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Restoring the University Church of St Mary the Virgin

As the main contractor it’s been a real pleasure to work on the 13 month Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, at the centre of Oxford’s skyline.

As one of England’s most visited and historically important churches with a potentially fragile structure we knew that sensitive craftsmanship would be essential. At the same time we were working very near to the public and needed to get important visitor areas, including the Vaults café reopened as early as possible.  Technical phasing would therefore be crucial.

Throughout the methodical and painstaking work, teamwork with the client, the design team led by Caroe Architecture and the many specialists involved has also been essential.

Initial work involved enveloping the building in scaffolding to the top of the 200-foot spire, so that the work of cleaning, repair and redressing the stonework, including the triple-gabled outer pinnacles, inner pinnacles, gargoyles and statues, could proceed.

Internally, birdcage scaffolding provided top-down access for cleaning, repair and refurbishment of the base and interior of the tower, the Chancel, the Adam de Brome Chapel and the Nave.  

Equipping the Church for the 21st century has also been important. All main services have been renewed. A platform lift and DDA compliant toilets were installed and the parish kitchen and Sunday school were refurbished. The Old Library, built in 1320 and largely hidden from view, has also been restored and a concealed multi-media sound system will enhance its function as a lecture and conference space.

On December 13th 2012, we formally handed back the Nave area, bringing to an end the construction phase of the Heritage Lottery funded project. Returning visitors will already notice vast improvements from the new gilding at the top of the spire and the restored detailing of the exterior, to the renewed and sparkling interior spaces.