Welsh Slate helps bring integrity to a British Museum development

Flooring by Welsh Slate features in a new gallery at the British Museum.

Natural slate flooring by Welsh Slate was specified for the refurbishment of a gallery at the British Museum for a multitude of reasons.

Some 172m2 of various sizes of Cwt Y Bugail dark blue grey floor slates from Welsh Slate Ltd, part of the Lagan Group, were used on the redevelopment of the museum’s “Middle Room”, one of the oldest rooms in Sir Robert Smirke’s Georgian museum.

They were specified by Purcell architects, the museum’s conservation architects and lead consultants, based on their working knowledge of the product which is produced from Welsh Slate’s quarry in Llan Ffestiniog in Snowdonia.

Purcell partner Elizabeth Smith said: “The Welsh Slate flooring was specified to match historic finishes within the museum. It lends historic integrity to the proposals and makes the room harmonious with other areas of the museum. It also provides a durable and beautiful finish.”

She added: “We work on lots of historic and listed British buildings and Welsh Slate is a regular feature in these.”

The Welsh Slate flooring, in a fine rubbed finish to give a smooth sheen, was installed over six weeks by specialist sub-contractor WB Simpson & Sons for main contractor Coniston, the museum’s framework contractor for more than 10 years.

WB Simpson director Steve Valler said: “The project was a little more challenging than usual as there were manholes and temperature and climate-controlled showcases to work around but the Welsh Slate flooring performed very well.“

The project involved an initial strip-out of the Middle Room, including the removal of the existing floor and other significant structural alterations, to facilitate the new Waddesdon Bequest gallery display.

This is a collection of nearly 300 objects, left to the museum in 1898 by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild. It comprises medieval and Renaissance pieces, depicting a fascinating picture of the development of the art market in the late 19th Century.

A Coniston spokesperson said: “As with all refurbishment works at the British Museum, the refurbishment – to include a complete new slate floor, a full decoration package, new M&E services and exhibition cases – was required to be completed to the highest standards, with exacting finishes to meet not only the client’s requirements but those of English Heritage due to the building’s listed status.”

The new gallery space was designed by Stanton Williams to significantly improve the display of objects from the Waddesdon Bequest and to enable the collection to be better understood and enjoyed by the public.

To achieve this Purcell and Stanton Williams worked closely with the museum’s curatorial team on elements such as the re-use of the historic joinery to receive object displays and alterations to the floor structure and finishes to receive the new showcases.

A modern, bespoke AV and architectural lighting system was also installed as part of the refurbishment.