‘Topping-out’ ceremony keeps tree spirits happy as new Catherine Hughes building reaches construction milestone

The completion of the timber-frame structure of the new five-storey Catherine Hughes student residence at Somerville College in Oxford, was celebrated this week with a traditional ‘topping-out’ ceremony.

Dr Trevor Hughes, husband of Somerville College’s former Principal, the late Catherine Hughes CMG, performed the ancient ritual of placing a spruce tree atop a new building to appease tree-dwelling spirits.

Our Oxford team is building the £8.4 million student accommodation that will provide 68 ensuite bedrooms and allow the College to accommodate all their undergraduates on site for the duration of their studies.

“This building plays an important part in bringing our community even closer together,” says Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College. “The interior is still taking shape, but I am delighted to see that the rooms will be so spacious and characterful, and that the spaces inside will be filled with natural light. I am confident that generations of students will be happy to live and study here.”

Designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects, the new student residence fronting onto Walton Street, is due for completion in October next year. The red brick building will also be accessible from the College’s gardens and will align with key levels on the neighbouring Penrose Building.

“Today’s topping-out ceremony brings us past the construction half-way point and onto the home stretch towards project completion. Building works are progressing well: the roof is on, windows are being fitted and we’ve started the interior fit out,” says Beard contracts manager Richie Carter.

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