Campus construction

By November 1965, work on the new site had begun. Only a year later, the first teaching and administrative buildings were opened, much to the excitement of the local community.

In 1968, the students started to move into their new campus rooms, although the construction of the site was a gradual process. The architects Peter Shepherd and Gabriel Epstein designed the university and its buildings so that they would absorb as much natural light as possible.

Greenery was also important, seen most typically in the designs of County college and Cartmel. The buildings were designed in order to be as multi-functional as possible. According to Epstein, they would fulfil “a fruit salad of functions” and there would be no segregation of different buildings. From afar, it was hoped that the campus would look like a Mediterranean hilltop village.

Alexandra Square

Alexandra Square is of course named after the University’s first Chancellor, Princess Alexandra. The architects of the university were keen to encourage intermingling through the design of the Square. The mixing of all the buildings, in what the main architect of the Square, Epstein called “a fruit salad of functions”, whereby there was no segregation of different departments, accommodation and recreational facilities, is designed specifically to achieve this objective. The square is bounded by University House to the west; Bowland College to the north, shops and banks to the south-east and the library to the south-west. Alexandra Square forms a natural amphitheatre and was created so that the students could deliver theatrical performances or just meet together. Since its construction, the Square has been at the hub of university life.

Chaplaincy Centre

The unusual shape of the Chaplaincy Centre makes it an extremely eye-catching addition to the university. It dominates the skyline and has become the main university logo. The centre itself was designed in a way that avoided bias and exclusion because it does not favour one, specific religious denomination. Its design clearly reflects the diversity of the university and its construction represents part of a wider bid to halt the move towards humanism in British universities during the 1960’s.

Initially, three crosses adorned the spires but in June 1968, the student editorial Carolynne reported that students were considering a “sit-down” protest to prevent work being done on the centre because they believed that the presence of three crosses would stop students of other faiths from worshipping there. The third cross was duly taken down and remains empty to this day.

It was decided that the church would have 2 linked chapels; one for joint Anglican and Free Church use and the other for followers of Roman Catholicism. A huge sweeping screen separates the different chapels, however, the screen can be drawn back for collective worship. Within the shared section, a suite was built for Jewish meeting and worship. Flats have been erected on the first floor for resident chaplains.

The Great Hall

Generations of students graduating from Lancaster will know the Great Hall best for its hosting of the summer exams and the graduation ceremonies. The building remains largely unchanged to this day. The design of the Hall was a compromise because it had to fill a variety of functions ranging from the staging of concerts, dances to exams and degree ceremonies.

During the early days of the university, there used to be student meetings in the building. The hall also played host to a number of popular bands until the student population got too big and concerts became a fire hazard. Bands such as Pink Floyd, Bob Geldof and Eric Clapton played in the Hall before the construction of the Sugar House.

The Jack Hylton Music Rooms

The Jack Hylton Music Rooms were named after the famous entertainer Jack Hylton, who died in February 1965, just as the University was being created at Bailrigg.

In 1965, the Lancaster Guardian announced that a number of famous stars from the world of entertainment were gathering together in London’s West End to perform a glittering show in Hylton’s honour called “The Stars Shine for Jack.” Stars at the event included Morecambe and Wise, Jimmy Tarbuck and The Crazy Gang. The show became a fundraising event in order to raise money for the construction of what would become the Jack Hylton Music Rooms. It was hoped that through the building of the rooms, Lancaster would become the music centre of the North West.

The Library

The library has witnessed many changes over the years and has not always been situated on its current site. Originally, the university leased 20 Castle Hill, a former stained glass factory owned by the firm Shrigley and Hunt. The building was vacated in 1949 for bigger premises and then left largely derelict until it was rented by the university in the mid-1960's. 20 Castle Hill was primarily used for the unpacking and cataloguing of library books. When the library moved to the new Bailrigg site, the building on Castle Hill became the Shabab Curry House.

The new library was jointly planned and designed by the chief librarian Mr Graham MacKenzie and the architect, Mr Tom Mellor in 1964. MacKenzie said the library should be able to accommodate two thousand readers and one million books. After this initial brief was fulfilled, Phase III of the building began in January 1971:

  • fountain courtyard
  • open-air seating area on the upper terraces
  • exhibition room
  • graduate study area were all added

The Spine

The Spine is the name used to describe the covered walkway that spans from one end of campus to the other.

It was designed in order to allow pedestrians to walk along the whole of the campus, sheltered from the wind. Portions of the walkway were left open to the sky to let in the natural light, thus avoiding the heavy costs of providing indoor lighting for the passageway.

The architects of the university designed the Spine so that it would follow the natural gradient of the land. The main architect, Gabriel Epstein believed that steps would hinder the flow of conversation between pedestrians.

The Spine is to be continuously flanked from end to end with public rooms, lively and inviting places lit up at night, which the students will go there to mix. These rooms will be more like the lively high street of a small town than part of a secluded campus…the first aim is to prevent the emergence of a “nine to five” university.

A quote from Charles Carter Lancaster University