Restoration work begins on the Old College

Cardigan based heritage carpenter Gary Davies (left) and Leighton Brown, Project Manager with Andrew Scott Ltd with one of the original windows from the Georgian Villas. The Old College features 664 windows, set in stone, steel and wooden frames.

Cardigan based heritage carpenter Gary Davies (left) and Leighton Brown, Project Manager with Andrew Scott Ltd with one of the original windows from the Georgian Villas. The Old College features 664 windows, set in stone, steel and wooden frames.

12 June 2023

The restoration stage of the Old College project is set to get underway as work begins on the building’s stonework, windows and storm-damaged roof.

As the project progresses, funding from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund means the project is to be extended to include the adjoining Cambria building.

Over the coming weeks, extensive scaffolding will be erected along the prom-facing side of the Old College to facilitate the work, as the team aim to make the building water-tight before winter.

The start of restoration marks an important milestone in the ambitious project to redevelop the Old College, the home of Wales’ first University College.

It follows a year’s work that has focussed on the removal of both internal and external features that had been added to the historic site over more recent decades.

  • The old Estates Building in King Street has been removed to make way for a new atrium that will offer access to all levels of the building.
  • Additions to inside the building made during the 1960s have also been removed, revealing many original architectural features, including what is believed to have been a gymnasium in the early days of the University.

Respecting the heritage of the building is a priority and has required detailed architectural work to comply with the listed building consents necessary before work can be done on the Grade 1 listed building, work which will be ongoing as the project evolves.

The main contractor on the Old College project is Port Talbot based construction company Andrew Scott Ltd.

Mark Bowen, Managing Director of Andrew Scott Ltd said: “At Andrew Scott Ltd we take great pride in our heritage and conservation work and we are delighted to be renovating such an iconic Grade 1 listed building. We are energised by the complexity of this project as solving these kinds of challenges is very much at the heart of what we do. The Old College is a building that defines the seafront at Aberystwyth and we are excited to be playing a major role in restoring it to its former glory.”

Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, Executive Lead for Aberystwyth University on the Old College project said: “We are delighted to see work on Old College progress onto the restoration phase. This is a complex and challenging project that has required detailed design and preparatory work and I am grateful to the whole project team and to the local conservation planning officers for their part in achieving progress to date. Our vision for the Old College offers huge potential for Aberystwyth, both for the University and the town, economically, socially and culturally, as well as securing the future of an architecturally fascinating building that has played such an important part in the history of modern Wales.”

The restoration phase of the project will involve work by specialist contractors, using materials that match those used originally as closely as possible.

Manchester based Stoneguard have been commissioned to undertake the stonework, having worked on prestigious projects in Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and the Palace of Westminster.

The restoration and renovation of the Old College’s wooden windows is being undertaken by Cardigan based heritage carpenter Gary Davies, whose work includes the award-winning restoration of Cardigan Castle and Llwyngoras, Pembrokeshire which dates from the 16th century.

The mammoth task of reroofing the Old College is being taken on by heritage roof restoration specialists Greenough and Sons from Ynys Môn who have worked previously on the National Library of Wales and Castell Coch, and are currently working on Manchester Town Hall.

Finding matching building materials for the restoration reflects the history of its construction and reconstruction in its early years.

New sources of sandstone and limestone are being sought as the stone used for its construction in the 1860s and its rebuilding after the fire of 1885 is no longer being quarried.

All 664 window frames, in steel, stone and wood, will be individually restored in line with the buildings Grade 1 listed status.

An initial survey has revealed that many of the wooden frames facing King Street are of Douglas fir, whilst mahogany features in many that face the sea. All replacement wood will be provided from sustainable sources.

Around 50,000 of the current roof slates are expected to be reused whilst 20,000 new ‘Heather Blue’ slates from the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, Gwynedd, matching the colour and grain of the originals, will be used on the sea-facing side This will improve the building’s durability during stormy weather.

Added to these are the distinctive green slates on the turrets of South Seddon, the section of the Old College closest to the castle.

Also, up to threequarters of the lead on the roofs of the Old College will be reclaimed and melted down to be used once more on the building.

The Cambria

The acquisition and redevelopment of The Cambria is fully funded by £5.4m from the UK Government through its Levelling Up Fund, as part of a successful package of bids led by Ceredigion County Council and announced in October 2021.

Representing Phase 2 of the project, The Cambria, home to the former Theological College for many years and office space more recently, will provide conference and meeting facilities along with additional 4* hotel accommodation.

With the Cambria included, the Old College project in its entirety represents a £43m investment.

Phase 1 which involves the Old College itself and the Georgian villas (1 & 2 Marine Terrace), is expected to be completed around the end of 2025.

Phase 2, The Cambria, will follow and is expected to take another year to be completed.

New Life for Old College

The redeveloped Old College will provide a major centre for learning, heritage, culture and enterprise in three themed zones: World of Knowledge, Culture and Community, and Enterprise and Innovation.

Inspired by the University’s motto, World of Knowledge will include a centre celebrating pioneering Science and Research, a University Museum, a Young People’s project to provide opportunities to boost skills and aspirations and wellbeing, a 24-7 student study centre and a cutting-edge cinema facility.

Traditionally the beating heart of the Old College, the Quad will provide the focus for the Community and Culture zone’s exhibition galleries that will feature curated displays from the University collections and touring exhibitions from major partners. This zone also includes the UK’s first Centre for Dialogue.

The Enterprise and Innovation zone will provide 12 Creative Business Units and communal spaces to encourage young entrepreneurs in creative and digital businesses, two fast growing sectors of major economic importance to west Wales.

Once completed the Old College is expected to attract 200,000 visitors and contribute up to £14.5m annually to the local economy, putting it on par with major tourist destinations such as Caernarfon and Conwy castles.

Up to 130 jobs will be created directly and indirectly and there will also be more than 400 volunteering opportunities.  There will be 4* hotel accommodation and spaces for activities and events across 7 floors and 143 rooms, including 10 rooms with capacity ranging from 60 and up to 200 people.

The Old College project is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund, the Coastal Communities Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund, philanthropic trusts, and individuals.