Westminster Abbey Triforium Project, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries
Level of Award
Local Authority Area
Information about this scheme
The Triforium galleries project has received extensive press coverage, but little to date about the conservation work undertaken to the existing fabric which forms the background to the new exhibition and the new access tower. This is perhaps the greatest of all complements to conservation approach which sought to achieve exactly that. Adaptation of the Abbey’s eastern Triforium space to enable the installation of the galleries was complex and presented several conservation challenges. The overarching challenge was to try and retain the atmosphere of this unique space whilst making the changes necessary to support its new use. At the same time, the work needed to take place under the spotlight of working within a building of international significance whose daily pattern of services, special events and general opening were maintained throughout the construction period.
Conservation works undertaken included; each wall being carefully surveyed, and detailed provisional conservation and repair proposals drawn up. Over 200 detailed drawings of the condition repairs were made.
The conservation cleaning of the Triforium floor vault pockets, prior to the installation of new below floor services and floor structure strengthening. When the floor boards were lifted, and the top of the medieval stone vaults uncovered, they were found to be almost completely filled with over 2m of dust and debris which had not been cleared since the middle ages. The dust was removed and sifted, revealing an array of lost objects. The most significant find, was of over 31,000 fragments of hand painted glass, much of it from C13th grisaille windows that had been smashed and destroyed during the Reformation. The glass was collected, and a selection of these fragments set into two new coloured glass windows that light the new bridge that links the new access tower into the Abbey.
Each wall and ceiling surface presented a different condition, but an agreed range of techniques were applied to produce a successful outcome and provide a level of attention to the surfaces which allowed for the appreciation of the whole space and its architectural features. Works to the small number of existing monuments in the galleries and to the high-level carved corbels were undertaken by a specialist conservator. Part of this process involved high resolution photography, allowing these important features to be studied and recorded in greater detail. Along with the fabric conservation of the space, the 300 exhibition objects where each assessed and conserved to varying degrees. The demolition of WCs in Poets’ Yard also revealed a previously hidden area of the Abbey stonework where a rich mix of historic stones, some with their original mason’s tooling textures, had survived complete with the soot covering that characterised the blackened appearance of much of London up to the 1950’s. This rare area of ‘unrestored’ stonework within the new tower lobby is unique, and has been carefully repaired in its ‘as found’ state, complete with missing stones and areas of later damage. Nothing illustrates the history of Abbey’s stonework in quite such a vivid way. In the selection of stone for the new lift shaft, 16 types found on the Abbey were sourced and have been laid in bands up the structure, to illustrate the variety of stones employed over the centuries, many of which had been re-discovered by the demolition of the Abbey’s WCs. To the existing walls surrounding the tower site, only essential weathering repairs and gentle brushing down to remove site dust was undertaken. Work to these walls was outside of the scope of the project and leaving them to be viewed as found by visitors using the new staircase is part of the uniqueness of the experience. This direct vantage point enables for the first time, the opportunity for visitors to really see and appreciate the fabric close up. When the new opening was made from the new bridge structure into the Abbey, Reigate stone, the original material used in the C13th, and long disused for building was sourced from a field near the M25. It frames the new entrance into the Abbey, although the rubble of the wall core, exposed by the opening up, has been preserved and protected by the careful installation of gault tiles, in the tradition of WR Lethaby, a former Surveyor of the Fabric to Westminster Abbey.
Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey
Ptolemy Dean Architects Ltd
Ptolemy Dean Architects Ltd
McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA LLP - Exhibition Design)
Gardiner & Theobald LLP
Sawyer & Fisher Ltd (Tower and Galleries)
Max Fordham LLP
The Morton Partnership Ltd (Galleries)
Price & Myers LLP (Tower)
Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd
Moran Architects Ltd
Humphries & Jones
DHA Designs (Galleries)
Max Fordham LLP (Tower)
Signage Graphic Design
Taylor Pearce (Artefact mounts and artefact conservation and installation)
The Cathedral Studios (found glass conservation and bridge windows)
Rickerby and Shekede (carved corbel conservation)
(Consultant Archaeologist) Professor Warwick Rodwell
Building Environment Consultant - Tobit Curteis
Primary Use Class
Class D1h - Public Worship