Project to replace elaborate chimneys at Tudor manor house begins
- Credit: Nicholas Farka
They are the cherries on top of a very historic cake, but now the 27 elaborate chimneys at Oxburgh Hall are no longer considered fit for purpose.
So now the flues atop the National Trust-owned building near Swaffham are being taken down, to be replaced by replicas made from 12,000 bricks weighing 29 tonnes.
The project is part of a £6 million roof replacement project at the stately home.
David White, project manager from the trust, said: “The medieval core of Oxburgh dates to 1482, but the chimneys were one of the more elaborate features added in the Victorian era.
"Part of Oxburgh’s distinctive character, each chimney is slightly different in its design, one of which was so complex, the brick-makers had to turn to a 3D printer to create a special mould."
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The bricks are being hand-made using traditional methods by Sudbury-based Bulmer Brick and Tile Company, which has supplied bricks to Oxburgh for more than 50 years and has also worked on chimney restoration projects at other historic sites including Hampton Court Palace.
Mr White added: "We’ve been very careful as we’ve removed the chimneys, assigning a number to each brick, which we then record within drawings.
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"We’re also taking photographs, all of which will help our conservators accurately rebuild these decorative structures that will once again dominate Oxburgh’s roofscape."
Only five of the chimneys are able to be restored using the existing bricks.
Sophie Twyford, architectural conservator at building contractors Messenger, which is carrying out the replacement work, said: “Once the bricks are made, kiln fired and dried, they arrive at Oxburgh Hall where we lay them out in our brick shed, to ensure that the patterns line up.
"We then assemble them brick by brick, course by course, ensuring they’re straight horizontally and vertically.
“The bricks are then bonded together using a hot lime mortar, which allows us to achieve very fine joints. After the main stack is built, the crown is constructed, and a harder lime mortar applied to add further protection from the elements.
"So far we’ve built five chimney stacks and they already look like they’ve always been there.”
The Oxburgh Hall restoration has been nominated for a ‘Rescue Project of the Year’ award in the Current Archaeology Awards, see www.archaeology.co.uk/vote for more