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Oxburgh's roof project

Scaffolding surrounds the hall during the roof restoration project at Oxburgh Estate, Norfolk
Scaffolding surrounds the hall during the roof restoration project at Oxburgh | © National Trust Images/Mike Selby

A £6 million project has been completed at Oxburgh Estate, which has seen repairs carried out to the roof, windows, chimneys and medieval gatehouse façade, securing Oxburgh’s future and the collection within. The most ambitious conservation project at Oxburgh to date, the work was completed in 2022.

How the project started

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 to carry out the work, a highly complex engineer-designed scaffold was erected around Oxburgh Estate for the duration of the project, which had to overcome the added complication that the 500-year-old building is surrounded by a moat.

Roof repairs

Scaffolding during the roof restoration project at Oxburgh Estate, Norfolk
Roof restoration project at Oxburgh Estate | © National Trust Images/Antonia Gray

14,000 roof tiles

The tiles that were in need of repair were 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 pantiles and 800 ridge tiles from Holland. Many had become weatherworn, cracked and damaged.

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Discoveries under the floorboards

As we lifted the floorboards, we've made some amazing archaeological discoveries. With thousands of items found. From Tudor textiles found in a rats nest to a 500 year-old manuscript and a book of psalms possibly hidden by Catholics fearing persecution.


Importance of heritage crafts

27 highly ornate mock-Tudor chimneys were carefully removed, recorded and completely reconstructed. Added for decoration in the Victorian era and now in need of urgent repair, only five were restored using existing bricks. 12,000 bricks, weighing in at 29 tonnes were hand-made, using traditional methods.

Funding the project

The roof project at Oxburgh Estate has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Culture Recovery Fund, which is administered on behalf of the government by Historic England, as well as support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. Thank you also to The Wolfson Foundation for their generous support.

Thanks also go to 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 supporters who have donated to the roof appeal or supported Oxburgh through visiting or spending money in the tea-room and bookshop.

Latest updates

12 August 2021

Bats on a non-slip roof

A total of 14,000 new black-glazed pantiles are currently being added to the roof that have been chosen to look the same as those used over two centuries ago, which had become weatherworn, cracked and damaged. However, the black glaze on the new tiles was found to be too slippery for the resident bats. Looking for a solution, our bat expert carried out tests which found that a coating of paint mixed with sand of different sizes enabled bats to grip with their tiny claws to climb easily to the safety of the rooftop roosts. 

Surveys found six bat species flying close to the house, but it is the brown long-eared, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle bats that roost in the building. The brown long-eared bats use attics and roof spaces, and all three species use crevices under roof tiles, ridge tiles and lead flashing. Working with a bat expert, a new roost has been created in the nearby Bell Tower and bat boxes have been installed in the trees on the north terrace to provide alternative roosting places while the roof works takes place. Currently the bell in the Bell Tower can’t be rung, so as not to disturb the bats. 

The builders have also ensured there will be 32 new bat openings around the roof – some under the ridge tiles, some lower on the roof under pantiles, and others on the dormer windows. The roof tiles near the openings have been given the specially developed bat coating. Several of the roosts have carefully designed gaps in the roof lining to allow brown long-eared bats to get into the attics and roof voids. 

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