Natural History Museum, Front Lodge and Gates, Gatepiers and Railings
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
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- Statutory Address:
- Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Greater London Authority
- Kensington and Chelsea (London Borough)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Museum of 1873-81 and gates, piers and railings erected by 1881, all designed by Alfred Waterhouse and built by George Baker and Sons of Lambeth. The Museum building was extended to the north-west in 1929-31 by the addition of the Whale Hall by JH Markham of the Office of Works and incorporates the former Geology Museum to the north-east of 1929-33, built to the designs of Sir Richard Allison and JH Markham.
The North Block* (by W Kendall of the Office of Works, comprise three phases of construction of 1953-5, 1955-59, and a later phase of 1970-73) and its linking corridors* to the Waterhouse building, are excluded from the listing. The Palaeontology Wing of 1970-75* by architects of the Ministry of Public Building and Works the Department of the Environment from 1970), attached to the north-east corner of the Waterhouse building's east range and to the south-east corner of the Earth Galleries, is excluded from the listing. Attached to the west of the Waterhouse building, the Darwin Centre phase one of 1999-2002 by HOK and Darwin Centre phase two of 2006-2008 by C F Moller Architects, are less than thirty years old and have not been assessed for listing in 2016.
Reasons for Designation
The Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London, of 1873-81 by Alfred Waterhouse, incorporating the Whale Hall of 1929-31 by JH Markham and the Earth Galleries of 1929-33 by Sir Robert Allison and JH Markham, and the gates, gatepiers, railings and south lodge, are listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: Waterhouse’s stately essay in early German Romanesque with extensive, intricate terracotta detailing, matched by the authoritative distinction of Allison and Markham’s Earth Galleries and the quietly bespoke Whale Hall by Markham, share exceptional design quality, high standards of execution and thoughtful application of a range of materials and statuary to create a public building of the highest specification to house the national collection of natural history; * Historic interest: for the role the buildings continue to play in the rich cultural life of the country; * Interior: sumptuously detailed interior features and spaces, including models of animals, finely painted ceilings and a range of geometric motifs, displayed within Waterhouse’s well-lit, considered plan comprising the galleries, the Hintze Hall and connecting enfilade. The entrance hall and staircase of the Earth Galleries, and interior to the Whale Hall, are also also notable features; * Intactness: although there have been some minor alterations to the structure of the Museum, the historic fabric retains a high level of intactness; * Group value: with the Victoria and Albert Museum, also listed at Grade I, with which it has functional and historical group value, and numerous other listed buildings in close proximity.
The history of the Natural History Museum is well documented in Girouard (1981), Stearn (1998), the Conservation Management Plan (Alan Baxter and Associates 2003, under revision 2016) and other sources, notably the Survey of London vol.38 (1975) and the Museum’s archive. The National Archives holds a large collection of plans and correspondence relating to the development of Museum and a number of Waterhouse’s plans and sketches are held by the RIBA. A summary of the building’s history only is given here.
The notion of housing the Natural History section of the British Museum in a new premises in South Kensington was first mooted to the Trustees of the British Museum in 1859 by (Sir) Richard Owen (1804-92), the Superintendent of the collection (and later the Museum’s first Director). Owen’s vision for top-lit, single-storeyed galleries ranged at right angles to longitudinal galleries at the front and rear, on land which formed part of the Commissioner’s Great Exhibition estate of 1851, was narrowly accepted by the Trustees in 1860. After protracted negotiations, the land was made available by the Commissioners to the Office of Works in 1864, and the competition to design the Museum was won by Captain Francis Fowke, the architect of the 1862 Great Exhibition building, on whose site the Museum was to be built, and the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh of 1861. Fowke’s Museum in the Renaissance style was positioned on the north side of the plot, topped with a central dome, said to be inspired by St Peter’s in Rome, and flanked by cupolas with a circular staircase hall and a lecture theatre internally. Fowke died in December 1865; the 36 year-old Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) was appointed to execute his designs in February 1866. A political hiatus saw the plans put on hold until 1868, when Waterhouse was allowed to revise Fowke’s elevational design rather than to implement his scheme entirely.
