New life for Old College

01 July 2013

The Old College
The Old College

The redevelopment of Aberystwyth University’s prestigious Old College has come a step closer after the University’s Council approved a feasibility study on Monday 24 June.

Exciting proposals for an art gallery/museum, artists’ studios, a postgraduate study centre, community/performance spaces, residential accommodation for postgraduate students and visiting academics, a café/restaurant and commercial spaces for small businesses feature in the study prepared by architects Austin-Smith: Lord, in conjunction with Hosta Ltd.

Also featured are proposals for other University owned property in the vicinity of the Old College - Rock House (1 and 2 Marine Terrace), which for many years housed the University’s Medical Centre, Y Bwthyn (King Street) and 1,9 and 10 Laura Place. The latter, the Assembly Rooms, includes the Joseph Parry Hall.

The total project cost is expected to be in the region of £15m to £20m.

The authors consulted extensively with representatives from local businesses and the arts community, Aberystwyth Town Council, Ceredigion County Council and Cadw during the preparation of the study.

Professor April McMahon, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said: “The Old College is one of the most iconic buildings on the whole of the Welsh coastline and this study offers some really exciting ideas for breathing new life into a building that has played such a seminal role in the development of Aberystwyth as a town. It is also held in great affection by many of our alumni, students, residents, and visitors to Aberystwyth.

“This is the first step towards realising our vision for developing the Old College and some of the surrounding buildings into a cultural quarter that will provide some excellent facilities for the local community and provide state-of-the-art facilities for our postgraduate students. The project is still at a very early stage but we are greatly impressed by the feasibility study and the scope it provides for considering such a wide range of future uses.”

The feasibility study was funded by Aberystwyth University and the Welsh Government’s Aberystwyth Regeneration Area Fund and will be presented to the Aberystwyth Regeneration Board in July.

The University will now establish an Old College Project Group that will be tasked with taking the project to the next phase. This work will include considering possible sources of funding and addressing planning issues.

Feasibility Study
The study was prepared by:

  • Austin-Smith: Lord – Lead Consultant, Architecture, Conservation and Spatial Planning
  • Hostal Limited – Financial and Business Plan Modelling
  • GVA – Property Market Advice, Condition Surveyors and Cost Consultants
  • Mann Williams – Consulting Civil, Structural & Conservation Engineers
  • Arup – Consulting Building Services Engineers.

The Old College
The Old College is a Grade 1 listed building and sits on the site of Castle House which was built by John Nash around 1795. In 1864 the site was bought by railway entrepreneur Thomas Savin, with the intention of creating a hotel of unprecedented grandeur, the Castle Hotel.

JP Seddon was commissioned as architect and George Jones of Aberystwyth supervised the building work. It opened in June 1865 but was soon beset by financial troubles and put up for sale.

Despite having cost £80,000 it was finally sold to a committee to form the University of Wales in March 1867 for £10,000. Seddon returned and was commissioned to convert the hotel into a college, which opened its doors for the first time in October 1872.

In July 1885 the building was severely damaged by fire; Seddon and Coates Carter undertook the repairs with builders Messrs S Belham and Co of London.

In 1893 the Quadrangle, or Quad as it has been affectionately known by generations of students, was roofed and in 1896 work began on the science wing and reconstruction of Castle House by C A Ferguson of London.

The Old College remained the focus of the University’s activity until the 1960s when work started to develop the Penglais campus.


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Arthur Dafis, Communications and Public Affairs, 01970 621763 / 07841 979 452 /