Beard appointed to replace columns on Grade I listed library

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grade i listed library

Beard has been appointed to replace 28 historic columns as part of a major Grade I listed library refurbishment, on one of the UK’s most important architectural sites

Beard has been onsite from July at St John’s College, Oxford, to work on the £10m Grade I listed library refurbishment.

The 16th century Old Library, and 17th century Laudian Library extension is located in the Canterbury Quadrangle.

The columns are an integral part of the historic Quadrangle – but are beginning to fail structurally – ruling out a cosmetic repair.

Once it was clear the columns would need to be removed, Wright and Wright architects and the Beard team set out to find the right replacements to complete the Grade I listed library refurbishment.

It was essential to ensure that the aesthetic of the new columns remained in keeping with the rest of the building, however, the site where the original stone was quarried has long closed down.

The stone for the original columns is Bletchingdon marble and was mined locally.

By working with expert stonemasonry firm, Szerelmey and Wright & Wright architects, a carboniferous limestone, Swaledale fossil, was identified as the ideal replacement.

As the stone is not commonly used in Oxford, approval from Oxford City Planning Department and Historic England had to be sought, and after passing these approvals the stone was quarried and carefully worked to shape.

The historic columns are particularly important as Canterbury Quadrangle is one of the few remaining examples in the UK of the high baroque architectural style, dating back to the early 17th century.

A building of huge cultural and historical significance

Jonathan Brock project manager at St John’s, from Beard commented: “It is a massive honour to be entrusted to work on a building of such huge historical and cultural significance. As the columns are vital for the structure, it was crucial we found the perfect stone.

“By working with the expert team at Szerelmey and the team at the College, we’ve found the ideal replacement that will ensure the aesthetic of the College remains, while ensuring it is structurally sound.

“The building has to be temporarily propped while the columns are removed and despite all the planning we’ve done it is still a nerve-wracking experience to replace the columns.”

‘A significant step in the refurbishment of this exceptionally historic building’

Zoe Hancock, principal bursar of St John’s College, said: “A site of such national importance requires a high calibre of expertise and quality of work which Beard and the team have delivered.

“The replacement of the columns is a significant step in the refurbishment of this exceptionally historic building and to ensure it remains safe and sound for future generations.”

The final phase of the Grade I listed library refurbishment is expected to be finished by early 2023.

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