Why is there scaffolding at Uppark?

Since the National Trust was created, it has been working to preserve our heritage for the benefit of the nation. While much of that work occurs behind the scenes, sometimes our efforts are a little more visible.

For the past few months, the house at Uppark and many of its surrounding buildings have been clad in a scaffold structure. While scaffolding remains on parts of the east and west pavilions - home to the stables, shop and the café - the recent good weather has meant that work on the house has been completed earlier than expected.

What's been done so far?

During routine inspections, the chimney stacks were found to be in need of repair, while some of the chimney pots - installed during restoration work after the fire of 1989 - had become cracked over time.

These have now been replaced, while the flaunching - the sloping mortar at the base of the pot that holds it in place and encourages rainwater to run off - has been renewed.

The scaffolding also afforded the opportunity to repoint the brickwork where necessary to ensure it can withstand the elements for many years to come. At the same time, any damaged stonework was skilfully restored, while external joinery on the west elevation was repaired and redecorated.

Brickwork prior to re-pointing work.
Brickwork prior to repointing work
Brickwork prior to re-pointing work.

With work on the house complete, the scaffolding has been removed and the house returned to its original picturesque glory.

Ruth wants to marry

The craftsmen who made the 43 terracotta chimney pots during Uppark's restoration often used their creations to leave messages for future generations to find, with one marking a particular moment in history with "Margaret Thatcher resigned as I was making this pot."

However, while the scaffolding was in place we discovered a new message on a matter personal to the craftsman who left it there: "Ruth wants to get married - sure, well maybe in a couple of years, perhaps. I mean there's no need to rush into it."

Some of our chimney pots carry inscriptions for future generations to find.
Inscription on a chimney pot at Uppark, West Sussex
Some of our chimney pots carry inscriptions for future generations to find.

What's left to do?

Soon, our attention will turn to the east and west pavilions, and in particular the cupolas.

These are the dome-like wooden structures on top of each pavilion that, in the case of the east pavilion, also houses the multi-faced clock.

Decades of exposure to the strong winds and salt-laden air that Uppark experiences have taken their toll, and the scaffolding is in place to protect them while preparations are made.

Supporting scaffolding structure on the east pavilion.
Scaffolding structure on the east pavilion at Uppark, West Sussex
Supporting scaffolding structure on the east pavilion.

Minimising impact

Throughout this work, we've sought to minimise the impact it might have on your visit. For instance, the scaffolding on the east pavilion is structured largely around the rear of the building, reducing its visual impact as much as possible and leaving the café entrance unaffected, while the house has remained open to visitors as usual even as workmen were clambering around above them.

Inevitably, modern health and safety considerations require us to restrict access from time to time, most obviously with the dairy while we investigate the most effective method of repairing the portico and adjoining wall.