Hidden Newnham – Our Summer Buildings Projects

With summer in College looking quite different to a normal Term, I am going to take a slight departure from our usual Newnham News over the coming weeks by highlighting a few key projects and activities that are happening ‘behind the scenes’ that I hope will be of interest and show a greater depth and breadth of College life. 

With the absence of undergraduate students buzzing around the place, there can often be a misconception that there is not still a hive of activity fizzing beneath the surface at Newnham. It is this that I want to correct and highlight over the summer. For example, the Fellowship are taking the summer to focus on their important research, staff are planning for a new year and many of the buildings are getting a much-needed uplift and in some cases, full restoration.

It is these latter building projects I am going to start with, following my inspirational and awe-inspiring tour from Buildings Maintenance Manager Andy Kite. Many – myself included – tend to have little awareness of these ‘hidden’ projects with no real comprehension of either the scale or the complexities involved. Yet it is these works which keep our College looking and functioning as the place we can all feel proud of; the perfect spaces to work, live and thrive. 


Work being carried out on all four floors of Peile Hall including a bespoke commission of William Morris wallpaper

There is so much going on here from new bathrooms and kitchens, to better heating installation, to a complete redecoration of all four floors, including re-wallpapering. And it’s the latter which has really struck a chord; a brilliant example of a College that as well as adding all the useful and necessary things, also goes above and beyond to retain its beauty and authenticity.

So, the wallpaper. I have always been a fan of William Morris; a frequent visitor to his museum in Walthamstow and a spare bedroom clad ‘head to toe’ in Pimpernel. You can therefore imagine my unbridled joy at starting at Newnham and in fact, the walls in Peile were a particular fave.

But what happens when you have to replace and re-wallpaper a large space (did I mention four floors?) with a design no longer in print? This was exactly the challenge faced by Andy Kite and his team but one which they took on with aplomb.

It started with rooting out some very old Wallpaper Sample books (as an indicator of age, a roll at that time cost £3.50!!), a call and plea to wallpaper experts Sanderson, and ends with a bespoke commission of the original design and colour. If that’s not dedication to the cause, I don’t know what is, and it is that kind of detail that I love to share.


A full restoration of Eva Smith to make even Kevin McCloud proud

Post-graduate house Eva Smith on Grange Road – and this is where we are talking a full-on restoration; think Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs or George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces – it really is on that scale. Stripped out floors, walls, ceilings, the lot. New insulation, sound blocking, dropped ceilings, new walls added, old ones removed, de-gassifying (it’s a thing!), underfloor heating and new windows made of sustainable timber. George and Kevin would be having heart palpitations. Not Andy and his teams though. Chirpy as can be.

It’s this type of commitment to detail, to restoration, to sustainability, to problem solving that helps make Newnham special. So a big thank you to all our Maintenance team and their contractors and we can’t wait to see the finished product…(watch this space).

Next I shall be shining the spotlight on some more ‘hidden’ projects by highlighting the Fellowship and some of the many exciting projects and research going on both here in the UK and abroad. This is certainly not Summer Holiday time for them.