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Specifying Stanbrook Abbey, FCBS’s 21st-century monastery

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AJ Specification takes a look at the materials and products specified by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on Stanbrook Abbey in the North York Moors


Stanbrook Abbey is a new monastery in the North York Moors National Park for an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns. The design aims to foster contemplation through its simplicity, beauty, sense of space and tranquility, taking full advantage of natural light and distant views.

The nuns’ brief also requested a monastery designed for the 21st century, economical to run and sensitive to environmental concerns. 

The main living areas are arranged in a simple orthogonal plan, providing restful vistas and axes, with a courtyard/cloister to act as the central focus. The church and chapel rise up in a more organic form towards the east.

The church is designed around the two liturgical axes that are inherent in the teachings of St Benedict. The eucharistic axis is derived from the monastery geometry and is focused on the altar: the monastic axis sets up a counterpoint running diagonally across it following the structural geometry of the building as it rises from the congregational entrance through to the high point of the church, evoking what the nuns refer to as a sense of transcendence.

The first phase of the building, including 26 cells, each with an en-suite shower room together with shared kitchen, dining facilities and office accommodation, was completed in May 2009, with occupation following soon afterwards.

The second phase included the church, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the ‘parlours’, which serve as consultation rooms where the nuns meet friends from the world beyond their enclosure. The church was consecrated in October 2015.

Peter Clegg, senior partner, FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Source: Peter Cook


Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS


Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS


Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Blockwork detail

The sisters attend church service six times a day from before sunrise to sunset. Our intention was that this space – their home for so much of their lives – should change throughout the day and with the light and the seasons. Morning light illuminates the curving wall to the north, from a curved rooflight and a vertical shaft of glazing towards the east. As the sun moves round it is reflected off the timber columns which form the south glazed wall until in the afternoon light enters from the south-west to bathe the whole church in light.

The south wall is a critical element in reflecting and filtering light. It is composed of fin columns of glulam timber with sightlines of framing eliminated so the glass spans from column to column. Air is admitted through the underfloor zone via dampers concealed behind a slatted oak screen. Grilles admit air (heated when necessary) directly beneath the windows. Additional pressure to drive ventilation and prevent overheating is provided by roof vents at high level above the altar. Three opening windows towards the back of the church provide additional individual control.

The natural ventilation system works very well but we were always concerned about direct solar radiation, which might cause discomfort at certain times of the afternoon, and we warned of the potential need to retrofit blinds. Interestingly, it is less the comfort of the sisters but the lack of humidity, which is affecting the organ, which has meant that we are looking at installing blinds to reduce heat gain.

Peter Clegg, senior partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Window plan detail

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Rooflight detail

Project data

Start on site May 2007 (phase 1), February 2014 (phase 2)
Completion 2009 (phase 1), September 2015 (phase 2)
Gross internal floor area 6,836m2 (total)
Form of contract JCT Design and Build 2011
Construction cost £5 million (phase 1), £2.5 million (phase 2)
Construction cost per m£1,097 (phase 1), £2,750 (phase 2)
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Client Conventus of our Lady of Consolation, Stanbrook Abbey
Structural engineer Structures One (phase 1), Buro Happold (phase 2)

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Source: Tim Crocker

Specified products

Wood supplier for glulam frame

Glulam Solutions 

Wood supplier for internal church furniture 

Vastern Timber Company



Jennings Organs 

Bespoke church furniture 

Ooma Design


Phase 2 curtain walling 

Senior Architectural Systems

Senior SMR900 curtain walling sections with frameless casement window inserts

Phase 2 windows


200 series 

Phase 1 windows 

Ideal Combi 

Church doors

Bespoke via main contractor



Solar Vision

Vision AGI thermally broken low pitch rooflight system

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Stanbrook Abbey by FCBS

Source: Peter Cook


 Cost per m2 (£)% of total
Substructure 374 10
Frame 70 2
Roof 343 10
External walls 477 13
Windows and external doors 141 4
Internal walls and partitions 26 1
Internal doors 85 2
Group element total 1,142 32
Internal finishes  
Wall finishes 92 3
Floor finishes 100 3
Ceiling finishes 57 2
Group element total 249 7
Fittings and furnishings  
Furniture 95 3
Group element total 95 3
Sanitary appliances 5 0
Disposal installations 1 0
Space heating and air treatment 263 7
Electrical services 219 6
Builders’ work on services 39 1
Group element total 527 15
External works 565 16
Preliminaries and insurance 503 14
Contingency 109 3
Total 3,564 100




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Readers' comments (1)

  • future Stirling prize shortlist at least - uplifting & calming at the same time - beautiful

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