Divinity School

Conversion of Grade II listed former Divinity School to form multi-purpose college facility.


The former University Divinity School was built in 1879 to the designs of Basil Champneys on land belonging to St John’s College. In 1997, the Faculty of Divinity moved to a new building and ownership of the old building reverted to St John’s.
Various ideas for the use of the imposing, but internally dated, Grade II Listed building have been considered over the past ten years but none have proved viable and the building continued to be little used by the college largely due to its inflexible and gloomy interior.

Beacon were appointed to the project team as planning and heritage consultants with specific responsibility for the preparation of the Historic Building Assessment to provide a baseline of information against which an assessment of the building’s significance, setting, rooms and features could be made.

We undertook liaison with the architects and the wider design team to refine proposals and with city council to agree the scope of the works and application requirements.

We prepared the Heritage and Planning Statements to support the application, contributed to the Design and Access Statement and Sustainability Statement and coordinated and submitted planning and listed building consent applications.

The key to the reuse of the building was getting far more light into the core of the building and also finding a sensitive approach to creating level access throughout.

This access was gained by forming a new main entrance in a side elevation, leaving the problematic stepped former main entrance for ceremonial use only. Internally, sensitively located lifts were installed at each end of the building, to ensure the numerous half levels throughout the building were accessible.


Planning and listed building consent was granted in 2009 and the building opened in October 2012. The project won the Best Conservation of an existing building by the Cambridge Design and Construction Awards 2013.

ClientSt John's College, Cambridge
Services providedAdvice   Application  
BP teamJon Burgess   Jenni Mason  
ArchitectAnnand & Mustoe
* Images courtesy of ©Annand and Mustoe Architects and Jeremy Gill
Download as PDF