Project updates

Stonework re-imagined

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It's not everyday Solid Structures are appointed for all the disciplines of services on offer! On an ambitious residential extension we achieved just that!

Our structural, civil and stone facade design engineers are all hard at work making Adrian James Architects' vision for a run down cottage a reality!

Zion's Hill was originally built as two cottages in the 1700's. It was subsequently converted into a single home. A large extension was added in 1958 followed by a conservatory in 1980. Both the large extension and conservatory are poorly constructed and the building's floor plan does not offer a comfortable modern living layout.

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The project will see the demolition of the extension and conservatory. This will be replaced with a contemporary double storey extension, acknowledging its heritage with a set of gabled walls. Materials used will replicate the existing with Cotswold Stone for the walls and a slate roof. The walls will be constructed in a combination of rubble stone and cut stone.

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Of particular interest in this project is the use of oversized, deeply cut asymmetrically splayed stone window reveals. The stone edges in some instances are as narrow as 30mm. Director Sean Daly has been appointed as specialist stone facade designer by contractor WG Carter. He has his work cut out to provide solid structural solutions whilst maintaining the slender stone lines that were required in elevation.

Work has started on site with the demolition of the extension and conservatory. Structural remedial work to the original cottages is underway with some localised underpinning and structural modifications required to enable the new modernised layout. And then the exciting bit starts!

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Images credit: Adrian James Architects

Small but Mighty Mitre

Strolling down Turl Street, Oxford, one will be forgiven for missing the small side entrance to Lincoln College's student accommodation colloquially known as the Mitre. This is about to change with the introduction of a porter's lodge sandwiched between two Grade 2 listed buildings. Crafted from Clipsham Limestone, it will provide a single point of entry to the student accommodation beyond.

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Envisioned as a barrel vault by TSH Architects, the entire depth of the building will be vaulted with the barrel being formed by a series of keystones. An added level of complication was introduced by the first floor having a reinforced concrete floor which complicates works sequencing on site substantially. Apart from the stone barrel vault, the entire building will be clad in stone requiring a thorough understanding of stonework executed in contemporary detailing.

Solid Structures were appointed by OG Stonemasonry as specialist structural stone facade designer for this prestigious project. Benfield & Loxley is the main contractor for the project.

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Image credit: TSH Architects

St Lawrence's Church, West Wycombe


St Lawrence's Church is a Grade I listed church that sits on top of West Wycombe Hill in a prominent position overlooking the West Wycombe Road, and surrounding villages. The top of the tower is the highest point in the Southern Chilterns and on a clear day it is possible to see West London. The church was gradually rebuilt in its current form by Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Baronet and Baron Le Despenser. In the 1750s the medieval west tower was raised to make it an eye-catcher from the West Wycombe Estate, West Wycombe House and also from the West Wycombe road. It was topped by a great golden ball, possibly inspired by the Dogana, Venice.


The golden ball can be seen for miles around and is a recognised symbol of West Wycombe village. It is made from a wooden frame covered in gold leaf, 8 feet in diameter, and contains seating for up to six people. It is reputed to be a meeting place for the Hellfire Club and was described by the author John Wilkes as “the best globe tavern I was ever in.”

St Lawrence Church has been used as a backdrop and as part of important scenes in various popular TV shows and films such as Downton Abbey and in the 2016 film Bridget Jones's Baby.

Recently public access to the tower was closed due to safety concerns. From our initial inspection it is clear the structure is suffering from weather ingress and timber deterioration. We are organising timber investigation work but first we need to work out a method of safe access into the golden ball!

This story will continue…  

Cheesy news from Solid

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In late August, more than 55,000 Feastival-goers gathered on the Blur-bassist-turned-gentleman-cheesemaker Alex James's Oxfordshire farm. Now in its fifth year, the annual Big Feastival is the brainchild of Alex James and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose charity the Fifteen Foundation, is part-funded by the festival. Central to the Festival is the ever popular Cheese Hub, and this year it was bigger and better than ever!

Along with BLA Architects, Solid Structures provided consultancy advice to bring this redundant Dutch barn back to life in time to open for the 2016 Feastival. The barn was replaced with a new steel frame with a first floor mezzanine and a fully openable elevation at ground floor level. The barn houses a cheese preparation area, function space and bar area - perfect for cheese sampling, the all day cocktail bar and DJs spinning tunes from late afternoon until well until the night.

"The whole thing is completely exhilarating, like a mad village fete!"

Posted by Sean


St Hilda’s appoint Solid for the Front of College project

Solid Structures are delighted to have been appointed as the civil and structural engineers for this new £12 million riverside extension to St Hilda's College.

The design features a slender tower that will mark a new entrance to the college from Cowley Place, as well as rooftop gardens and a riverside pavilion with a decorative latticed facade. The proposal also features a suite of teaching and common areas, as well as accommodation for student fellows – much of which will be placed along the boundary of the site. A paved courtyard will link with the pavilion to open up views to the River Cherwell as well as Christ Church Meadows.

London studio Gort Scott were selected following an invited competition. Construction is anticipated to commence at the start of 2018. The project looks to help mark the College’s 125th anniversary. 

Blogger - Mark

The big reveal - scaffolding removed at St Anne’s Library

The scaffolding has now been taken down at the Kingerlee construction site to reveal the stone façade of the new library building at St Anne’s College Oxford.

The façade has been constructed by the architectural precast concrete company Decomo. The precast panels provide the load bearing elements of the building and are generally built up of 50mm outer stone, 75mm backing concrete, 100mm insulation and 250mm inner leaf concrete.

Fixings were detailed to allow the connection of incoming steelwork and precast floor planks. The panels were made in Belgium.  

Blogger - Joshua

Sustainable Drainage System agreed

After months of negotiations and consultations with the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council (Lead Local Flood Authority) and the local council, the detailed drainage scheme for Tilford Development has been approved. 

Our main challenge was that the site was located in a Ground Source Protection Zone 2, and therefore the planning conditions didn’t allow for infiltration into the ground. Working together with key stake holders we developed a sustainable drainage system to address these issues.

Blogger - Argemiro