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Restoration work on historic Howard House uncovers 63 wallpapers dating back to 18th century

Sixty-three wallpapers believed to be from the 18th century, have been uncovered during extensive restoration works at one of Norwich’s most historic houses.


Contractors, R&J Hogg who are renovating the house on behalf of Orbit, developers of the neighbouring £70m St Anne’s Quarter, discovered the decorative artefacts while carefully removing the 1970s boarding during restoration work at the Grade II* listed Howard House on King Street.


Maggie McCann, development director at Orbit said: “The discovery of wallpapers and artefacts such as the 130-year-old letter found last year is very exciting. Working with conservationists has been a very important part of our development at St Anne’s Quarter to ensure any history uncovered is carefully recorded.


“Howard House and the site of St Anne’s Quarter are rich in history and it’s important that we recognise, preserve and record these incredible findings respecting the heritage of the site while developing it for future generations.”


Most of the wallpapers were obscured by sooty grime and only came to light after chemical and fibre analysis carried out by leading authority for the conservation of historic interiors, Lincoln Conservation, based at the University of Lincoln.


Ruth Brennan at Ruth Brennan Architects said: “It is unusual to have so many sorts of wallpaper from all ages on top of one another. The history of wall decoration from the 18thcentury onwards is in one building with hundreds of pieces in various sizes and scraps.”


Once the wallpapers have been dry-cleaned by a brush, they will be photographed by conservators. They will then be covered up with Japanese tissue paper, an impermeable membrane and wall finish protecting them from dust, while further research is carried out and logged with Orbit and Norwich City Council.


Lorraine Roberts, conservation technician at the University added: “The historic wallpapers will provide a better understanding of the ways in which Howard House was used through the centuries.


“As objects themselves, the wallpapers are a valuable record and source of new information regarding historic interior schemes; they inform us not only on aesthetic preferences but are evidence of changes in material technology and social history.”


Work to restore the house, which has stood empty for more than 20 years, will be completed later this year and forms part of Orbit’s plans to transform the neighbouring St Anne’s Quarter into a high-quality residential-led development of more than 400 new homes.