AN OXFORD college has recreated its historic dining hall in a marquee while £7m improvements are being carried out.

New College, in Holywell Street, is currently revamping the kitchen area, bar and cafe and carrying out restorations in the old hall.

That work is likely to put the building and its kitchens out of action until October 2014.

The college came up with an unusual solution to feed and house its 400 undergraduates, 300 graduates, staff and thousands of visitors.

Catering manager Brian Cole said: “We are very conscious many students come here partly because of the olde worlde-ness of the college and we wanted to keep that.

“We have tried to make it as similar as possible an environment for them.

“Most of the students have not got catered accommodation so have to come in to eat in halls.”

The 420 sq m temporary structure is fully insulated, and contains everything from mock chandeliers to framed copies of some of the portraits which hang in the 14th century college’s dining hall.

Mr Cole said: “It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. We’ve put panelling on the side and we have chandeliers running down the middle.

“It looks probably better than what we hoped for when we started – the ‘wow’ factor has been absolutely amazing.

“I think a lot of the students would be quite happy if we kept it there forever.”

The college was founded in 1379 and part of the city’s historic city walls run through the grounds.

The new hall, which was created by Brackley company De Boer in the college’s Holywell Quadrangle, includes a dedicated inner room for the fellows and is furnished with many of the permanent hall’s existing features.

Before permission for both the development and the temporary hall were given, support was needed from a string of organisations including the Council for British Archaeology, Historic Building Conservation and English Heritage.

The structure had to be delivered in four loads in a small lorry via a three metre by three metre stone archway.

Stripping of the area within the existing hall and kitchens has begun and archaeologists and other interested parties will assess whether any work needs to be done before the next phase of the development continues.

At that point new drainage and electricity – including a new electric substation – will be installed.

Mr Cole said: “We are trying to move into the 20th century. It’s very antiquated – it’s a beautiful building but it doesn’t work any more.”

Toby Bennett, De Boer’s sales manager, said: “This has been a fantastic and unique job to work on.”