An investigation is under way to determine the cause of a huge blaze which devastated an 18th-century stately home.
The fire at the National Trust’s Clandon House, in Clandon Park, is believed to have started in the basement, before ripping through the building and spreading to the roof.
Serious fire at National Trust’s Clandon Park in Surrey
Around 80 firefighters battled through the night to bring the flames under control at the estate near Guildford, in Surrey.
A spokesman for Surrey fire and rescue service said the cause of the blaze is now being investigated. “The full extent of the damage is not known but work is ongoing to salvage what can be salvaged from inside,” the spokesman added.
At least one wing of the Grade I-listed building has been gutted and the roof has caved in. Many of the irreplaceable items were damaged or destroyed, with an operation under way to try and save as much as possible.
Staff and volunteers were safely evacuated when the blaze broke out just after 4pm on Wednesday.
National Trust director Helen Ghosh said: “The most important thing for me is that no one has been hurt in this awful fire and that everyone is safe. But it has been heartbreaking to witness the terrible damage to this wonderful mansion, which means so much to so many people.
“This will come as a terrible shock and a devastating personal blow to all our devoted staff and volunteers. We’ll continue to work closely with the fire brigade, who are working hard to bring the blaze under control. We’d like to thank them again for their efforts.”
Thick black smoke could be seen pouring from the building, and nearby resident Phoebe Grant said flames were “shooting out of the building”. Others reportedly heard loud bangs coming from inside.
Clandon Park was built in the 1720s and contains a large collection of 18th-century furniture, porcelain and textiles. It has been managed by the National Trust since 1856 and is a popular venue for weddings.
Some 16 crews were deployed to the scene along with three aerial ladders and three water carriers.
Roger Childs, of Surrey fire brigade, said a significant amount of highly valuable items were retrieved from the property.
The intensity of the flames burned away floorboards and ceilings, but Childs refused to speculate on whether an electrical fault caused the fire. He told BBC Radio Surrey: “The fire originally started, we believe, in the basement, and because it’s Grade I-listed, the fire spread through these uncontained voids and it quickly spread through to the roof.
“The original crews on the scene had to deal with a developed fire as soon as they got to the scene. It’s significantly damaged across the whole of the building.”
Structural engineers from the local authority were due to assess the outer walls of the stately property to determine whether they are safe, Childs added.