Demolition and excavation works in Michaelmas term: a look back
Work on the Levine Building site came to a stop over the holiday period, which provided a moment to look back at this term’s activity on the site. A huge transformation has been in progress: the time-lapse video below shows the progress of the demolition of the Cumberbatch Building between August and October. Going at breakneck speed, it shows just how much has been achieved in just a few months.
In November, the College signed a contract with construction firm Gilbert Ash to deliver the Levine Building itself – they have been responsible for a number of landmark buildings, including the memorial to Bomber Command, which demonstrates their skill in working with stone, and more locally, major projects at Wadham College and St Edward’s School.
The new building in the grounds of Trinity College now has large foundations and a basement; the process of digging these out would destroy archaeological remains, so excavations are being conducted in advance of construction work to see what has been hidden for centuries.
A team from Oxford Archaeology have been involved from the early stages of this project to ensure that important archaeological evidence is thoroughly excavated, recorded and reported on. An initial assessment looking at the archaeological potential of the site raised the possibility that there could be evidence spanning 5,000 years, from the prehistoric periods, through the Roman occupation, to the Saxon, Medieval periods, as well as the formal 18th century gardens. The site work started back in 2018 with a few small archaeological trenches which revealed evidence spanning the last 800 years.
The first phase of the excavation has now been completed, and so far the team has discovered evidence for medieval field systems in the form of ditched boundaries extending under the formal lawns. In the wooded area a small medieval key-hole shaped stone-built kiln or oven was near to a series of pits containing 700-year-old broken pottery vessels and food waste, indicating some form of occupation in this area during the 13th century. After the occupation ceased the area seems to have become disused or turn over to agriculture or gardens as a thick deposit of rich soil developed. Expansion of the College buildings probably promoted the next phase of use when some large quarry pits were dug in the late 17th to early 18th century to gain gravel for construction somewhere nearby.
Another exciting find was evidence of a large stone chamber that looks to be the remains of a large fountain or water-feature; the vessel goes down some three metres into the ground and was probably manually powered by pump. This is particularly significant as it appears to confirm the existence of the elaborate formal gardens depicted in William Williams’s 1733 print of the college. The print was previously thought to reflect Williams’ aspirations for the gardens (perhaps an artistic flight of fancy), but the garden discovery appears to match the feature in the print very closely.
The Oxford Archaeology team are undertaking the Phase 2 excavations over a 7 week period through January 2020; who knows what other treasures will be found.
Demolition works update
Demolition of the Cumberbatch Building
The scaffolding around the Cumberbatch Building was completed on 9 September and this has allowed for the start of the demolition work for the Levine Building project.
Until now the demolition contractors (Erith) have been removing the fixtures and fittings from the Cumberbatch Building. The structure of the building is now starting to be demolished, starting from the top down.
With the roof structure removed, Erith are using a crane to put their demolition equipment onto the top floor of the Cumberbatch for breaking up the reinforced concrete structure. This is noisy work, involving hammering at the concrete to shake it free of the reinforcement and then cutting and removing the metalwork left behind. It can also be dusty work, so the building is surrounded in debris sheeting and sometimes a water mist is applied to help capture the dust in the air.
The old fourth floor, where there were previously showers and toilets, has now largely disappeared. Erith will be continuing down through the building over the next few weeks.
Work has also been underway in the Norrington Room of Blackwell’s bookshop next door to the site. The existing fire escape from the Norrington Room is to be moved to a newly formed escape, so that rather than passing through the basement of the Cumberbatch Building, the escape route can go via the lightwell outside the Library. Progress of these works is critical for timing of the demolition works and Erith are nearing completion.
The current access to the War Memorial Library has been kept open as a protected route as the site has grown around it, but soon it will become blocked by the construction work for the Levine Building.
Once closed, the original route will be out of bounds for students and staff until Michaelmas Term 2021. To overcome the access closure, a temporary access for the upper level of the library was needed; work is underway to form this access now. One of the large sash windows from the upper level has been removed (safely stored away from the work area) and a footbridge has been formed over the lightwell, starting from the Library Quad.
Once complete there will be a lobby in place to keep the weather and construction noise out of the library. The new access will also have the same security as currently exists in the library, with fob access and CCTV to the entrance to prevent intrusion by non-college members.
It is planned for temporary access to be in place for the beginning of next term.
Demolition works briefing (May 2019)
The work to remove the existing buildings and clear the site for the Levine Building project started at the end of Trinity Term 2019.
There are some key areas of Trinity College’s main site that will be impacted during the works and will be happening in 2019 and beyond:
Some of the meeting room furniture and equipment will be moving to the Temporary Building on the North Lawn from 3rd June 2019.
Clearance of the Cumberbatch building’s accommodation will start from 24th June 2019.
From 1st July the strip out of the Cumberbatch building will commence. The demolition of the block will be completed carefully floor by floor and will take place over the summer of 2019.
The setup of the demolition contractor’s compound will start from 24th June in the area between the Cumberbatch Building and Parks Road. The gardener’s facilities will be cleared from this area throughout July.
This area will continue to be prepared in the build up to the main contractor’s works throughout the rest of 2019. Archaeological monitoring will be in place throughout the groundworks.
Hoarding and tree protection fencing will be installed during summer 2019. There will be no access to what will be the construction site from then until 2021.
Lawns and Parks Road
A new temporary building is now located on the North Lawn to provide an alternative study area to the library and replace the use of the Danson and Britton Rooms. This will be in use throughout the building work on the Levine Building.
The South Lawn will start to change from 1st July. There will be hoarding enclosing much of the South Lawn and leading up to the Stuart Gates on Parks Road. The hoarding will initially be in place for drainage works due to be carried out over the summer of 2019. Up until 2021 the hoarding will be in place to provide a secure compound for use by the main contractors working on the Levine Building.
There will be trenching works to the paths around the South Lawn throughout July 2019 to new services routes.
The metalwork elements of the Stuart Gates will be removed from site until 2021; this will allow the gates to undergo necessary conservation repairs. A temporary gate will be put in place and the stonework to the piers on either side will protected and encased in a timber hoarding.
It is planned that the pedestrian gate alongside the Stuart Gates will remain accessible to provide access onto Parks Road.
The garden gates located on Parks Road are being widened as part of the project.
We will look to avoid disruption to the Library and its services throughout June (including Trinity 9th week). From 1st July the entrance into the Library becomes part of the demolition site. A new temporary entrance will be provided to the upper level of the Library from Library Quad.
The platform lift which provides access to the upper level of the Library and the Danson Room will be removed; this will limit wheelchair access to the Library and this will continue throughout the works until new provision is made in the Levine Building Library Reception.
The area in front of the Library will be enclosed by hoarding from summer 2019 onwards, this hoarding will continue up to the area of the Wilderness.
There will be temporary locations for some of the retained mechanical equipment behind the hoarding.
Temporary gardener’s facilities will be located in the Library Quad from summer 2019 and into 2020. These will include sheds and polytunnels.
Once the Library Quad is cleared of temporary facilities in 2021 it will be landscaped with a new lawn, water feature, a triptych of trees and new seating areas.