Chapter House, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

A project to bring back Chapter House into use as a multi-functional meeting and event space required specialist conservation skills in a number of areas.

Project overview

Project overview
A project to bring back Chapter House into use as a multi-functional meeting and event space required specialist conservation skills in a number of areas. Working with Purcell Architects, Cliveden Conservation were appointed to carry out remedial treatment to the marble floor, plaster walls, stonework and the timber door and other joinery.

Summary of the conservation work carried out
The room had previously been used as the Cathedral shop, so the first phase of works was to strip the fixtures and fittings out to begin conservation. The large treasury case set on concrete plinths in the centre of the Chapter House was to be removed to open the full space. This required careful cutting out of the plinths, avoiding damage to the marble floor. Conservation work could then commence to all elevations, the ceiling, and the floor.

Cementitious plaster which had been applied to the lower parts of the walls was carefully removed by conservators. New lime plaster was then applied to these areas. A 19th century heating system disguised within a stone plinth around the perimeter of the room was brought back into use. The redundant pipes were removed, and a new discrete heating system installed inside the plinth.

Masonry repairs were carried out to the marble floor – re-using the marble from the treasury case plinth for the black tiles, with new white marble chosen to match the historic floor tiles. Smaller damage was repaired with mortar and resin fills, and the entire floor was cleaned and polished.

The Norman entrance door to the Chapter House had been altered in the 19th century, with two steps up and one down. It was decided to rationalise this to a single step to improve ambulant access with a portable ramp when needed.

The stone step was carefully cut out by conservators avoiding any damage to the Norman door surround, and a new stone step installed. Stone repairs were made to the lower plinths of the door surround and Purbeck slabs matched into the Cloister floor.

Conservation works was carried out to the timber door (thought to be 17th century), with a new oak piece discretely added to extend the door to the increased height of the opening. The ancient timber was cleaned and oiled, and the original wrought iron ironmongery refurbished.

New circular pendant lighting was installed, reusing 19th century hooks in the vaulted ceiling, and discrete miniature spotlights installed to the pilaster capitals using discrete friction held fittings, avoiding any penetrations into to the masonry. The lighting scheme provides soft up lighting, with downwards spots for flexible event lighting. Finally, a conservation grade clean was carried out to the stone masonry of the vaulted ceiling.


The conservation work was carried out effectively and on time. The Chapter House is now fully open and regularly used for hosting events.

Project details


Chapter House, Christ Church Cathedral

Specialist Contractor:

Cliveden Conservation


Plaster | Stonework

What we did

“The Cathedral Chapter is delighted by the work carried out by Cliveden Conservation to return the medieval Chapter House from a retail shop to a multi-purpose exhibition and entertainment space suitable for seminars, small concerts and recitals”

John Briggs, Christ Church Cathedral Registrar