Roof Restoration ProjectIn 2021-2 we undertook major repairs to the roof to keep the building watertight and secure.
The roof of Jane Austen’s House was last refurbished in 1948, shortly before the house was opened to the public. In 2021, over 70 years on, and over a million visitors later, major repairs were required to restore and secure it for the future, ensuring the watertightness of the building and preserving the collections.
We received grants from Hampshire County Council and Historic England/Historic Houses Association which were matched by individual donations from thousands of Janeites from across the globe through both our sponsor-a-roof-tile campaign and Jane’s Fund, which enabled us to complete this vital work.
The scale of the work was not inconsiderable. A huge percentage of the roof tiles needed to be replaced; decades of being exposed to the elements had led them to crack and come apart (known as spalling), whilst the chimneys needed to be repointed.
The works were completed over six months. Over this time the house was covered with a temporary roof and scaffolding which protected the building as every single tile was removed. These tiles were checked and sorted; some were in a good enough condition to go back on the roof, but given their age, the vast majority needed to be replaced. All of the battens, to which the tiles are attached, were replaced, as was the felt which lines the roof. We also improved insulation, increasing our environmental sustainability. The chimneys, dormer windows, guttering and downpipes were also repaired and conserved as part of the project.
During the project, everything ‘normal’ stopped. We were open at the weekends only, and the shrouding of the building meant that even approaching it and accessing it felt strange. Despite this, it did feel like a magical time. This beloved building had so many people caring for it, dedicated to ensuring its safe future, and every day, every step of progress, felt like a milestone achievement.
Throughout the entire project, we were lucky to work with real craftspeople, who took this project as seriously as we did, and applied to it all of their skill and attention to detail. Our new tiles were beautifully made by Keymer Tiles from Kent clay. Each tile has the handprint of the maker pressed into the back of it, and they are craft objects in their own right. Keymer very generously donated a crate of tiles to help with our fundraising. We took some of these tiles into our local primary schools, where the children wrote their own names and messages onto them. We are so grateful to everyone who supported both our sponsor-a-tile and tag-a-tile campaigns. We hope that amongst all those names now up on the roof there are some that will grace the cover of bestselling novels in years to come.
One of the curious effects of the scaffolding was to show the true scale of the building. Too easily belittled and dismissed as a ‘cottage’, this project allowed the real size of the house to become clear: it is a substantial house, and looking up from the ground, the roofers, carpenters, leadworkers and bricklayers looked tiny against the chimneys and roof timbers.
We are incredibly grateful and fortunate that our roof repair project was supported by a wide range of donors.
We would like to thank Historic England and the Historic Houses Foundation for a grant of £85,597, through the second round of the Heritage Stimulus Fund.
Hampshire County Council also generously supported the restoration of our roof with an £85,000 grant.
These two funding bodies join over 3000 people from across the world who contributed to our Save Jane’s Roof sponsor a tile campaign, to help us achieve the full level of funding needed to complete this work.
We’re pleased to be working with a talented and dedicated group of contractors to deliver the project.
Our Architect: Pritchard Architecture
Giles and his team are steering the project through the many RIBA stages and ensuring that work progresses smoothly. Find out more about the practice.
Our Lead Contractor: Clarke Roofing (Southern) Ltd
Clarke Roofing are working with skill and dedication, taking great care of our roof and site. Find out more about Clarke Roofing.
Looking after our community of bats was at the centre of this project. We worked with ecologists to ensure that the restoration work is determined by their timetable, rather than ours.
This little chap was one of a breeding pair found on the first day of roof works. It was rehomed into special bat boxes, housed in an oak tree in the garden of the Museum (a descendent of a tree planted by Jane Austen herself).
Preparatory work on the kitchen wing ensured that there was a bat roost ready for any more of our flying friends found throughout the project.
A thank you to everyone who sponsored a tile
By sponsoring a tile, either for yourself or a loved one, you are becoming part of the story of Jane Austen’s House.
Your sponsorship will be recorded in the Roof Donations Register which will be permanently held in the Museum’s archives, alongside Jane’s own precious works and belongings.
Thank you for being a part of the story, your support has been invaluable for this vital project.