Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall in London is one of the greatest mediaeval halls in Europe. A Grade I listed building within a World Heritage Site, it is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and has been at the heart of British public and political life for almost 1,000 years.

Westminster Hall, London, UNITED KINGDOM

In 2006, the UK Parliament decided to establish the Hall as the main visitors’ entrance to the Palace of Westminster and initial work was completed to repair the south steps and level an area of adjacent floor. Between 2010 and 2020, Donald Insall Associates and Alan Baxter Ltd worked closely with the UK Parliament in a three-phase project. The work was funded directly by the UK Parliament.

The first phase comprised the repair of the masonry to the north wall, and the design and installation of the Queen’s Jubilee Window by Reyntiens Glass Studio. The second phase involved the cleaning and conservation of the remaining three walls and windows, the frieze and the niches for the mediaeval statues. A new ramp was installed to better link the Hall to the wider Palace of Westminster. Following this, the temporary ‘Ethics of Dust’ artwork by Jorge Otero-Pailos, showing the soil patterns on the latex used to clean the walls, was exhibited.

Westminster Hall, London, UNITED KINGDOM

The final phase involved the conservation of the mediaeval hammer-beam roof and the extensive repair and re-cladding of the roof lantern, including rebuilding its fan vaulting and new provision for rainwater drainage. A fire detection system and new cabling to support a future lighting installation were also installed.

Innovative conservation methods included the use of nano-lime to consolidate mediaeval carvings, and latex poultices for stone cleaning. Nano-lime – an innovation stemming from an EU-funded project (STONECORE) – is a lime that has been transformed into tiny particles, allowing it to penetrate very small spaces, making it very useful for strengthening delicate or damaged surfaces. Design challenges included structural repairs to the mediaeval roof, re-detailing the lantern’s oak fan vaulting, and the discrete installation of services.

Westminster Hall, London, UNITED KINGDOM

The conservation secured the future of this ancient building, enabling this landmark to safely serve as the host of Queen Elizabeth II’s lying in state. It will ultimately provide a hugely improved presentation of the space to visitors and Members as well as a more flexible facility for future events.

This project, characterised by its meticulous attention to detail and sensitivity, adheres to the highest standards in conservation. Its strong basis in documentation and rigorous research has ensured that the most appropriate and innovative solutions were established. The use of minimal scaffolding enabled public access and a safe work environment during the works. The use of nano-lime further exemplifies the project’s commitment to cutting-edge techniques”, the Jury said.

New additions, such as the window, harmonise seamlessly with Westminster Hall’s original structure. Great care was spent maintaining the iconic building’s patina, resulting in a restoration that is imperceptible to the eye. With its high visibility, this project has the potential to significantly enhance public appreciation for heritage conservation”, the Jury added.

Contact: Adam Watrobski, Houses of Parliament | watrobskia@parliament.uk