In March 1868 Waterhouse submitted plans, sections and perspective views to the Office of Works. At the Clydesdale Bank in Lombard Street, London (1864–5) and at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, then just completing, he had used quasi-Romanesque motifs. At South Kensington he now proposed a more comprehensive essay in this style. To quote his own words he "abandoned the idea of a Renaissance building and fell back on the earlier Romanesque style which prevailed largely in Lombardy and the Rhineland from the tenth to the end of the twelfth century" (Stearn,1998,45). The scheme was delayed again, largely through further political and budget difficulties, during which an alternative scheme for the museum on the Embankment was seriously considered. Waterhouse’s estimated £495,000 cost had to be reduced to £330,000, and in August 1870 the amended scheme with an increased frontage, but omitting side and rear elevations, was presented. The plans were refined in 1871 and 1872, and in February 1873 the contract was let to the builders, George Baker and Son of Lambeth. Further economies were required. Between the towers, Waterhouse redesigned the centre of his façade to rise to the present gables, and the towers themselves were to be curtailed (but later partly reinstated for fire prevention reasons). Some granite was replaced by Portland stone in the containing and approach walls, slates replaced lead on the roofs, and brick replaced terracotta in the internal courts. Inside, plaster ceilings replaced wooden, and the decoration was both reduced and postponed under Waterhouse's direction. Internal modifications included the infilling of spaces between piers, creating the blind arches between the transverse galleries still evident today. The construction is said to have been difficult, with rising costs and fixed budgets, and in particular the unreliable supply of terracotta (from Staffordshire) in such large quantities caused delays to the project and contributed to the bankruptcy of George Baker & Son in 1879 (although they were allowed to fulfil their contract).
Owen continued to be a driving force behind the design. The plan of the Museum fulfilled many of his wishes, but by the time the Museum opened, some of the facilities he had wanted were absent. The key space in the building, the main hall (known as the Hintze Hall in 2016) was designed for Owen to house his Index Museum, with the side bays around it for exhibits of different groups. The smaller hall to its rear was to house the Lecture Theatre, but these spaces were not used as intended. The single storey rear galleries were alternately wide and narrow for display and study respectively, but were given over mostly to display by the time the Museum opened. Of greater success are the external and internal statuary and decorative figures instigated by Owen. Externally, carved figures of living and extinct species denoted the zoological wing at the west and the fossil wing at the east respectively. Internally, carved snakes, monkeys, insects and aquatic creatures adorn the walls and piers. The subjects were suggested by Owen in 1873, who supplied Waterhouse with figures of animals which the architect sketched for the French modeller, Dujardin, employed by the architectural modeller’s, Farmer and Brindley, to produce plaster casts for Owen’s approval before the terracotta slabs and statues were manufactured by Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth, Staffordshire.
In April 1881 the Museum finally opened, two years before Owen’s retirement. It received mostly critical acclaim from the press of the period. The Times of 18 April 1881 assured Londoners "that they will now have the opportunity of pursuing the most delightful of all studies in a true Temple of Nature, showing, as it should, the Beauty of Holiness" (Stearn, 1998, 47). Others were not so effusive; Augustus J C Hare in 1894 referred to the building as a "pile of mongrel Lombardic architecture," (Stearn,1998, 51). The Museum remains Alfred Waterhouse’s best known building, and firmly established him as one of the foremost architects of his day. A prolific architect, he has many other highly graded listed buildings to his name, including the Prudential Assurance Building, Holborn, London (NHLE 1379064, 1885-1901, Grade II*) which also features extensive use of terracotta, and Manchester Town Hall (NHLE 1207469,1868-77,Grade I). Additions to the building during the C20 include: the Whale Hall to the north-west in 1929-31; the Spirit Building of 1920-39 (which replaced an earlier Spirit Hall by Waterhouse of the 1880s) and Entomological Block of 1936-52 to the west (both demolished); the offices, lecture theatre and library block to the north in 1953-1955, 1955-59 and 1970-73; the Palaeontology Wing to the east in 1970-75. The former Geology Museum to the north-east of 1929-33, built to the designs of Sir Richard Allison and J H Markham (after Allison retired) was opened by the Duke of York (later King George VI) in July 1935. It was linked by a bridge north to the Science Museum, and incorporated into the NHM in 1986, forming the Earth Galleries. The sites of the Spirit Building and Entomological Block were redeveloped for the Darwin Centre phase one of 1999-2002 and Darwin Centre phase two of 2006-2008.
