£6m project to restore the historic Oulton Hall could be completed this year

Oulton Hall owner Bolton Agnew. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Oulton Hall owner Bolton Agnew. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A £6m project to restore a historic hall gutted by an inferno could be complete by the end of this year.

Oulton Hall owner Bolton Agnew.

Oulton Hall owner Bolton Agnew. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Oulton Hall, near Aylsham, was almost destroyed in April 2015 when a fire broke out in its roof space.

Firefighters used around three million litres of water over a seven- hour period to fight back the flames, as temperatures reached 1,000C.

Almost two years on from the incident, and work is under way to bring the 18th-century building back to its former glory.

Plans recently submitted to Broadland District Council reveal the proposed changes to its basement, ground and first floor.

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Bolton Agnew, whose family have lived there since 1870, said: 'It is a big job, because it was gutted by the fire. If you stand in the hall, you can look up and see the sky, because the floor and roof is gone.

'The exacerbating factor is that the building is listed, and it had many fine features. But the insurers have been good enough to restore it to its former condition.'

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The hall's drawing room is to be restored to its original proportion and character by the removal of a modern fragmentary partition wall.

A redundant fireplace will also be repaired with the intention to bring it back into operation.

Elsewhere, the main entrance hall and first floor landing areas will be fully restored to include the main timber staircase.

The ground-floor sitting room will also be returned to its original size and the original plaster wall finishes will be replaced.

Mr Agnew, 66, who has lived in the coach house on the grounds since the fire, said external work is likely to be completed by July.

But he believed the restoration of the interior would take longer.

'We are currently five weeks behind the plan worked up last February,' he said.

'But we are reasonably confident we will make up that time, and finish the project by the end of the year.'

It is understood the fire started from a hole in the chimney flue in the building's roof space. Strong winds during the night of the blaze created a vacuum, sucking gas from the fire into the roof space, which then ignited.

Mr Agnew, who is the fifth generation of his family to live there, previously said around 80pc of contents had been lost.

While he had been able to save some family pictures and furniture, other sentimental items, such as ancestral paintings, were destroyed.

The grade II-listed hall is well known as it opens its stunning grounds under the National Gardens Scheme.

Do you know a historic building near you which is being restored? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.

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