Clarendon Building exterior renovation to start 4 July

Photo of the front exterior of the Clarendon Building, image set against bright blue sky

The work will focus on the building’s southern facade – facing the Old Bodleian Library – and its sides. The north side, overlooking the end of Broad Street, is in better condition and will form part of a later phase.

The work will start on Monday 4 July and carry on until around Christmas, assuming the team do not discover any previously unknown problems. The first few weeks of this will mainly involve putting up scaffolding.

The team will clean and repair the building’s stonework, using steam to remove organic material such as lichen or algae and then applying a chemical poultice to draw out deposits from air pollution and other sources. They will cut out and replace any badly eroded stone, and will make any necessary repairs to the roof, guttering and anywhere else damage is discovered.

The Estates Services FM Joiners will recondition the building’s sash windows so that they all open and shut smoothly while keeping draughts out, also repairing broken sash cords so the windows stay open without being propped. This will greatly improve the Clarendon Building’s thermal performance and make it more comfortable in cold weather. The team are also considering adding film to the windows to reduce thermal gain, helping it stay cool in summer.

They will also take the opportunity to replace the railings around the light wells on both the building’s main facades with a design that complies with modern safety standards, as well as being more in keeping with the area’s architectural setting. The statues on the roof, representing the nine Muses of Greek myth, will also be inspected and any problems dealt with. 

Most of the building’s exterior has not been comprehensively scaffolded for a number of years, so the project should greatly improve its appearance as well as making its users more comfortable.

The work should only cause limited disruption to the area around, but an area of the courtyard between the Clarendon Building and Old Bodleian will be fenced off for equipment, storage and welfare facilities. Work will stop whenever there are large events or University ceremonies in the Sheldonian.

The Clarendon Building was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, also responsible for parts of All Souls, Worcester and Queen’s Colleges and for six famous churches across London. It was built between 1711 and 1713, originally to house the printing presses of OUP after these were moved out of the basement of the Sheldonian.

For many years the building held both OUP and a separate Bible press, hence its two unconnected staircases. In 1830 the printing press moved to OUP’s new premises on Walton Street and the Clarendon Building became the University’s administrative offices. Now that most of these have in turn moved to Wellington Square, the building contains the Proctor’s Office and space that is used by the Vice-Chancellor, OUP and the senior management of the Bodleian Libraries.