Worcester College

Work Carried Out:

Customer: Lead Bitter Construction

Scaffold Contracted: Temporary Pedestrian Walkway over Pond

About the Building:

There has been an institution of learning on the College site since the late thirteenth-century, though Worcester College, in its current form, was founded only in 1714.

The buildings, particularly in the main quad, are diverse. On the north side there is an imposing eighteenth-century neo-classical building, and on the south side the “Pump Quad” and the picturesque row of medieval “cottages” which are among the oldest residential buildings in Oxford, and are the surviving parts of Gloucester College, Worcester's predecessor, which was founded in 1283 for the Benedictine order.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries in about 1539 ended the existence of Gloucester College. After a brief interlude, Gloucester Hall, which lacked the full range of powers of an independent College, occupied the earlier buildings but in 1714 it was refounded as Worcester College after a Worcestershire baronet, Sir Thomas Cookes, had left a benefaction for the foundation of a new college. The eighteenth-century buildings were erected for the new College. Sir George Clarke, together with his friend Nicholas Hawksmoor, designed the central group comprising the Hall, Chapel and a magnificent Library to which, on his death in 1736, Sir George generously left his collection of books and manuscripts. These include the papers of his father William Clarke (which are of crucial importance for the history of England during the period of the Commonwealth and Protectorate) and a large proportion of the surviving drawings of Inigo Jones. Successive generations have added to the Library and the part which houses the working collection for students has been enlarged and modernised.

Because of a lack of funds, Worcester's eighteenth century building programme proceeded by fits and starts. The medieval cottages on the south side of the main quadrangle were to have been demolished and replaced by a further classical range, but survived because money for this purpose was never available; the Hall and Chapel, with interiors by James Wyatt, were not completed until the 1770s. Wyatt also redesigned the Northern 'Terrace' building, which was completed with the Provost's Lodgings, by Henry Keene, in 1776. In 1864 the Chapel was extensively redecorated and refurbished by William Burges.

Thus one of Worcester's architectural distinctions is that it brings together on a single site the work of four major architects: Hawksmoor, Wyatt, Keene and Burges. Over the past fifty years ten residential blocks for undergraduates and graduates have been added, thanks largely to a series of generous benefactions. The most recent are the much acclaimed Sainsbury Building by the edge of the lake (1982), and the Linbury Building (1990), the Canal Building (1994) (for undergraduates), and the Franks Building (1999) (for postgraduates).