Campus buildings listed for protection

The listings have made modernisation of the University campus more difficult to execute

image: geograph

HALF A DOZEN features of the Heslington West campus have become protected Grade II listed features: Derwent College, Central Hall; the covered walkway between Derwent College and Central Hall; the ramp, including the Austin Wright sculpture, leading to the Library bridge; Austin Wright’s Dryad sculpture, near Heslington Hall; and much of the Campus West landscape, which has been listed as a Registered Park and Garden. The areas constitute much of the original campus created when the university was first opened.

The newly listed features join areas of campus already protected, namely Heslington Hall, the Quiet Place, and the Walled Garden. Designations are determined by Historic England, a non-departmental government body which is sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. The organisation said that the newly listed features represent the genesis of contemporary university planning. The structures, built in the 1960s and primarily designed by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM) are quintessential examples of the British plate-glass university.

The buildings currently occupied wholly by Derwent College, which used to include Langwith College before it moved to the new Heslington East site and built from 1963 to 1965, were the first structures of their scale to use the ground-breaking ‘CLASP’ method of prefabricated construction. The listing describes the buildings as an “innovative combination” of residential, recreational, and teaching space. Central Hall, built from 1966 to 1968, is heralded as a “landmark post-war university building” and York’s “tour de force; an imaginative and bold design with striking architectural form”.

The covered walkway linking Derwent College and Central Hall, also built from 1966 to 1968, is described as “an elegant pergola-like structure with a stepped profile RMJM” and the listing notes that “later cladding applied to the underside of the canopy does not diminish its special interest.”

The two Austin Wright sculptures are rare surviving examples of the artist’s work, showcasing quality workmanship in aluminium. The piece, situated within the boxed ramp to the library dates back to 1967 while the piece next to Heslington Hall dates back to 1984.

The campus landscape listing states that it “successfully integrates a series of status buildings within a carefully designed landscape” and notes that the design was praised by contemporaries in the world of architecture. The landscape, created over the period of 1963 to 1980, was designed by Andrew Derbyshire and Maurice Lee of RMJM, and Frank Clark, the co-founder of the Garden History Society, served as a consultant on the project. The listing emphasises the significance of the largest plastic-bottomed lake in Europe in acting as “a key focal point within the campus site”.

Listings exist to protect structures of cultural significance. The new protected status of the sites listed means the University is more restricted in developing campus changes as the university modernises for the future. The University worked closely with Historic England to determine which parts of campus require protection as plans are devised to make the campus fit for the needs of the future. This tension between modernisation and conservation formed the basis of the dialogue between the University and Historic England.

Commenting on the decisions and how they might affect plans for future campus development, a university spokesperson said: “This means that there are further regulations that need to be followed in order to develop our campus, but also maintain its historical and cultural significance.” On the future of university plans, they added: “There is more work to be done with Historic England, the Gardens Trust, and City of York Council to understand the significance of each designation, but we plan to move forward positively with partners in delivering our campus plan.”


  1. Designations are not determined by Historic England. They are ministerial decisions in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.


  2. Designations are not determined by Historic England. They are ministerial decisions in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.