Bats on a non-slip roof - hall's flying residents not forgotten in repair project

Oxburgh Hall, is nearing the end of a £6m project by the National Trust

Oxburgh Hall, a moated manor house, is nearing the end of a £6m project by the National Trust to repair the roof as well as to replace chimneys and carry out other work. It has been home to the Bedingfeld family for 500 years. Throughout the project measures have been taken to ensure that the bat populations which use the hall will still have access to their roosts after the work is finished. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

More than 14,000 special tiles are being fitted to the roof of a stately home to give the historic building's resident bats a helping hand home to roost.

Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, is currently undergoing a £6million restoration project to repair its roof.

The project started in 2016, when a 150-year-old dormer window unexpectedly collapsed exposing a structural weakness in the roof.

Oxburgh Hall, a moated manor house, is nearing the end of a £6m project by the National Trust

Oxburgh Hall, a moated manor house, is nearing the end of a £6m project by the National Trust to repair the roof as well as to replace chimneys and carry out other work. It has been home to the Bedingfeld family for 500 years. Seen here before the roof was retiled. Throughout the project measures have been taken to ensure that the bat populations which use the hall will still have access to their roosts after the work is finished. - Credit: Nicholas Farka

New black-glazed pantiles were chosen for the repair to match the originals used more than two centuries ago which had become cracked and worn.

But when the team working on the project realised the glaze on the tiles was too slippery for the building's resident bats they needed to come up with a solution.

The new roof at the National Trust’s Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, will be bat friendly after a £6m project

The new roof at the National Trust’s Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, will be bat friendly after a £6m project to repair it, which includes rebuilding chimneys and other work. - Credit: © National Trust/Mike Hodgson


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Bat experts carried out tests that found that a coating of paint mixed with the sand of different sizes enabled bats to get a grip with their tiny claws and to climb to the safety of their rooftop roosts.

Now some 14,000 of the special tiles along with 32 bat access points have been designed and included in the restoration.

A bat climbing tests the coated tiles which are being added to the roof of Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk

A bat climbing tests the coated tiles which are being added to the roof of Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk so bats can climb safely into their roosts. The test, done by a licensed bat expert, were part of the work to ensure resident bats would still be able to reach their roosts. - Credit: National Trust

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Surveys carried out by local bat experts found numerous signs of brown long-eared bats and common pipistrelle bats in the attics and roof spaces across the hall.

While work was being carried out a new roost was created in the nearby Bell Tower and bat boxes were installed in the trees on the north terrace to limit the disturbance to the bats.

Repair the dormer window, part of the National Trust’s work on the Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. The Hal

Repair the dormer window, part of the National Trust’s work on the Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. Throughout the project measures have been taken to ensure that the bat populations which use the hall will still have access to their roosts after the work is finished. - Credit: © National Trust/Mike Hodgson

Wayne Gray, the site manager for contractors, Messenger said: “We are proud to be part of this historic project at Oxburgh Hall.

"Every aspect of the work has been undertaken with great care and skill by our team, preserving as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible that will eventually allow the local bat population to move back in."

Oxburgh Hall's chimneys, constructed with handmade bricks

Oxburgh Hall's chimneys which have been constructed with handmade bricks and rebuilt as part of the National Trust’s £6m project to repair the roof and carry out other work. - Credit: National Trust/Mike Hodgson

David White, the National Trust’s project manager,  said: "This has been an ambitious project which now runs across every aspect of the roofscape. This major restoration will safeguard Oxburgh’s future. The project has certainly come with its challenges, as you’d expect for a 500-year-old building surrounded by a moat. However, it’s rewarding to see the craftsmanship and roofline gradually being revealed, as we inch closer to completion.”

The restoration work is due to be completed in early 2022. 

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