Restoring Blickling's Silvergate cottages

In April 2016, a fire devastated a row of thatched cottages on the Blickling Estate. Thanks to the help of specialist craftspeople, we have now restored these historic cottages, so that they can be homes once more...

The cottages

The three thatched cottages in the small hamlet of Silvergate were gutted by fire, which had been started by a spark from a wood burner. At the height of the fire, eight fire engines were needed, along with two water carriers and an aerial platform. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but those living in the cottages lost many of their treasured possessions. The buildings themselves also required significant restoration if they were to become habitable again.

Blickling Estate's Silvergate cottages engulfed in flames.
Blickling Estate's Silvergate cottages engulfed in flames.
Blickling Estate's Silvergate cottages engulfed in flames.

Restoration begins

Due to the fact that these cottages were Grade II listed, we’ve used specialist craftspeople to retain and refurbish as much of the original building fabric as possible.

In the early days, whilst the contractor was clearing and dismantling the cottages, there were a number of interesting finds, including animal bones, an old brick oven under the stairs of one cottage and a hanging hook behind the fireplace in another.

Surprisingly, a significant amount of timber was able to be salvaged. This included all three front doors which have been refurbished, many of the floor joists were still sound and the first floor beam in all three cottages have been retained. Even the cast iron baths have been re-enamelled and reinstated.

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Silvergate Cottages | The Site Foreman's Story

The cottages required a large number of replacement bricks after the fire, which we were lucky enough to source a close match. Handmade wood-fired bricks were chosen, which have the distinctive black scorch marks on them to match the cottages original bricks. We followed Draper & Nichols' Site Foreman as the restoration work was completed on the cottages.

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Silvergate Cottages | Restoring the windows

Out of the 36 windows, we had to replace 15 that had been damaged beyond repair. The salvaged windows were refurbished and re-glazed with crown glass, which gives a slightly rippled effect. The new windows have been fitted with slimline double glazing, with crown glass on the external face, so that the cottages retain their original look.

Lime plaster

Internally we’ve used lime plaster, which will allow the solid red brick walls to breathe. Historically animal hair would have been added to the lime plaster but on this occasion we’ve used synthetic fibres, which should improve the thermal efficiency of the building.

The heat is on

We’ve also moved to a more sustainable form of central heating and have installed air source heat pumps that will replace the need for open fires or wood burners in the cottages. In order to maintain the cosy cottage feel, there are electric “flame effect” heaters in each living room fireplace. 

 

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Silvergate Cottages | The Thatchers' Story

The new roof has been constructed using oak for the principle rafters, with softwood common rafters, as per the construction of the original roof. Thatchers then spent two weeks covering both sides of the roof, returning once the scaffolding had been removed to finish off the ridge.We followed M & B Thompson Thatchers as they completed the restoration work on the cottages. Take a look at what this involved...

A spot of gardening

We also took the opportunity to relook at the outside spaces, giving each property its own private garden as well as allocated parking. This will enable the courtyard to return to what it would have looked like historically, with a peaceful space for those living in the cottages to enjoy.

We couldn't do it without you...

Every visit to Blickling helps us to conserve the estate for future generations. The cups of tea, slices of cake, garden strolls and gifts bought, all play an important part in preserving this special place and its history for future generations to enjoy. Thank you.