We do have a bat population here at Oxburgh. They like to hang around in the peace and quiet of the attic spaces. However, the attics are the areas that will see the greatest disturbance as we peel back and repair the roof. We’ve therefore had to seek out special permission and a temporary residence for our bats and have settled on one of the turreted towers, set into the estate wall, where they will be far removed from the hustle and bustle of the building work.
Oxburgh Hall's Roof Project
It’s understandable for a building over 500 years old to show signs of aging. However, following the unexpected collapse of a dormer window at Oxburgh Hall in 2016, a structural weakness to the roofline was exposed. Now we’re undertaking the most ambitious conservation project we’ve ever carried out.
The £6million project, which will take us until 2021 to complete, will see repairs carried out to the roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse façade, securing Oxburgh’s future and the collection within.
Defiantly enduring the test of time, Oxburgh and the Bedingfeld family have seen many ups and downs in its history. This current work will be a scene not too dissimilar to one from the 19th century, when the 6th Baronet and his son last carried out work of this scale and when many of the architectural features requiring repair, such as the ornate chimneys and windows, were added.
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. The design, which is the largest scaffolding structure we've ever attempted in the East, 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. This will also help towards repairs, enabling us to carry out research and provide new opportunities for heritage trainees.
We’re also extremely grateful to The Wolfson Foundation for supporting the project with £100,000 towards repairs, as well as many of you who have already donated to our roof appeal or supported us through visiting or spending money in the tea-room, shop and bookshop.
16 Aug 19
Bat survey and re-homing the bats
31 Jul 19
Dismantling the chimney
During the project we will be dismantling and rebuilding chimneys that are showing signs of structural weakness. We can’t assess most of them until the scaffold goes up, but we have been able to dismantle two to test our method of repair. With help from a brick conservation expert, who has been working on the chimneys at Hampton Court Palace, we’ve discovered that the chimneys were built with a cement based mortar, rather than lime. This would have been a very new product at the time they were originally built and it seems that the masons didn’t really know how to mix it! As a result the mortar is very hard, which has contributed to the structural problems we’re seeing today. It will make the repairs harder to carry out than we first thought.
15 Jul 19
Scaffold trials in the moat
Here’s something you might not know. We can’t drain the moat for any significant length of time and we can’t puncture the clay lining of the moat either, so our engineers have devised and tested an ingenious way of spreading the load of the scaffolding we need to erect, which will involve using large sandbags. Luckily for us, our trial has revealed that our method works, we’ll just need to regularly monitor and make adjustments over time. We also realised that we need some different sized sandbags for the foundations, as the level of the moat varies around the hall.