The Learning Resource Centre

Design of the Learning Resource Centre. View from South Bailey. (c) Darbyshire Architects

The new Learning Resource Centre: a 21st-century learning space in a century-old College

Work has been underway since the summer on the site of the new library for the College. Watch a time lapse video of the demolition here. Archaeologists finished excavating the site in February 2018 and Northern Bear have now begun construction of the new library.

Archaeological Findings

One of the pleasures of living and working in Durham is its rich heritage and wonderful historic buildings. This can also make it a difficult place to create new buildings and spaces which are in keeping with the City’s designation as a World Heritage Site and Conservation Area. The development of the LRC has been through a long process of design and planning to create a building in keeping with its surroundings, and to ensure the buried archaeology of the site is carefully examined before the new foundations go in. Sitting immediately adjacent to the Cathedral precinct wall, we know from research the site has been previously occupied by 18th century gardens and a late medieval rectory. Archaeological work is now well underway to prepare the site for construction work in 2018. Under the supervision of the College’s archaeological consultant Niall Hammond of Archaeo-Environment, site supervisor Natalie Swann and her team from Archaeological Services Durham University have carefully recorded all walls and buildings on site before removing between 1m and 1.4m of topsoil. This has revealed a layer of grey‐brown buried soil containing medieval pottery and animal bone cut into which is variety of post‐medieval garden features and medieval rubbish pits. At the centre of the site, cutting the buried soil layer was a large oval pit containing a set of steps leading down to a square stone well. The pottery recovered from the fill above the well appears to be late‐medieval in date.

As work has progressed at the front of the site facing South Bailey, the masonry remains of what may be a late medieval rectory identified on early historic maps.

A number of post medieval coins, two small copper pins, iron objects and a substantial assemblage of medieval and post-medieval pottery, glass and animal bone has been recovered from the features excavated to date.

Excavation will be complete by the end of January (weather permitting!) following which the results and finds will be carefully analysed and a full report produced in due course. It is hope a display a finds and the story of the site will be placed in the entrance to the new LRC helping connect past, present and future.

The well and steps from the south-east.

Looking north-east towards South Bailey, the well can be seen centrally beneath safety fencing, while the walls of the late medieval former rectory are beginning to be revealed against the street frontage. Snow and ice are not ideal conditions for archaeological work!

The Learning Resource Centre will

  • Improve College’s facilities and enhance the learning experience for generations of Johnians.
  • Allow College to share its resources with other members of the University and the local community.
  • Enable College to grow and flourish as part of a top UK University.
  • Enhance College’s reputation as a centre of cutting edge ministerial and lay theological training
  • Develop the Durham World Heritage Site.

St John's College
3 South Bailey

0191 334 3500