Westminster Hall wins Europa Nostra European Heritage Award

June 10, 2024 Published by Alex McCoskrie

Westminster Hall has been awarded a Europa Nostra European Heritage Award for conservation and adaptive reuse. The Hall, part of The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church World Heritage Site, is one of the greatest medieval 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.

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, contractors worked closely with and were funded by the UK Parliament on a three-phase project.

The first phase comprised the repair of the masonry to the north wall, and the design and installation of the Queen’s Jubilee Window. The second phase involved the cleaning and conservation of the remaining three walls and windows, the frieze and the niches for the medieval 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.

The final phase involved the conservation of the medieval 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 medieval carvings, and latex poultices for stone cleaning. Nano-lime 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 medieval roof, re-detailing the lantern’s oak fan vaulting, and the discrete installation of services.

The conservation secured the future of this ancient building. It will ultimately provide a hugely improved presentation of the space as well as a more flexible facility for future events.

Image: Europa Nostra