You’re only supposed to take the doors off... Workers tackle ancient gates at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk

The first of the two 15th century doors at Oxburgh Hall that was taken down for repair. Picture: Ian

The first of the two 15th century doors at Oxburgh Hall that was taken down for repair. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Five-hundred-year-old gates that Henry VII would have once rode through have been removed for repairs.

Workmen at Oxburgh Hall, Oxborough, were yesterday lifting the ancient portals to repair damage caused by a storm last November.

Chris Calman, National Trust conservator, said: 'We had a problem last November when we had some very high winds. One of the gates dropped off it's hinge and pushed up into the archway so they have been unable to operate.'

The heavy oak gates each weigh more than a tonne and so two forklifts were required to carry the gates to the courtyard where the work could be carried out.

'This is the first phase of the work that is needed, our principle job today is just to repair the hinges.' said Mr Calman.

'The top hinge is loose and the lower hinge is worn so we are going to be packing it, this will allow it to move freely.

'Key thing that we want to do is retain as much of the original as possible but they also have to function.

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'At the same time it's going to allow us to have a closer functional knowledge of the gates and this maybe able to help us understand better how they were made.

'The gates are essentially made of oak with metal elements, we also think they may have been painted.'

Although the gates went back in place yesterday more work is planned for next year to give time for parts to be made in a style keeping with the heritage of the gates. Metal elements will be made from recycled wrought iron as the material is no longer made.

Rupert Harris, metalwork conservation adviser to the National Trust, said: 'My job now is to plan the repair and replacement of any worn areas. The first job is inspection and to get it back on the bolts in working condition. The second part is to do the timber repairs and metal work.

'It's just wear over 500 years. The gates weigh over a tonne each and there is a lot of stress on the hinges.

'It's quite a rare job because obviously gates like this just don't exist. They tend to be replaced because the timber work has rotted.

'The timber is in fact very solid despite how it looks but there have undoubtedly been some repairs over the years, whether the gates have been lifted before I don't know. It's a fantastically made door considering it was made with rudimentary tools.'

Liz Cooper, house manager at Oxburgh Hall, said: 'The gates were part of the original building, finished in 1482. They are in good condition considering they are opened and closed every day. 'We are very excited to be able to close them again. We have a lot of school visits and the children love to see the gates opened and closed. They love to touch something that is so old.

'What we do is stabilise. Everything deteriorates and we can't stop that but what we can do is slow that as much as possible.'

Henry VII graced Oxburgh Hall with a royal visit in August 1487 to honour it's builder, Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, who had supported the Henry VII during the War of the Roses.

Although Oxburgh Hall was built as a family home the heavy wooden doors will have helped keep the house safe from unrest during the Civil War when the family supported the King.