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Oxford University Joinery Service

Guild of Master CraftsmenOxford University Joinery Service is a highly skilled and creative team that produce bespoke joinery and cabinetmaking work for clients across the collegiate University. 

The joiners are part of the University’s Estates Services, who are responsible for about 400 buildings across the University’s estate. The joiners create exquisite work for the estate, departments and colleges. They also work closely with the Capital Projects and Conservation teams in the restoration of some of Oxford’s most historic buildings.

The joinery team was established in the 1950s and have worked out of an old stable block in the centre of Oxford since 1963. Their base is at the Malthouse on Tidmarsh Lane in Oxford, where they have a fully equipped workshop.

Oxford University
Creating planter boxes.

The team

The joinery team today is made up of Joinery Manager Graham Hooper and five highly experienced team members. They see themselves as the custodians for the future and pride themselves on having a sympathetic working attitude towards maintaining buildings for the next generation. They love working behind the scenes in so many fascinating places and enjoy getting access to areas which are normally out of bounds!

The work

The team supply services across the University to departments and colleges from old listed buildings to cutting edge modern facilities – providing a first class service in managing structures of all ages. They only work within the University and do not currently supply their services commercially.

The range of their commissions is broad and varied. They frequently use traditional methods of working, including old-style machinery and are expert at hand crafting and hand finishing. Some examples of their remarkable work includes the following:

Weston library
Weston library.

Tables and chairs in the Weston Library

In the 1930s architect Sir Gilbert Scott designed the new Bodleian Library, now known as the Weston Library. He created a range of tables and chairs for use by readers from across the University. Several years ago the team were commissioned to restore 128 Sir Gilbert Scott tables and chairs from the library. Originally hand built, the team used a mixture of traditional and modern methods to match existing items and restore them to their original condition.

Bell tower of St Luke’s Chapel 

Brimming with charming features including its Victorian bell tower, this chapel was refurbished by Estates Services in 2012. Over time parts of the bell tower had become worn and fragile, making the bell unsafe to ring. The Estates Services were responsible for the restoration of the tower, while the joinery team completely restored the yoke and wheel using a range of traditional joinery methods to put the bell mechanism back into working order.

Benches in the Divinity School

The team were asked to repair and restore a collection of 500-year-old benches dating back to the time of Oliver Cromwell in the Divinity School, a building steeped in beauty, elegance and charm. The school also served as the Hogwarts infirmary in the Harry Potter films. The benches had seen decades of use by students for lectures, oral exams and discussions on theology. The work, by the joinery team, restored the benches to their rightful condition.

In addition, the joinery team have built the new Meadow Bridge across the river Cherwell in University Parks, a new reception desk at the Chemistry Research Laboratory. They have also created modern exhibition displays and boxes for books. This includes a travelling bookcase for a rare and valuable book, plus display cabinets for prehistoric dinosaur parts!

Oxford University parks
Bridge creation within the University parks.

Environmental initiatives

The joinery team has supported a number of initiatives by the University aimed at protecting the environment and helping nature. This includes work at The Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, which is recognised as an important site for encouraging biodiversity. Shortly after the site was opened in 2013 a range of planter boxes were installed by the joinery team. Made from sustainably sourced timber, these all-year-round planter boxes have actively encouraged bees and other pollinators to visit.

They also created swift nesting boxes(the tower has been a favourite nesting site for swifts for many years) and tree planters at the Museum of Natural History. Research began on studying these swifts in 1948 and the study is now one of the longest continuous studies of a single bird species in the world. The team created several new nesting boxes for the birds and also new planter boxes to protect the trees in the grounds of the museum.

Looking ahead

For the highly skilled joinery service, there will always be interesting and rewarding restoration work to do around the University Estate, keeping both traditional and modern parts of estate thriving today – and restored for future generations.

For further information contact via:

www.guildmc.com

Oxford University Joinery Service, University of Oxford

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