Temporary Structure: 'Hilda Box'

Temporary Structure: 'Hilda Box'

Our home for (just shy of) two years is the temporary structure affectionally dubbed the ‘Hilda Box’. This mini-version of the Hilda Besse was built over the summer of 2019 in the centre of the college quad, ready for the start of the new year.

What is in the Hilda Box?

Great care has been taken to ensure that all the functions of the Hilda Besse have been replicated in the temporary structure. This includes the Buttery/Bar area, Dining Hall, common rooms, and several meeting rooms.

Hilda Box exterior view of hoarding


 Despite the constraints of the size of the quad, the temporary structure has been designed to replicate each room of the Hilda Besse as closely as possible. Although the space we are working with is smaller, the Dining Hall has (almost!) the same number of seats as the Hilda Besse’s hall.

To make the Hilda Box feel more like home, much of the Hilda Besse furniture and decorations has been moved to the temporary structure for use over the next two years. Some of the original furniture has been in continual use since the building opened in 1970 and has become very fragile, particularly that in the Dining Hall, so some of this will be replaced for the new Hilda Besse. 

Great care has been taken to be true to the original designs for the Hilda Besse furniture The distinctive custom designed tables and chairs are being exactly replicated and will be ready for use in the Hilda Box and later in the Hilda Besse itself when renovations are complete. The tables and chairs look identical, but the design has been tweaked to allow them to stack and be shifted easily for Bops and other events. This also allows different configurations of tables at mealtimes - from the traditional Oxfordian custom of single long benches running the length of the hall (in the traditional Oxford style) to more intimate groupings of individual tables.


Students at the first event in the Hilda Box

Hilda Box interiors

Combined Common Room

Building the Box

Preparation for the building works started on the week of the 14th of August, with construction of the 'Hilda Box' temporary structure beginning on the 19th. Construction continued over the summer until completion at the beginning of October. The Hilda Box was fully operational and ready for students for Michaelmas term starts.  

With permission from Oxford City council, several trees were removed in preparation for the cabins on the 29th of June. Additionally, these were all checked on the day for presence of nesting birds. The sundial will be found a new home in the college after works are complete.

Hilda Box temporary structure building 1

Hilda 'Box' temporary structure building in progress

Progress picture of the Hilda Box temporary structure

View of the Hilda Box

'Wrapping' the Hilda Box

The Hilda Box hording design is a colourful tribute to the Hilda Besse building (eagle eyes will spot the Dining Hall ceiling) and the 1970's era she was built in. 

Hilda Box exterior - 1970's inspired design

Hilda Box exterior - 1970's inspired design

Improvements to Lighting and Acoustics 

The final touches to the Hilda Besse were made during November. These included carpeting, and modifications to the lighting with the addition of 'baffle boards' which also improved the acoustics. 

Where can I find out mealtimes for the Dining Hall?

Please check the main page for the Dining Hall for information on mealtimes and any changes to normal Hall provision.