Wytham Chalet, Oxford University

Not all fire escapes are created equal – some are designed beautifully so that their form does not strictly follow function but enhances it.

The stair at Wytham Chalet is one such structure, its linear caging providing much needed security yet creating an aesthetic that mirrors the surrounding tree trunks. Dappled shadows from leafy canopies play tricks on the eye, bringing what could have been a perfunctory build element to life.

Spiral UK were invited by specialist contractors Richard Ward Ltd to work with Oxford Architects on this rather special project. OA were managing the refurbishment and modernisation of the chalet belonging to Oxford University in its use as a specialist teaching space. Now a Listed Building just outside Oxford city centre, the chalet started life as a Swiss Hunting Lodge that was dismantled brick by brick in the 1930s and transported to its current site before being gifted to the university in 1942.

(More photos from OA below)

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Oxford Architects Spiral UK Wytham Chalet 03 2 1

OA and Richard Ward were careful in their restoration of this historic building, bringing it up to fire safety and building regulation standards – once the resident bats were deemed safe, that is. Part of these works involved a fire escape that needed to pass strict guidelines by both Listed Consent and Building Regs.

Spiral UK engineered the design to create a secure escape stair that sat apart from the precious building, only touching at two exit points, and incorporated the security of full height steel bar balustrading and an outward-opening gate at the bottom. This prevented intruders while still allowing quick and safe exit from the building. The stair itself is a hot-dip galvanised (EN ISO 1461), mild steel spiral and the enclosure was powder coated in RAL 7021, finishes that will last for many years to come.

The result is a subtle yet striking design that sits beautifully in the landscape, blending successfully with both the darkness of the chalet and the shapes and shadows of the surrounding woodland.


Wytham Chalet, Oxford University


External secure fire escape for listed building


Oxford Architects


Richard Ward (Oxford) Ltd


Oxford Architects

Steel spiral escape with cage and security gate

This is a lot of metalwork for a natural setting on a Listed chalet building, but the slender vertical design disappears nicely into the flitting shadows of the surrounding trees. The entire structure was built from steel for stability and durability, the mild steel elements being hot dip galvanised to ensure longevity and the balustrade cage powder-coated in grey.

The end result looks great whilst adhering to building regs and Listed consent, without imposing on the natural beauty of the site.

Guide price

At a glance

Floor to floor height

2880mm + 2688mm

Staircase diameter





27 @ 1050mm radius in durbar plate with nosing tape

Clear Tread Width



2 special landings of overall 2850mm x 2150mm durbar plate


Formed from outer enclosure with 38mm diameter inner and outer tubular handrail


Enclosure comprising 27mm diameter CHS vertical uprights extending to 1.1m above top landing, with access control system to bottom gate. All mild steel hot dip galvanised to EN ISO 1461. Enclosure, vertical columns and balustrade only having powder coated finish to RAL 7021