ALTERATIONS: the Museum is a dynamic space which has undergone changes, generally sympathetic to the historic fabric of the buildings, and it is understood that routine maintenance of such a large estate will have resulted in like for like repairs. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that some major alterations have occurred to the Waterhouse building, including the following. This list is not exhaustive, however: - Replacement fabric following bomb damage in the Second World War when on numerous occasions the galleries were hit directly; many windows were shattered, many of the roofs were destroyed, and exhibits and cases damaged (Stearn, 1998,149). The botanical gallery over the geological gallery (east front range) was reconstructed in 1962. -Internal modifications include openings in the side wall of the easternmost gallery to form access from the Earth Galleries, the rear wall to accommodate the North Block extension and west wall to access the Darwin Centre. - Openings on the east and west sides of the Hintze Hall to access east to west corridors. - Remodelling of the east and west access corridors at the rear of the Waterhouse building. - The removal of fabric in the rear galleries to allow greater exhibition space, shop units and cafe spaces. - The provision of lifts and stairs to the rear of the minerals gallery and in the central gallery of the east range. - The creation of a range of exhibitions throughout replacing earlier fittings and fixtures. - The provision of modern toilet facilities throughout.
Modifications to the former Geology Museum (Earth Galleries) include the glass extension to the south elevation for staff stair access. Internally at the ground floor of the west end a loggia was formed at the juncture with the Waterhouse building. An escalator was installed in the main hall as part of an exhibition by Neal Potter (1996), resulting in the openings from the side galleries onto the hall being blocked. Enlargement of the entrance hall and boxing in of decorative balustrades was undertaken by Pawson Williams Architects in 1996 and the Library here was refurbished in 1987-1989. There have been minor modifications to the other later additions to the Waterhouse building which are noted in the details where relevant.
The lodge to the west fronting Queen's Gate was designed by Waterhouse in c1883; it is separately listed (NHLE 1190175). The lodge at the Cromwell Road front (south) of the Museum, gates, gatepiers and railings were erected by 1881.
Museum of 1873-81 and gates, piers and railings erected by 1881, all designed by Alfred Waterhouse and built by George Baker and Son of Lambeth. The Museum building was extended to the north-west in 1929-31 by the addition of the Whale Hall by JH Markham of the Office of Works. The former Geology Museum to the north-east of 1929-33, built to the designs of Sir Richard Allison and JH Markham, was later incorporated into the Museum forming the Earth Galleries.
For the Waterhouse building, the terracotta and carved stone were manufactured by Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth, Staffordshire. The architectural modelling was by Farmer and Brindley; the plaster ceilings were painted by Best and Lea of Manchester; and the stained-glass windows designed by Waterhouse were by FT Odell of Finsbury. Burke and Company of Newman Street made the mosaic pavements and the ornamental ironwork was made by Hart, Son and Peard of Wych Street. The slating of the roofs was by T Stirling.
The North Block* (by W Kendall of the Office of Works, comprises three phases of construction of 1953-5, 1955-59, and a later phase of 1970-73) and its linking corridors* to the Waterhouse building, are excluded from the listing. The Palaeontology Wing* of 1970-75 (by architects of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the Department of the Environment from 1970), attached to the north-east corner of the Waterhouse building's east range and to the south-east corner of the Earth Galleries, is excluded from the listing. Attached to the west of the Waterhouse building, the Darwin Centre phase one of 1999-2002 by HOK and Darwin Centre phase two of 2006-2008 by C F Moller Architects, are less than thirty years old and have not been assessed for listing in 2016.
