son. Click here for the Florence Nightingale Museum.
The exterior of the house is quite austere — seven bays in total, on two floors, with a three-bayed central prominent elevation surmounted by a pediment. The fenestration is of sash windows. (The ground floor windows are crowned by small round windows suggesting a non-existent mezzanine.) The centre bay contains a large central venetian window on the ground floor. By contrast to the exterior the interiors are an extravaganza of rococo architecture in its highest form. The principal rooms: the north hall, a double cube room (50 ft × 25 ft × 25 ft high (15.2 m × 7.6 m × 7.6 m)) may have lost its adjoining hall under the lost dome. However, its magnificence remains. The broken pedimented door cases are adorned with rococo carving, by Luke Lightfoot, the most talented wood carver of the era, who worked extensively on the great mansion. His work can be found on the ceiling and the niches in the walls. The adjoining saloon is slightly more restrained in its decoration. However the ornate carving continues into the dado rails, and onto the Corinthian columns supporting the huge venetian window. The third principal room was redecorated as a library by Parthenope, Lady Verney in 1860. The plaster rococo ceiling remains in all its splendour.
A staircase of inlaid ivory and marquetry leads to the first floor. The walls of the staircase hall are ornamented with medallions and carved garlands reflecting the theme established in the main reception rooms. The wrought iron balustrade of the stairs contains ironwork ears of wheat, which rustle like the real thing as one ascends the flights. The marvel of the first floor is the Chinese room: one of the most extraordinary rooms in the house if not England. Here the rococo continues, but this time in a form known as chinoiserie — essentially a Chinese version of the rococo decorative style. The entire room is a fantasy of carved pagodas, Chinese fretwork, bells and temples while oriental scrolls and swirls swoop around the walls and doors reaching a crescendo in the temple-like canopy, which would have once contained a bed, but now gives a throne-like importance to a divan. Also on this floor is a small museum dedicated to the nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, the sister of Parthenope, Lady Verney.
Mobility parking and drop-off point immediately outside the main house. There is a Braille guide and an Induction loop available. Adapted toilet near front of house with ramped access. Grounds - grass, uneven and loose gravel paths, slopes, some steps, undulating terrain. There is an Accessible route. Building - four steps to entrance, ramp available. Ground floor accessible for wheelchair users. Virtual tour of upstairs available. One wheelchair is available for visitors use. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Claydon House, Middle Claydon, Buckingham MK18 2EY
Transport : Aylesbury Parkway (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 54C stops close by.
Opening Times : Saturday to Wednesday 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £7.50; Children £3.75
Tel. : 01296 730349