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Westminster Abbey Chapter House

A jewel - a structure 'perfect in itself, of a purely English type'.

Stow and Beale Conservation Architects have completed a major conservation project at Westminster Abbey Chapter House for clients English Heritage. Simon Thurley of EH described it as 'probably one of the most comprehensive programmes of conservation ever'. For 18 months a team of conervationists, master stonemasons and craftsmen cleaned, repaired and restored the structure, under the direction of Barry Stow RIBA, with support from Marcus Beale RIBA and Kate Sanders RIBA.

The Chapter House, constructed 1250-1253, was used as a place of government and meetings: in medieval times as meeting place for the House of Commons and subsequently as a document archive. In 1866-72 George Gilbert Scott restored the roof and upper parts which had been in his words 'dreadfully mutilated'. He described the Chapter House as 'a structure perfect in itself, of a purely English type as to its plan and outline, and as carrying out the principle of window tracery in a fuller and grander degree than any part of the church.'

GG Scott's work, in contrast to so much Victorian restoration, benefited the public face of the Abbey complex as well as preserving the fine interior.

The conservation programme, on site from November 2008 - May 2010 completed on time and under budget, despite an unusually harsh winter. This was due to the spirit of positive collaboration and teamwork throughout the executive team.

The work included external stonework repairs, restoration of fine carved detail, repairs to the window tracery and fixings, and works to the roof, including improved access. 32 stone heads were replaced, and, in medieval tradition these now depict masons, craftsmen, the dean and chapter, and the architects.

More about the Chapter House Project >>


Client: English Heritage
Architect: Stow and Beale Conservation Architects LLP: Barry Stow, Marcus Beale, Kate Sanders
Contractor: Nimbus Conservation Ltd.
Project Manager: Thinc Projects
Structural Engineer: Hockley and Dawson Consulting Engineers
Quantity Surveyor: Press and Starkey
Services Consultants: Martin Thomas Associates
Architects (pre-construction phase): S T Walker & Duckham.


External Links:

English Heritage: Chapter House & Pyx Chamber: Visiting times: here
World Architecture News: Future of the Chapter House set in stone 20 May 2010 here.
English Heritage: New heads on London's Oldest Shoulders, including a video describing the repairs 18 May 2010 here.
BBC News. 'New stone heads for Westminster Abbey Chapter House 18 May 2010 here
Westminster Abbey Chapter House home of Medieval parliament reopens after rebuild 18 May 2010 here.
Building Design Stow & Beale’s £4 million revamp for Westminster Abbey Chapter House 19 January 2009 here.
Guardian Newspaper: 'Westminster Abbey's Chapter House to receive £2m face lift' 12 Jan 2009 here
24hour Museum ' £2 Million Restoration for Westminster Abbey's Chapter House ' 13 Jan 2009 here
Westminster Abbey: News: 'Restoration of one of London's oldest buildings has begun' 12 Jan 2009 here


Chapter House exteriorMay 2010

Chapter House exteriorMay 2010

Chapter House exteriorMay 2010

Chapter House exteriorMay 2010.

Chapter House exteriorMarch 2010

Chapter House exterior with scaffoldScaffold from east, May 2009.

Chapter House exteriorChapter House exterior in 2008: before
Chapter House exteriorDetail of monkey gargoyle bracket: before.