MATERIALS The Waterhouse building has an iron frame, bridging between masonry walls of brick and terracotta, the rear elevation of brick with terracotta dressings, and brick elevations to the galleries at the rear. Ceilings are of iron and concrete for fireproofing, with plaster finishes. Interior finishes are largely terracotta or brick in the basement, painted plaster decoration and mosaic floors to the atrium and central halls, and generally timber flooring elsewhere. The Earth Galleries (the former Geology Museum) has a steel frame, red Bracknell bricks and Portland Whitbed stone details to the facade and dressings, yellow stock bricks at the south and west elevations and slate roof coverings. Internally it has marble finishes to the entrance bay. The Whale Hall is of steel frame encased in concrete with external facings of brick with Portland stone dressings.
PLAN Owing to the various extensions, the Museum has an evolved plan. The Waterhouse building, set back from the Cromwell Road, is symmetrical with its ground floor raised above basement workshops, storage spaces and laboratories. The central entrance has exhibition ranges to the east and west, both terminating in pavilions. To the rear of the entrance hall is the main hall (Hintze Hall) surrounded by side galleries, with a triforium above at the first floor. To the rear of the Hintze Hall is a smaller hall, originally the Gallery of British Zoology, in use as a cafeteria in 2016, the fixtures* and fittings* of which including catering equipment* are excluded from the listing. Parallel with the front ranges, and linked to them by short linking passages to each side, are ground floor axial access corridors to the west and east (termed galleries of communication by Waterhouse); these were both galleries, that to the east continues to have fossil exhibits, and that to the west was formerly the Coral Gallery. To the rear (north) of each of the corridors are six, transverse single-storey galleries, alternately wide and narrow. These have been altered in the C20 to accommodate shops* and catering facilities*, when some of the Victorian walls were removed and replaced with modern partitions*. The interior of the rear (north) access corridors* of the transverse galleries were remodelled and partially rebuilt in the late C20 and contain no historic fixtures and fittings; they are excluded from the listing.
The plan of the Whale Hall, linked to the Waterhouse building at its north-west end, comprises a central hall with surrounding first floor walkways. Its east wall abuts the North Block*, excluded from the listing. East of the Waterhouse building, and linked at its north-east corner, is the former Geology Museum (Earth Galleries) with a large central hall surrounded by two reconfigured exhibition floors* and an upper gallery*, an elaborate entrance hall and stairs at the east end, and offices* on the upper floors and to the west. A modern lecture theatre and administration block* links the former Geology Museum to the near parallel Palaeontology Wing* to the south; these are both excluded from the listing.
To the north of the complex is an east-west access route, known as Museum Way, and service yard*, accessed from Exhibition Road beneath the bridge to the Science Museum. The gates, gatepiers and railings are south of this route, along the Exhibition Road, Cromwell Road and Queen's Gate frontages. The small Porter's Lodge is located to the south of the Museum, adjacent to the main gate. Immediately to the south of the Waterhouse building are late-C19 railings of standard type that are not of special interest, beyond which are landscaped gardens accessed by steps that are also not of special interest.
THE WATERHOUSE BUILDING
EXTERIOR: a symmetrical composition, the facade is 207m long and set back from Cromwell Road. The features of the façade are composed with single and multiple orders of round-arched window and door openings springing from columns with capitals, and robustly detailed cornices. Rich detailing in buff and blue terracotta uses a variety of motifs including geometric shapes, chevrons, rosettes, foliation and animals in relief and statuary; extinct species to the east range, and living to the west. All windows are metal-framed casements.
Curved carriage ramps and flights of steps approach the central grand, cathedral-type, round-arched entrance of multiple orders resting on decorated columns with acanthus motifs to the capitals. At the centre, a pair of round-arched door openings, with square and semi-circular fanlights, is similarly embellished. Chequerboard details above are topped by a frieze of animals and foliation with five round-arched windows over. The surmounting double-height gable has pairs of round-arched windows with a front balustrade and a central round-arched panel with three windows above, flanked by two smaller pairs of windows. The gable has robust dentil decoration and was formerly topped by a figure of Adam (destroyed during the Second World War). The entrance is framed by two tall towers, 58m high, of four stages topped by spires on octagonal bases. At the lowest stage are two round-arched windows beneath square heads; at the first a single round-arched window with stylized geometric tracery; the second stage has a pair of round-arched windows with front balustrade, corresponding to those in the gable above the entrance, with an arcade of six round-arched openings above; at the third are three round-arched windows of multiple orders. Each tower has a parapet with corner pinnacles topped with spirelets. The elevations of the octagonal bases to the spires have pairs of round-arched windows, framed by piers topped by spirelets. The roofs have banded decoration and lightning conductors.
