The refectory build at Elizabeth College was a logistically difficult build to carry out. The brief was to add a new floor on to an existing two storey building dating from the 1500s with the build having to take place whilst the 570 pupils and staff went about their daily school lives. This meant all construction vehicles and workers had to be on site before the school opened each day and not leave until the school day had ended.

Three years on from the 10 month build and we went back to see what the impact of the addition to the refectory had made to Elizabeth College and were amazed at its wider uses and benefits.

Mike Spiller, Bursar explained:

‘Before I joined Elizabeth College, I spent a day shadowing a pupil to get an understanding of what daily life was like in the school. When it came to lunch time, the only option was to either bring a packed lunch or go to the tuck shop which sold cold items only and then sit outside and eat lunch. It was pretty basic.’

Our own Dan Taylor, now on the Board of Rihoy & Son and being a pupil at Elizabeth College at the turn of the Millennium, remembers the same limited and not particularly healthy options, whether vending machines, sausage rolls, or cheese and chips ‘Until you reached Sixth Form you couldn’t leave the school campus and could either eat a packed lunch or food from the Tuck Shop outside or in the College Hall.’

Mike Spiller continued: ‘The refectory has totally transformed College life and we have nothing but praise for Rihoy & Son for how they managed the project. The total build included converting the existing two storey building into a Performing Arts and Music department, then adding on the new third floor for the refectory, topping it off with replicating the existing roof. We also had to provide wheelchair access to the refectory which involved the installation of a lift. It was a huge undertaking, involving some 31 sub-contractors, some of whom were carrying out fairly niche jobs.

‘On the surface we have indeed now got a 104 space refectory but its wider benefits have been enormous. It’s become a social hub for pupils and staff alike, all of whom previously either ate their lunches outside or, in the case of staff, in their offices.

‘We’ve reduced the lunch box culture, with year-on-year increasing numbers choosing to purchase their lunches in the refectory. We’re now able to provide catering facilities for visiting sports teams, our annual sports awards, alumni events and our OEA dinner. We host catered Quiz Nights in the refectory with the funds raised going to support three Kenyan boys’ secondary education.

‘One entrepreneurial teacher runs a ‘Survival at University’ cookery course for the Year 13s, culminating in a final lesson entitled ‘First dinner party for the new girlfriend.’ All of the above are only possible because of the new refectory.

‘And we mustn’t forget the old tuck shop which was situated in our Gate House building, at the entrance to the College. That’s now been transformed into the Gate House Gallery and displays artwork not only from our pupils but from visiting artists and the wider community.

‘It’s been a fantastic success story for the College. Thanks to Rihoy & Son we’ve been given so much more than just a new College building and they need to know the wider impact it continues to have, not just within the College but also within the community too. Thank you.’

Posted: 9 October 2017