In 2009 the Althorp Estate embarked on an ambitious project of exterior restoration that is now complete. This vital restoration work has in part been funded the Althorp Living History Furniture Collection.
Central to the project was the delicate task of stabilizing the thousands of “mathematical tiles” that encase the earlier red brick house. Each tile fits with its neighbour in a complex slotting pattern devised by the celebrated 18th century architect Henry Holland. The hand made iron nails used over two hundred years ago to fix the tiles were in need to replacement or additional support from modern stainless steel. The house was cloaked in white tarpaulin for months, protected from the elements while the delicate task of restoration was undertaken.
The scaffolding contractors constructed a vast top-hat scaffold, which enveloped the entire roof of the West Wing and was cleverly designed so as not to rest on the fragile fabric of the house itself or the delicate flagstones around the perimeter of the building.
The tiling was applied to the original Tudor red brick house (below) when the first Earl Spencer instructed Henry Holland to transform Althorp in the 1770s. White brick was deemed too expensive for the facing and so the mathematical tile was proposed as an alternative. The tiles were made in a kiln near Ipswich.
The cladding of Althorp started in 1788, but unfortunately, more than 200 years on, the nails securing the tiles reached the end of their life and so it is was necessary to pin them back to the building, using stainless steel pins.
It has also become necessary to replace the lead roofing to the west wing which was last replaced in the 1950s. During the course of the work, graffiti showing the names of the Estate staff that carried out the work have been found and a number of the families of those skilled men still live and work on the Estate, some 60 years later.