The east and west ranges, each of 11 bays with rainwater goods in between, are of three storeys with a basement and terminate in ornate pavilions. The treatment to each bay is identical; the basement is lit by a pair of straight-headed windows; at the ground floor are pairs of round-arched windows with modillions beneath a squared head above; at the first floor, a single round-arched window with stylized geometric tracery and aprons decorated with mouldings of creatures, with a dentil cornice. Above, a parapet has figures of creatures on plinths between each second floor dormer; the dormers have pairs of round-arched windows beneath gablets with central roundels decorated with figures of animals. The slated, gable roof has bands of decoration and is topped with wrought iron cresting.
The elevations of the east and west pavilions have the same arrangement as the ranges from basement to first floor. At the second floor is an arcade of five round-arched openings with recessed windows. Similar to the entrance towers, the corner piers are topped with spired pinnacles, set back from the parapet. The final stage of the pavilion is broadly lozenge-shaped with a hipped roof, slated with bands of decoration and topped with cresting. Single and pairs of round-arched windows are surmounted by gables central to each elevation, unified by a balustrade topped by statuary of animals. The gables to east and west have four-shaft stacks.
The rear elevation of the Waterhouse building is of brick with terracotta dressings in the same arrangement as the façade. However, the side elevations of the Hintze Hall, north hall and rear galleries were not intended to be seen and are thus relatively plain. The ‘pier and panel’ structure is clearly expressed; brown brick generally laid in Flemish bond contrasts with sparing buff terracotta copings and dressings to the windows. The variation in height between the wide and narrow rear galleries is evident when viewed from above, but more striking is the complex roof arrangement for lighting the spaces within. The rear is dominated by the two service towers that rise from the north-west and north-east corner piers of the rear hall. These were the smokestacks to the Waterhouse building, with back stairs wrapping around the stacks, but now serve as flues. Mostly of brown brick with buff terracotta dressings, the elevations have three tall and narrow recessed panels with arrow-slit lights, above which are three small round-arched openings with geometric tracery to the windows. Above, the terracotta-clad upper stages have three round-arched ventilation openings, with detailed cornices and parapets beneath the slated, hipped and flat-topped spires masking the boiler flues.
INTERIOR: in general, interior finishes are of buff terracotta with blue terracotta details comprising plain banding, chequerboard and chevron and other geometric motifs. Most of the intricate mouldings are in buff terracotta including decorative columns, mouldings of robust dentils and chevrons to the arches and the panels with moulded animal and plant figures. All ceilings are of plastered concrete with painted mouldings and painted iron trusses. In the entrance hall and rear halls the floor coverings are combinations of polychromatic mosaics with black, white and grey geometric panels. Throughout fine timber panelled doors, many with the original furniture, and joinery remain.
The basement generally has walls of exposed yellow stock brick laid in English bond. The space is divided into small offices on the south front, and clustered around light wells, with storage space behind, linked by a network of corridors, and some public realm in the form of mobility access* and picnic areas* to the south-east. The offices have plastered walls with skirtings, and in general some terracotta detailing, mosaic pavements, original windows and joinery of the period survive, but otherwise the basement is not of special interest.
On the ground floor of the front (south) range there are entrance doors to the entrance hall, which is five bays wide and one bay deep; between each bay are round-headed transverse arches with moulded details. Each bay is rib vaulted, with dog tooth, chevron and geometrical mouldings and imposts decorated with foliation and creatures. The bays are supported on piers with moulded corner columns, and pilasters to the front wall. A timber Roll of Honour attached to the rear of a pier facing the hall records staff members from the British Museum and Natural History Museum on active service, an asterisk against the names of those killed in action.
