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Oxburgh Hall chimney reconstruction work underway as part of National Trust roof project

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The first five of 27 ornate mock-Tudor chimneys have been reconstructed ahead of Christmas at a Grade I listed country house.

As part of a £6million roof project at the National Trust’s Oxburgh Hall, bricks for the new chimneys are being hand-made using traditional methods.

Added for decoration in the Victorian era and now in need of urgent repair, only five of the chimneys are being restored using existing bricks.

Oxburgh Hall
Oxburgh Hall

A total of 12,000 bricks weighing in at 29 tonnes are being hand-made for the job.

Bulmer Brick and Tile Company, who have been supplying bricks to Oxburgh for half a century, are behind the work having also worked on restoration projects at Hampton Court Palace and other key historic sites.

National Trust project manager, David White, 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 is 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.

“We’ve been very careful as we’ve removed the chimneys, assigning a number to each brick, which we then record within drawings.”

Aerial photographs will help conservators to rebuild the decorative structures.

Sophie Twyford, is the architectural conservator at Messenger, who are carrying out the specialist work.

She 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.

“The chimneys are then finished with a colour wash, to give them their final appearance. This is how all decorative chimneys would have been finished. At Oxburgh, the red colour brings together the structure and hides any joints.

"The result will be identical to how they would have looked when they were first built in 1830. So far we’ve built 5 chimney stacks and they already look like they’ve always been there.”

As well as the reconstruction of the chimneys, the chimney flues have been swept and surveyed using CCTV.

The National Trust said this proved challenging, with over 200 years of nesting material compacted within them and showrooms with large fireplaces to protect.

The roof project received a grant from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, as well as support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and National Trust supporters.

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