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Crowmarsh, Mongewell, General

Boathouse (20th Century)

Site Name Crowmarsh, Mongewell, General

Classification Boathouse (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Carmel College, Oxford University

Canmore ID 284720

Site Number SU68NW 1

NGR SU 6100 8780

NGR Description Centred on SU 6100 8780

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Not Applicable
  • Parish Crowmarsh
  • Former Region Oxfordshire
  • Former District South Oxfordshire
  • Former County Oxfordshire

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

Carmel College was a Jewish boys' school in South Oxfordshire. In June 1970 Lord Snowdon opened its new exhibition hall designed by Sir Basil Spence OM RA. School Governor, Lieutenant Commander E J Gottlieb, funded the building of the hall in memory of his late father, Julius Gottlieb, a woodworker and art lover. The design was a pyramid, a form often associated with memorials, built of reinforced concrete on a base of curved, brick walls. The hall was built along with the college's new boathouse; a low, single-storey structure concealed by paved earthen banks. These, together with the boathouse roof, form a plinth for the pyramid, the dominant feature in the landscape. Spence's son John was closely involved in this project and produced all of the working drawings.

Archive Details

Manuscript material in the Sir Basil Spence Archive contains correspondence between Commander Gottlieb and the architects, and charts their struggle to build the exhibition hall to budget. While the exhibition hall and the boathouse were treated as one commission they were funded separately, with the initial fund for the exhibition hall set at only £12,000. This had implications for the design: the pyramid roof was originally intended to be a more expensive steel frame with zinc covering, but was substituted by a concrete alternative. Despite these cutbacks the final cost of the hall had almost doubled.

Four photographs in the Archive show the exhibition hall interior, which is lit by openings in the pyramid's exterior walls. On permanent display is a sculpted bust of Julius Gottlieb, a reminder of the hall's dual function, as exhibition space and memorial.

A press release held in the Archive states that 'Carmel College was the first school in the country to have a hall of this kind. Intended to showcase the best in art and design, it was thought to represent a new dimension in schooling'.

Archive Summary

The Archive holds four manuscript files for the project containing correspondence, financial breakdowns, reports and a published journal article. The 44 drawings include early sketch plans and elevations, mostly mechanical copies. There are 16 photographs of the finished exhibition hall but none of the boathouse interior.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

Architecture Notes

English Heritage pastscape reference SU68NW 50


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