The main Hintze Hall, 52m long, opens to the rear of the entrance beneath an iron roof 22m high carried on perforated ribs, with clerestory glazing to the east and west and central coffered ceiling panels painted with plant specimens. These were designed by the Keeper of Botany, William Carruthers, the lower panels representing medicinal and economic plants such as olives, Scots pine, lemons and maize. Beneath the clerestory windows is a frieze of narrow arches with a wide arch in between robust brackets. The cornice above is topped with another round-arched arcade, the arches supported by a pair of muscular columns.
At the north end of the hall is a monumental staircase, a broad single flight splitting to left and right at the landing and leading up to the triforium. Beneath each side flight are arched openings to the small hall at the rear. At the hall’s south end on the first floor is a bridge spanning the open space and topped by two side flights of stairs linked to a central platform, from which there are commanding vistas of the hall. A short flight southwards accesses the second floor galleries. Here, the south wall of the hall has a central round-arched recessed panel containing a statue; flanking are round-arched entrances to the rooms in the front towers. The balustrades of all stairs comprise round-arched arcades with elaborately decorated columns beneath moulded handrails and square-section moulded newels.
The hall has 10 side bays to the east and west beneath a first floor triforium; the central bay on each side has been pierced to create an east-west route across the Hall. Each bay is defined by slender piers comprising three columns rising from the ground to the roof, topped with moulded capitals. The side bays have a single round-headed arch opening to the great hall, chamfered and with decorative mouldings, and shallow arched and moulded ceiling panels. There is blind arcading to the flanking bays; to the rear of each bay are shallow arches supported on two pairs of columns with square capitals decorated with shell motifs. On the first floor facing the hall, the triforium bays have three round arched openings, the central being taller, supported on four columns with those to the side engaged with the piers. The balustrades, like those to the stairs, are arcaded with moulded columns. The ceilings comprise two shallow arched panels, with painted coffered mouldings. The three stained glass windows to the external elevation of each bay are simple square, leaded light casements with small roundels.
The north wall of the hall above the landing is broadly divided into three round-arched panels defined by two piers. The central section is the widest and contains three round arched windows with moulded mullions and stained glass with geometric and floral motifs; to each side the panels have a pair of windows with mullions and a roundel above. The windows rest on a frieze of small-arched arcades above round arched stained glass windows, two in the outer panels and four to the centre, with polychromatic leaded lights. Commemorative plaques are inserted into this north wall.
North of the Hintze Hall is a smaller hall, a cafeteria space in 2016, the fixtures* and fittings* of which are excluded from the listing, beneath a similar roof to the main hall but lit from clerestories to the north and south, rather than the east and west. At the ground floor are two single round-arched openings to the east and west, and three to the north and south. Above there is a triforium with pairs of in line columns with polychromatic stained glass windows to the exterior wall beyond. The corridor access* to the North Block* is through the central arch of the north wall; the flanking arches have been blocked in.
The double entrances to the long east and west galleries are from the entrance hall through vaulted bays adjacent to the atrium on the ground floor; the gallery spaces extend into the ground and first floors of the pavilions at each end, but there were partitions between the two spaces originally. These were partly inspected. In February, 2016, neither of the west galleries is open to the public, the lower being refitted for a new Dinosaur exhibition, the upper is the vacant former Darwin Gallery with inserted mezzanine* and wall panels masking the original finishes. The ground floor former Geology Gallery to the east has been converted into a shop* and the Ecology exhibition*. The lifts* and stairs* to the rear of the east galleries are excluded from the listing. At the first floor, the galleries are approached through double round-arches with roundel decoration in the tympanum. Despite their current uses, these galleries share a similar treatment on both the ground and first floors. Iron ‘H’ section piers are clad in buff terracotta, the lower panels featuring creatures, seascapes and foliation with moulded capitals featuring projecting animal heads, foliation and scrolls above. The pilasters to the side walls are similarly treated. The shallow arched concrete and iron ceilings are plastered with painted moulded decoration. The second floor gallery to the east was rebuilt following damage in the Second World War, and as modern fabric has less architectural interest. That to the west is in use as the herbarium, and there is no public access; it was not inspected but is understood to have an arched ceiling with moulded plaster decoration and top lighting.
