Oxburgh Hall's Roof Project

Project
Birds eye view of Oxburgh's roofline

A £6million project is underway at Oxburgh Hall, which will see repairs carried out to the roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse façade, securing Oxburgh’s future and the collection within. Our most ambitious conservation project to date, the work will take us until 2021 to complete. 

The project came about after the unexpected collapse of a dormer window in 2016, which after further investigation, exposed a structural weakness to the roofline. 

In order for us to carry out the work, a highly complex engineer-designed scaffold will be erected around Oxburgh Hall for the duration of the project, which has had to overcome the added complication that the 500 year old building is surrounded by a moat. 

Although the building will be wrapped in scaffolding whilst the work takes place, the next two years will be a really exciting time to visit Oxburgh Hall. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded us £132,900, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, to provide a new experience called Endurance that will enable you to delve deeper into Oxburgh’s story. 

We’re also extremely grateful to The Wolfson Foundation for supporting the project with £100,000 towards repairs, as well as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through the LEADER programme, the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation UK and The Constance Travis Charitable Trust. It's also thanks to many of you who have donated to our roof appeal or supported us through visiting or spending money in the tea-room, shop and bookshop. 

Roof repairs

Scaffolding on the roof at Oxburgh

17,000 roof tiles

The tiles now in need of repair are black-glazed pantiles, bought by the 4th Baronet to replace the originals in the 1770s. At the time of purchase he noted he required 50,000 pan-tiles and 800 ridge-tiles from Holland. Many are now weatherworn, cracked and damaged. 

A decorative chimney at Oxburgh Hall

27 chimneys

These elaborate chimneys are standing tall (if somewhat wonky) on the roof of Oxburgh Hall and with the help of Bulmer Brick & Tile Company, who have the original moulds, those in need of repair will have hand-made bricks created that look like they’ve always been there.

Dormer windows at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk

14 dormer windows

We have 14 dormer windows of varying shapes and sizes, all of which need dismantling and rebuilding. The dormers were added in the 19th century and although they’ve held on well for the last 150 years, the collapse of one in 2016 made it clear they’re in need of some TLC.

Story of endurance

Video

Take a look behind the scenes as we protect Oxburgh's collection

As work begins in earnest on Oxburgh Hall’s roof project, the house team have been beavering away behind the scenes to get everything ready to ensure the historic collection remains safe whilst the work takes place.

Latest updates

03 Aug 20

Entire 16th century book discovered

We had previously discovered tiny pieces of a book called the King’s Psalms in one of the old rats’ nests at Oxburgh. Just when we thought we’d come to the end of possible hiding places for finds, today the builders discovered the entire book in a void in the attics! Dating to 1568, the book itself is in amazing condition and most of the text is almost perfectly preserved, with extremely high-quality gilded leather binding. The only other copy known to exist is in the British Library. The Kynges Psalmes was originally written by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, in the 1st half of the 16th century and first published in England c.1544. Fisher was executed by Henry VIII for refusing to accept him as the supreme head of the Church of England and is honoured as a martyr and a saint by the Catholic church. Interestingly, this edition was translated into English from Fisher’s Latin by none other than Katherine Parr, who tweaked the emphasis of some of the text (perhaps in collaboration with her husband) in order to emphasise Henry VIII’s religious authority, obedience to God, and military prowess. The English version of The King’s Psalms, which we have at Oxburgh, was therefore highly regarded by Protestants. What does this mean in the context of Oxburgh? More work is needed to try and find out!

The Kings Psalms at Oxburgh

15 Jun 20

Scaffolding and sheeting nears completion

Great strides have been taken to cover Oxburgh almost entirely in scaffolding and sheeting. This material will act as a temporary roof and protect the building from the elements as we remove roof tiles, exposing the attics for the first time in hundreds of years. The sheeting stretches across the gatehouse, and the north, east and west ranges.

Oxburgh Hall sheeting

10 Jun 20

High-status Elizabethan textiles unearthed

Contained within a large rats’ nest are hundreds of pieces of textile fragments. On closer inspection, the pieces look to be high-status silks, satins, velvets, linens, decorative embroidery, ribbon and leather, all dating to the late 16th and early 17th centuries. We think the fragments were offcuts from larger pieces of material, or possibly remnants from repairs, suggesting that this part of the house may once have been used by a seamstress. One of the largest pieces is browny-gold slashed silk, with each of the slashes revealing gold thread. Slashing was very popular for men’s clothing during the 16th century and was used for doublets, jackets and sleeves. It was placed over a textile of a contrasting colour which would be revealed through the slashes. We have the rats to thank for the remarkable condition of these textiles; begin kept below the floorboards for hundreds of years has prevented them from decaying and has allowed us to find out so much more about life at Oxburgh Hall.

Oxburgh Hall slashed silk