23 Jun 2015

Hope for Māori artefacts in blaze

7:56 pm on 23 June 2015

An expert in Māori culture says it's hoped that precious taonga may still be found intact after the English mansion they were in burnt down.

Te Maru O Hinemihi chair Alan Gallop said unique artefacts in the 18th century Clandon Park mansion, in Surrey, England, may have survived the blaze.

Thousands of artefacts were feared destroyed, including a series of tukutuku panels, a kiwi feather cloak, stuffed birds including a Huia and Kiwi, along with Māori weapons made of wood and greenstone.

But Mr Gallop said he was optimistic that at least the pounamu weapons may be retrieved.

He said archaeologists sorting through the debris were yet to search the particular area where they could be located.

"We are hopeful that something will be uncovered and we're holding our breath until such time," he said.

A spokesperson for The National Trust, which owns the site, said it was not possible to confirm the full list of items saved or lost until the final assessment and salvage operation was completed.

She said a specialist team was planning the archaeological salvage operation to recover further items from the building.

The director of the trust Helen Ghosh said about 350 items had been found during the initial salvage operation, which include paintings, furniture and silver.

"The house has been left a shell, with the inside of the building almost completely destroyed. We're still awaiting guidance from the structural engineers on the safety of the house," she said.

"As we get more information on the extent of the damage, we will be able to take a clearer view on the potential options for Clandon."

The salvage work is likely to start in the next eight weeks.