Context 166 - November 2020

26 C O N T E X T 1 6 6 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 0 HELEN ENSOR The next phase in the life of the Mitre Reorganising and conserving the buildings on Oxford’s Mitre site will free students from the experience of living with ancient bathrooms and medieval wayfinding. Situated in the heart of Oxford on the historic High Street, the Mitre is a historic coaching inn which has been in the ownership of adjacent Lincoln College since 1474. The site encom- passes both the pub which fronts the High Street at the corner of High Street and Turl Street; 16 High Street (part of the Covered Market); 17 High Street (a medieval infill building); 3–7 Turl Street (a row of shops with medi- eval origins); and 144–155 Turl Yard (a 1920s building with no street frontage). The various buildings are listed at Grade II* and Grade II, and the site shares a boundary to the west with the historic Covered Market (listed at Grade II). It is also within the Central and University Conservation Area, which is one of a handful of conservation areas in the country which must be considered of more than just local interest. Within the site there are standing remains from the medieval period (in the cellars beneath the present pub andTurl Street) and from the 16th– 20th centuries, making it an extremely complex, multi-phased site of exceptionally high signifi- cance. It is not only very intricate in terms of the phasing but also in terms of the arrangements of leaseholds and flying leaseholds: the cellars, ground and first floor of the Mitre itself are in the tenancy of the brewery company Marston’s; the upper floors of the same building are student accommodation in use by undergraduates at Lincoln College; the shops on Turl Street are separately tenanted by the retailers at ground floor, and in use as student accommodation at first and second floors; and the Turl Bar on Turl Yard contains a lecture space on the ground floor and student rooms above. Donald Insall Associates acted as heritage consultants and conservation architects, and TSH Architects acted as lead architects and designers. The project involved upgrading the student rooms only (not the pub – although separately Marston’s decided to repair and refurbish this part of the site as well concurrently – and not the shops on Turl Street) and set out to solve some major issues. These included to increase the number of bathrooms, and the number of rooms with en suite bathrooms within the areas in use as student accommodation (in some cases up to six rooms used one bathroom); if possible to increase the number of student rooms across the site; to rationalise and simplify the routes used to escape the building in the event of an emergency, many of which were tortuous; to improve the energy efficiency of the building by streamlining the heating and hot water systems, which were labyrinthine; to provide a clear route into and through the student accommodation An 1825 engraving of the Mitre, by J Fisher (Spiers 1926)