Oxburgh Hall's Roof Project

Project
A view of the scaffolding in the courtyard from the roof

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. 

Roof repairs

Scaffolding on the roof at Oxburgh

9,000 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

A picture of visitors investigating a project in progress

Behind the scenes

Whilst the work takes place, we’ll need to empty the attics and move some collection items into storage or to other areas of the house. Look out for our new programme of tours and talks that begin in 2020, which will give you the chance to find out what we’re up to.

Pink flock and gilt wallpaper by Townsend, Parker & Co

Research discoveries

As part of this project we’ll be studying Oxburgh’s historic graffiti, carrying out archaeology under the floorboards and researching paint finishes and wallpapers, some of which are very early examples. We look forward to sharing these discoveries and more, as we find them.

A lady taking a photo of the staircase at Oxburgh Hall

A new experience

Thanks to support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the downstairs showrooms will be re-displayed from February 2020 and a new gatehouse experience will be created and open by summer 2020. There’ll also be an exciting new programme of events to unveil.

Latest updates

14 Oct 19

Our contractor arrives on site

We've appointed Messenger Construction Ltd. to carry out the works at Oxburgh Hall and this week they arrived on site. Messenger are a contractor who specialise in the conservation and repair of historic buildings, bringing a wealth of experience of working with listed sites.

They have previously worked on important buildings and monuments such as Belton House, Wrest Park Pavilion, Stowe School, Hanbury Hall, Apethorpe Palace and Nevill Holt Opera Theatre, for which they were shortlisted for the RIBA 2019 Stirling Prize and winner of the People's Vote.

Messenger have also been appointed to complete the roof repairs at Ickworth, allowing them to share knowledge and learning across two of the region’s important conservation projects.

Messenger will coordinate all of the works taking place at Oxburgh as part of our Raise the Roof Project. They will be working with their team of expert craftsmen to deliver crucial repairs to Oxburgh’s roofscape, including the rebuilding of dormers, chimneys and the replacement of existing roof coverings.

Scaffolding in the inner courtyard at Oxburgh Hall

16 Aug 19

Bat survey and re-homing the bats

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.

A bat with its wings spread

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.

Close up view of the roofline