Linking the east and west galleries to the rear access corridors are short corridors with round-arched openings decorated with chevrons but without capitals; those from the west gallery form enfilades in a particularly well-composed arrangement. Although both east and west corridors have the same function, they take different forms. The east access corridor is entered from the centre of the Hintze Hall through a loggia with a mosaic floor and a dentil cornice (formerly part of the hall). A pair of shallow-arched doorways with timber panelled doors, with three blind shallow arches resting on pairs of columns above, leads into the top-lit, gabled corridor with a dentil cornice, used as the Fossil Gallery from 1881. From here the alternately wide and narrow single storey galleries are aligned north-south; the entrances to the wide galleries are shallow-arched, and round-arched to the narrow, both moulded and with timber panelled doors. Each gallery has a mansard roof, which is supported on ribs with painted ceiling panels and clerestories in the wide galleries and on terracotta-clad arches with top-lighting in the narrow galleries. At the north end are up to nine stained glass windows arranged in a semi-circular panel or lunette; round-headed arches, often blind or blocked are in the side walls. Some of the original dividing walls between the galleries have been removed and replaced with modern structures*; these are excluded from the listing. The restaurant*, staff canteen* above (and all catering equipment*), modern access stairs* and lift* constructed at the centre of the east set of transverse galleries, and the shop fixtures* and fittings* adjacent are excluded from the listing.
The west access corridor (formally the Coral Gallery) is lower, arranged in three-bay sections; the central section is defined by two upper partitions each with three stained glass windows and lit by a top lantern. The outer sections have top-lit gables. The cornice to the north and south wall comprises a double row of dog tooth mouldings. Entrance to the wide galleries is through three shallow-arched openings, each with two orders of mouldings above, and a single round-arched opening to the narrow gallery. The interiors of the galleries are believed to be similar to those off the east corridor but were not inspected. The shop and its fixtures* and fittings* located at the centre of the west set of transverse galleries is excluded from the listing.
The upper levels of the east and west pavilions are used for offices, storage and plant*. The rooms within the two flanking entrance towers are no longer in use; they contain some late C19 fixtures and fittings of standard type. The towers to the rear are part of the heating system and contain flues* and other modern equipment*.
SERVICES: the Waterhouse building had a fresh-air ventilation system and a hot-air system fired by coal-fired boilers. Some of the ventilators are said to survive in the south galleries and high level extracts are set behind architectural features.
THE WHALE HALL
EXTERIOR: mostly obscured, but with a mansard roof with slate covering above the clerestories.
INTERIOR: partly inspected in January 2016 owing to refurbishment works, the large central hall is lit by clerestory windows with geometric leaded lights to the north and south with a plain flat ceiling between. The hall is surrounded by walkways to the ground and first floors, the openings with metal balustrades with Moderne styling between the concrete piers providing observation points. To the east and west ends are slightly projecting platforms with plain metal balustrades beneath timber handrails. There are black marble skirtings and the floor, obscured at the time of the inspection, has an early type of linoleum covering.
THE EARTH GALLERIES (FORMER GEOLOGY MUSEUM)
EXTERIOR: exceptional interest is found at the classical, symmetric façade in stone at the east, facing Exhibition Road, and the north return as far as the bridge north to the Science Museum. The facade is of four storeys. At the centre, the entrance has a muscular carved stone surround topped by a plaque stating ‘Geological/ Survey & Museum’. The entrance is dwarfed by the projecting, double-height classical portico to its rear with four columns of the Corinthian order in antis. Above, the pediment has guttae and dentil details, and at the centre a carved roundel. At the rear of the portico are three rectangular windows with moulded stone surrounds and geometric stained glass; part of the windows which light the floors above and below are visible. To either side are square–headed windows to each floor level, lighting the staircase within, all with moulded surrounds. Above the projecting cornice has dentils. The lower pitch of the mansard roof is clad with stone, through which are punctuated square windows with carved and detailed surrounds; the upper pitch is slated. To the left (south) of the facade is the link* to the Palaeontology Wing*, excluded from the listing. The right (north) return has a similar treatment as the façade; set back is the two storey ‘bridge’ to the Science Museum, clad in stone with rusticated treatment at the ground floor and ashlar above. At the centre is a round-arched entrance with a wrought iron gate, with a window with carved classical surround above. The south and west elevations of yellow stock brick are of pier and panel form with concrete and stone banding and recessed metal-framed casement windows with concrete lintels and cills. The rear elevation of the bridge is in red brick.
