Purcell’s conservation of the Grade I listed Chapter House at Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral has won a prestigious Oxford Preservation Trust Award for building conservation. Working with Cliveden Conservation, the building has been carefully upgraded to improve accessibility and to ensure the continued protection of this significant building which is now fully open and in regular use for a wide range of public and academic events.
The first phase of work on this fine example of a 13th century building focused on paring back fixtures and fittings installed over the years when the Chapter House was used as the cathedral shop and treasury. The original marble floor has been repaired, along with lime plaster on the walls and masonry repairs.
New circular pendant lights, designed by Light Perceptions, take inspiration from the circular motif of the medieval ceiling paintings, and make use of the existing 19th century hooks in the vaulted ceiling. These are supplemented by lighting from discreet spotlights installed in the capitals using reversible friction fittings. Mechanical and electrical works were overhauled, and a new heating and sound system installed, reusing the 19th century stone heating plinths and grilles.
The 12th century Romanesque entrance door was altered in the 19th century by the addition of stone steps, which have been carefully cut out and replaced with a single step and a portable ramp to improve access to the Chapter House.
James Lawrie, Treasurer of Christ Church, said: ‘Christ Church is delighted that the 13th century Chapter House has been restored to its former glory for use by the Cathedral and the rest of Christ Church.’
Lewis Proudfoot, Managing Director, Cliveden Conservation, commented: “We are particularly pleased that the Chapter House project has won this award as it recognises the numerous interventions that went in to transforming this space – from the seamless repairs to the historic timber doors, the new nose to one of the heads, and the perfectly blended repairs to the marble floor that re-used stone from the display cabinets, our skilled craftsmen and women have yet again delivered some exceptional conservation to make an historic space useable in a modern context.”
Purcell Senior Architect and Conservation Project Lead, Charlotte Robinson said: ‘‘The Christ Church Chapter House is a magnificent piece of medieval architecture, which the project aimed to bring back into use through creative installation of new lighting and services, coupled with high-quality conservation. It has been a pleasure to work with the specialist conservators and craftspeople and to see the space come back to life.”