Project to replace elaborate chimneys at Tudor manor house begins

Chimneys are built brick by brick, course by course at Oxburgh Hall

Chimneys are built brick by brick, course by course at Oxburgh Hall. - 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.

Each chimney at Oxburgh Hall has a unique and elaborate design

Each chimney at Oxburgh Hall has a unique and elaborate design - Credit: Nicholas Farka

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."

Conservators are carefully rebuilding 27 chimneys at Oxbrugh Hall.

Conservators are carefully rebuilding 27 chimneys at Oxbrugh Hall. - Credit: Nicholas Farka


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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.

Detail of brickwork and chimneys on the west range at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk. The projecting ground-f

Detail of brickwork and chimneys on the west range at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk. The projecting ground-floor window is that of the West Drawing Room and was added in the mid-19th century. - Credit: ©NTPL/Robert Morris

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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.

A view of the roof under the scaffolding at Oxburgh Hall.

A view of the roof under the scaffolding at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

“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

One of the newly reconstructed chimneys at Oxburgh Hall.

One of the newly reconstructed chimneys at Oxburgh Hall. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

One of 27 elaborate chimneys on the roof of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

One of 27 elaborate chimneys on the roof of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk. - Credit: National Trust Images/Allan King

The moat at Oxburgh Hall with a swan in the foreground

The moat at Oxburgh Hall with a swan in the foreground. - Credit: Ray Hallett

Oxburgh Hall surrounded in scaffolding.

Oxburgh Hall surrounded in scaffolding. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

The chimneys are being built to reflect the original building

The chimneys are being built to reflect the original building. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

The chimneys at Oxburgh Hall are finished with a colour wash.

The chimneys at Oxburgh Hall are finished with a colour wash. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

A few of many elaborate chimneys on the roof of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

A few of many elaborate chimneys on the roof of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk - Credit: National Trust Images/Allan King


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