Total rewire scheme for National Trust property

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Organising a complete rewire of any home can be a real headache, but if that home is a 15th century great house then the project becomes all the more interesting.

Ancient leather wallpaper, bricked-up secret doorways and the presence of ancient works of art and furniture have all added to the problem at Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham.

Built by the Bedingfeld family in the late 15th century, the hall is now owned by the National Trust and, while closed for the winter period, an army of electricians have moved in – for the second time.

The first phase of the £500,000 project was carried out between November 2011 and March last year and the contractors returned in November 2012.

“The end is in sight – there is literally light at the end of the tunnel,” said property manager Teresa Squires.

“I was keen to keep the house open during its normal season although other properties have closed for a year for major work to be carried out. It was a little more expensive, but we had wanted to try and reduce the impact,” she added.

No project of this scale can be disruption-free but the end result could see reduced bills for the National Trust which has owned the property, in the village of Oxborough, since 1952.

Oxburgh Hall only welcomed electricity in 1948 when it hooked-up to the National Grid. Prior to that, power was by carbide gas.

The annual bill currently stands at around £8,500 which could now be reduced. New LED lighting has been installed and the floodlights outside have been put on a timer so the hall will no longer be aglow all night.

Special frames were built around the hall’s beds to enclose them completely safely in plastic while ancient carpets were rolled-back and floor boards lifted.

Portraits have been carefully covered in bubble wrap to preserve them during the major upheaval.

The hall is famous for its priest hole, an area used to hide Catholic clergy during a period from the late 16th century when the faith was outlawed.

A fragment of newspaper dating from December 1917 was also found under floorboards in the attic. The piece of the Sunday Pictorial, which went on to become the Sunday Mirror, features an article on shortages because of the first world war – and the falling price of turkeys.

The hall re-opens for the season on March 9.

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