Over the central hall, is a glazed barrel vault framed by a slated mansard roof with side lights. Rising to the rear (west) of the vaulted roof is plant housing, further to the west of which is a glazed addition to the flat roof over seven floors of offices. The south, west and north (west of the bridge to the Science Museum) elevations are utilitarian in construction and are not of special interest.
INTERIOR: the focus of exceptional interest is the entrance hall and staircase which rises through four storeys, featuring British and Irish marble floor coverings, finishes and decoration; the marbles are mainly from Devon, Derbyshire, Purbeck and Connemara. The loggia at the ground floor has an arched opening beneath a bridge-like structure which leads up to the hall and onto the staircase. This bridge has banded green and buff marble with black marble to the opening; flights of stairs to each side terminate in a central platform from which the hall is viewed. The balustrade here has very ornate ironwork. From the platform a flight of steps leads to a landing behind the portico from where double stairs rise, with solid balustrades and square section newels all clad with granite and stone. The main hall has a modern escalator* rising to the remodelled upper galleries*, all of which have recent fixtures* and fittings*. Flanking the escalator at the ground floor are a cafeteria*, the fixtures*, fittings* and equipment* of which are excluded from the listing, and a shop space, the fixtures* and fittings* of which are also excluded from the listing. At the north-west corner is the library. The ground floor loggia between the Earth Galleries and Waterhouse building is remodelled and is not of special interest. The interior space* of the bridge to the Science Museum has modern fixtures* and fittings* and is excluded from the listing.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES Broad steps lead up to the Museum’s main entrance set back from Cromwell Road. The former Porter's Lodge to the front of the Museum, near to its Cromwell Road entrance, is the survivor of a pair (the other, a Policeman's Lodge, was destroyed in the Second World War). It is single storey, clad in buff terracotta with a hipped, slated roof topped with leaded finials. An external chimney on its north elevation has a decorated stack, beneath which is a roundel with a lion’s head in relief. There is a small round-arched opening on its west elevation, and a door at the south. The interior was not inspected.
The gates, gatepiers and railings to the Museum extend along the Cromwell Road to the south, Queen’s Gate to the west and Exhibition Road to the east. They were designed by Alfred Waterhouse and comprise Portland stone piers of square or octagonal section, which support wrought iron railings. The Cromwell Road entrances have larger square piers topped by lanterns, with inset terracotta reliefs of plants or animals and elaborate wrought iron gates. To the centre, openwork, wrought iron piers are topped by gilded lions.
In addition to those items specifically identified with an * above, all modern exhibition*, shop* and catering* spaces and toilet facilities* within the Museum are excluded from the listing. The collections*, exhibition specimens* and pieces of sculpture*, all of which are capable of being relocated, are excluded from the listing.
* Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.
The gates, gatepiers and railings were previously listed separately as List entry 1358159. This entry was removed from the List on 28/07/16.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Cherry, Bridget, Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England London 3: North West, (1991), 492-494
Girouard, Mark, Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural History Museum, (1981)
Stearn, William T, The Natural History Museum at South Kensington, (1998)
Survey of London vol 38, the Geology Museum, accessed 5/2/16 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol38/pp257-259
Survey of London vol 38, the Natural History Museum, accessed 3/2/16 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol38 pp 201-216
The Natural History Museum Conservation Plan, Alan Baxter and Associates, 2003
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing