Covered walkway linking the former Langwith College to Central Hall and Vanbrugh College, University of York


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Campus West, University Of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD


Ordnance survey map of Covered walkway linking the former Langwith College to Central Hall and Vanbrugh College, University of York
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Statutory Address:
Campus West, University Of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

York (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Covered walkway, 1966-1968, by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (RMJM).

Reasons for Designation

The covered walkway linking the former Langwith College to Central Hall and Vanbrugh College is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* it forms part of a wave of seven new universities that improved access to higher education and marked the high point of publicly-funded architecture in post-war Britain;

* it is a physical manifestation of the University of York Development Plan, which was heralded as the beginning of contemporary university planning in Britain.

Architectural interest:

* it is both functional in sheltering students and visitors from the elements, and carrying services between buildings, and aesthetic as an elegant pergola-like structure with a stepped profile;

* it typifies RMJM's holistic approach to the campus design, where even the smaller details and features were carefully considered;

* it retains its original form and character, and later cladding applied to the underside of the canopy does not diminish its special interest.

Group value:

* it has particularly strong group value with the Grade-II listed buildings of Central Hall and the former Langwith College to which it is physically connected, and continues the integral walkway within the latter building westwards;

* it has additional group value with other listed features on the campus, including Heslington Hall (Grade II*), the numerous Grade II structures in the hall's formal gardens, Derwent College (Grade II), Grade II listed sculptures, and the Grade II registered designed landscape.


After several previous attempts at establishing a university in York had failed, in 1953 York Civic Trust and the Rowntree Trust launched the Institute of Archives and the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies (IAAS), which became key components of the York Academic Trust founded in 1958 in King’s Manor in the city centre. The administrator appointed to run both courses was John West-Taylor, who saw them as a stepping stone to the founding of a new university.

In April 1959 the University Grants Committee (UGC) set up a Sub-Committee on New Universities and invited applications from cities or groups of authorities wanting to promote new universities. York’s application was approved in April 1960, along with that of Norwich, with further approvals in the following year. The new universities differed from older institutions in that they were full universities supported by the UGC and setting their own degrees from the outset. All appointed well-respected architects to prepare detailed masterplans and to design the most important buildings, giving each a sense of unity and a distinctive identity.

In York the C16 Heslington Hall about 1.5 miles south-east of the city centre, which had been secured in 1958 by local benefactor John Bowes Morrell, was chosen as the site for the university and Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (RMJM) were appointed in 1961/1962 as masterplanners with Stirrat Johnson-Marshall and Andrew Derbyshire as partners in charge, working alongside the vice chancellor, West-Taylor and incoming professors to produce a detailed development plan. The hall was adapted as the administrative centre of the university in the first phase of building work in 1963-1965. More grounds were then acquired to the west and it was agreed on the need for a lake as a balancing reservoir to lower the dangerously high water table on the site. A younger RMJM partner, Maurice Lee, specialised in landscape design, which he produced here in conjunction with Herbert Francis (Frank) Clark, previously landscape architect to the Festival of Britain and a co-founder of the Garden History Society.

All the new universities experimented with new course structures, particularly in the growth area of social sciences, and this shaped the movement seen at Sussex, UEA and Essex towards pushing the teaching buildings together as megastructures. By contrast, York’s course structure was relatively traditional and collegiate, but enabled daytime teaching facilities and residential accommodation to be combined together so that they could share catering, common rooms and bars, encouraging a 24/7 atmosphere and maximising their usage and the available UGC grant. Buildings were to be of no more than four storeys so that the landscape remained dominant and the overall sense of place palpable.

The masterplan included groups of loose-knit college ranges, with the science laboratories behind them and landmark buildings, such as the library and Central Hall set within a careful pattern of circulation. The university was built in phases that progressed westwards from Heslington Hall, with development becoming more piecemeal as funding became more restricted.

A shortage of building labour, expensive materials, and waterlogged ground required a lightweight construction solution in order to avoid expensive piling. In 1946-1947 Johnson-Marshall had devised a prefabricated system using steel frames and concrete panels used by Hertfordshire County Council for building schools, a critically acclaimed programme from which six surviving examples are listed. Its ideals informed the CLASP (Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme) system developed by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1954-1956. CLASP was designed as a lightweight and flexible structure that could ‘ride’ the mining of coal seams below them; the first CLASP building, Intake Farm School, Mansfield (Grade II) of 1955-1957 was called the ‘rock and roll school’. When York was designed CLASP was at the peak of its success and it was used for fire stations, health centres, libraries and offices. It is used in the design of many of the university’s buildings at York.

RMJM was the only architectural practice to design four universities: York, Bath, Stirling, and the University of Ulster at Coleraine, and it specialised in public sector work throughout the 1960s. It began to work outside Britain in the late 1960s and today is a massive international practice with offices in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as Europe.

The covered walkway linking the former Langwith College to Central Hall and Vanbrugh College was constructed between 1966 and 1968 to designs by RMJM and was designed to provide a degree of shelter for students and tutors passing between buildings, as well as carrying services in the overhead canopies. A number of covered walkways were constructed on the campus. RMJM also produced covered walkways for the Commonwealth Institute, Kensington, Greater London built in 1960-1962, which have largely been demolished.


Covered walkway, 1966-1968, by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (RMJM).

MATERIALS: steel and timber.

PLAN: the walkway heads south-west and then north-west from the former Langwith College to connect to Vanbrugh College and is approximately 181m long with a 12m long section branching off southwards to Central Hall.

DESCRIPTION: the covered walkway is a pergola-like structure with a flat timber canopied roof incorporating a central aluminium duct carrying services between the buildings that is supported by slender steel columns. The roof is covered in asphalt. The underside of the canopy and services are now hidden from view by later cladding with integral spotlights. Sections of the walkway's roof are stepped, including the entire section branching off to Central Hall.


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Neave, D, Neave, S, Hutchinson, J, The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, (2005)
Saint, A, Towards a Social Architecture. The Role of School-Building in Post-War England, (1987)
'Proposed Central Hall, and Concert Hall and Music Department' in PERSPECTIVE East Yorkshire, (1967), 449-450
'Building Revisited. York University' in The Architects' Journal Information Library, (23rd February 1972), 415-426
University of York Development Plan 1962-1972


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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