Following a design competition, we were appointed by Corpus Christi College to make sense of the existing fabric of their Grade 1 listed medieval buildings and the adjacent Wilkins staircase, as well as create a modern kitchen and new servery. Work also included the redecoration of the Parker Room and Wilkin’s Dining Hall.
Corpus Christi College was founded in 1321 and its Old Court is the oldest surviving enclosed courtyard in Cambridge. In 1823-7 William Wilkins designed New Court, which includes the first floor Dining Hall. He turned the vaulted medieval Old Hall into the college kitchens. In 1948 the college inserted a concrete slab to create a two-level kitchen that crashed through the middle of double-height windows. Further work in 1981 introduced numerous ducts obscuring the fabric, encased the remaining medieval structure and added an intrusive screen within Wilkins’ Staircase.
“We chose NRAP because their vision of the architectural work required was clear, and consistent with the College’s wishes in respect of modernisation, conservation and intervention”
Tim Harvey-Samuel, Bursar
Our scheme sought to unpick intrusive additions to uncover the medieval fabric, and reveal the spatial integrity of Old Hall and Wilkins’ stair enclosure. Work included the rationalisation of the cooking arrangements, now confined to the lower level, the refurbishment of the upper level of Old Hall to create an open servery, and the reinstatement of a single volume housing Wilkins’ staircase.
We concealed new ducts within a thickened wall at the end of the servery, cut back the concrete slab where it ran across the windows and the arch to New Court, and placed a service stair within the oriel window of Old Hall to allow the window to be enjoyed over two storeys. Plant was concealed from view on the adjacent roof, supported on a structural cradle.
The staircase hall was stripped back, redecorated and a stone balustrade constructed to match the original. A lift was installed to allow disabled access for the first time, and a door based on Wilkins’ design was introduced to provide a fitting entrance to the servery. Another door was also introduced at the east end of the servery to give access to the eighteenth-century Parker Room.
During the building work 5 original medieval corbels were uncovered.
The corbels and original wooden cornicing were restored as part of the project.
The corbels, which sit just above the new floor level have mirrors set beneath them so they can be more eailsy enjoyed.
View of the interior of the College Kitchen, looking East, 1931
The servery prior to the refurbishment.
The refurbished servery with ducting and partition removed.
Historic plan showing lay out of the ground-floor of the former Master’s Lodge prior to its conversion.
Collection of early 20th-century plates, found during archaeological excavation of the hall during the project
Photograph showing part of the footing of the north wall of the former Great Hall and the northern end of the 15th-century dais.