Local Authority: Westminster
Year of Intervention: 2007
Summary: The Household Cavalry Museum, opened in July 2007 brings to central London the collections of the Household Cavalry and houses them in two galleries in the north wing and one in the north-west pavilion of Horse Guards.
Description: Horse Guards is a grade I listed building which faces Whitehall to the east and Horseguards Parade to the west. It was built 1750-59 and supervised by a committee of government architects. It was thought to be a posthumous design of William Kent, but recent research shows that his executor Stephen Wright was the most likely architect of the drawings sold to the government. It is the oldest purpose-built barracks still in army use and houses three military functions: the HQ of the Army’s London District; the HQ of the Household Division, and a working barracks and stables to support the twice-daily mounting of the Queen’s Life Guard.
Issue: Prior to the current project, the building was under-used and under-appreciated. Office functions had spread into the north range by c1900, and the major vaulted stable (now Gallery 3), had been sub-divided by a concrete mezzanine floor. There were also problems of settlement. The working character of the stable, with its cobbled or setted floors, stalls and kit racks, was threatened by the need to insert modern physical access and museum service requirements.
Strategy: Settlement was resolved by inserting ties at the feet of the walls and within the floors above the vaults. In the working stable yard, the removal of latrines allowed the restoration of the Portland stone facades. Horses and troopers both had to move out at various points, but all returned to better quarters, with an improved layout of loose-boxes and stalls, and associated flooring. The new Gallery 2 has a view into the working stable, where the troopers and horses are seen through a glazed screen. Eighteenth-century flooring, and an original tripartite window exposed during the building works, have been conserved as found in Gallery 1. In Gallery 3, the full height of the original space has been reinstated, with groin-vaults supported on Tuscan Doric piers. Funding was raised privately from within the regiment, supplemented by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Outcome: The new museum use has revealed previously unseen parts of the building, giving the public a sense of its history. The structure of the museum installation has been designed to be subordinate to the original building. The collections are housed in cabinets supported off the newly installed floor, merely braced against the historic fabric. The rich and colourful displays back up the pomp and ceremony of the mounting of the Queens’ Life Guard and give a historical narrative of the Household Brigade from the Restoration to the present day.
Keywords: DISPLAY AND INTERPRETATION; PRESERVATION AND MAINTENANCE; REPAIR, RECONSTRUCTION, RESTORATION
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