A Stately Restoration

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.

The house swathed in tarpaulin and speciality scaffolding to protect the fragile exterior from the elements during the restoration

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.

Original handmade 18th century nails are exposed in the restoration work

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.

Althorp by John Vosterman 1677. This shows the original red brick, before it was tiled.

The space left by a 'mathematical tile'. The original tile was re-applied using stainless steel pins.

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.

“Mathematical Tiles” awaiting re-application to the original red brick

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.

Work now complete, Althorp opened it’s gates officially for the summer season on the 1st July, two weeks after the successful Literary Festival.

Althorp's facade has been preserved for future generations

The Althorp Living History Collection is available at selected retailers globally.

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