Wesley House, Cambridge

Wesley House is a theological college located in Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Originally independent of Cambridge University, it was sold to Jesus College in 2014. With both a reduction in size and an adjustment of focus to post-graduate study, a redevelopment of the site was required to optimize the space and provide improved facilities. With construction starting in 2015, the new building was opened in April last year. A JCT Intermediate Building Contract was the form of choice.

The original Wesley House was constructed in the 1920s and was founded as a Methodist theological college. Its main role was the education of Methodist ministers, but today it serves as a centre for theological study for students and scholars of the Methodist and Wesleyan traditions from around the world. The original building was designed by Maurice Webb, taking inspiration from the style of Morris, Ruskin, and Lutyens.

Wesley House secured its long-term future through its sale to Jesus College in 2014, incorporating it within Cambridge University. Repositioning its focus as a post-graduate research institution meant a reduction in scale of its accommodation to less than a third of its original size. This presented architect and designer, Cowper Griffith Architects, with an interesting set of challenges – carrying out the redevelopment on a reduced site without losing any of the original facilities, working in a sensitive location in the north-east of Cambridge city centre in close proximity to a listed chapel, and providing improved and modern facilities whilst respecting the design and materials of the existing fabric.

The £6.1m, 2,500m2 redevelopment includes a new library, dining room, upgraded chapel, seminar rooms, offices, and new and refurbished student accommodation. The scheme has been sensitively interwoven into the adjacent 1920s and 18th century buildings. Stone, hand-made brick work, joinery, and Westmoreland slate have been employed to match and reflect the high quality materials used in the original buildings.

Fifteen new student rooms have been added to the north east corner, extending the site facing onto Jesus College Fellows Garden. A top-lit staircase opens off an existing entrance to the courtyard interior to provide access. The existing thirteen rooms have been refurbished with modern en-suite facilities, wifi access, and purpose-built shared kitchen/dining areas to promote community life.

To create a new main entrance for the college, an existing 1960s building was demolished and replaced with a new entrance, as well as a purpose-built Porters Lodge and administration offices on the ground floor. A new gatehouse replaces the existing 1970s one.

The seminar rooms, new library, dining room and kitchens are located on the top floor above the Porters Lodge, completing the main part of the new building. Facing Jesus Lane in the front and the court at the back, the building forms a bridge between the public and private areas. Whilst the materials reference the original and existing structures, the styling is given a more sleek and contemporary twist, using stone surrounds and bronze casements. The new building is wheelchair accessible and includes wifi access and a reception area for visitors.

The JCT Intermediate Building Contract is suitable for a broad range of traditionally procured projects and ideal where a range of building services and specialisms are required. In the case of Wesley House, where there is a mix of refurbishment and new build, and a variety of works – including stonework, joinery, hand-made brick work – the Intermediate form is ideally suited to capturing requirements and responsibilities of parties in a clear way. Enabling smooth working contractually has resulted in a fine building for Wesley House and its students, serving them well for their future.

Project Summary
Start: Jan 2015
Completed: April 2018
Contract: JCT Intermediate Building Contract
Cost: £6.1m
Gross Internal Floor Area: 2,500m²
Client: Wesley House
Architect: Cowper Griffith Architects
Main Contractor: Jerram Falkus Construction
Quantity Surveyor: Andrew Morton Associates
Structural Engineer: Smith and Wallwork Engineers
M&E Consultant & Acoustics: Max Fordham
Heritage Consultant: Purcell
Project Manager & CDM Coordinator: Sweett Group
Approved Building Inspector: Cambridge Building Council


Image: Peter Cook