Historically important
Historically important

St John's College

University of Oxford, Oxford

Historic columns replacement as part of Grade I listed library refurbishment, within the grounds of one of the UK's most important architectural sites.


Internal restoration

Refurbishment of the Grade 1 Listed 16th century Old Library and 17th century Laudian Library and remodelling of the Paddy Room area under the Old Library. The purpose of the project was to remove the 1970’s and 1980’s additions, such as new timber bookends placed at the front of each row of original  bookshelves. 

Every detail was crafted in oak, such as the panelling to match the original walls, bespoke oak desks, bookcases, and floors. The carved oak angels and shields in the ceiling trusses were refurbished. Mechanical and electrical systems were modernised throughout and secondary glazing was installed.

Replacing the structural pillars

A major part of the contract was to replace the 28 failing structural columns in the quadrangle, repairs to the cracks were no longer deemed sufficient, so the columns needed to be removed and replaced.

The stone used in the original columns is Bletchingdon marble and was mined locally, however, that mine is no longer in existence, so we worked with our stonemason to source an alternative that is hard-wearing as well as aesthetically similar.






St John's College


Wright & Wright

Quantity Surveyor

Peter Gittens


Form of Contract

JCT standard


Extensive temporary works

The 28 stone columns reinforce a 400 year old, three-storey Grade I Listed building above with no foundations.

We devised an elegant solution to support this building while removing the pillars. We poured concrete into the ground to create temporary foundations, then devised a system of polystyrene supports under each arch and scaffold poles that distribute weight along the foundations evenly.

Hidden lifts

The lifts were concealed in the floor in order to maintain the 400 year old appearance of the rooms; when a button is pressed, the steps disappear and a lift appears.

Architecturally significant

Historic England referred to this as one of the most historically important quadrangles in Britain. In order to make the project a success, great emphasis was put on collaboration with Historic England and Oxford City Council planning department.