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HAT Projects to transform historic Ely museum

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HAT Projects is to refurbish and extend a historic Cambridgeshire museum after the £2.2 million project received a funding boost 

The Essex practice will overhaul Ely Museum after its approved scheme was handed £1.66 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project will include the renovation of the museum’s Grade II-listed building, which was built in the 15th century, housed the Bishop of Ely’s gaol from 1679 to 1836 and has also been a private house, a library and a registry office.

HAT will strip out modern alterations to celebrate historic features such as a medieval staircase and centuries-old prisoner graffiti.

An extra storey will be added to an extension constructed in the 1990s when the building was converted into a museum. This will be clad with homemade tiles and feature a copper-clad bay window. The new space will be used for the museum’s education programme.

In a design and access statement submitted to planners, HAT said: ‘The overall ambition which underpins the proposed design is the desire to restore the original sense of character to the historic building and to create, bright, open and delightful exhibition spaces in keeping with the spirit of Ely Museum, alongside creating a new extension that compliments the listed building but also feels fresh and architecturally distinctive.’

It added: ‘A new first floor above the 1997 extension will house the Education Room, an important space in terms of bringing in additional revenue to the museum. This new extension, overlooking Lynn Road, will also re-establish the museum’s presence within the town.’

The project will begin later this year and the museum is set to reopen in September 2020.

As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the museum has received support from a number of local and national trusts and foundations; East Cambridgeshire District Council; City of Ely Council; and local residents. 

Ely Museum

Ely Museum

Ely Museum - as it is today

Project data

Tender June 2019
Start on site 
September 2019
September 2020 (museum reopening)
Gross internal floor area 
Form of contract and/or procurement 
Architect HAT Projects
Client Ely Museum
Structural engineer Momentum Engineering
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Main contractor TBC

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Difficult to tell for sure from the 'before' and 'after' images, but it would appear that the extra storey of the new extension might be 'drowning out' at least one of the two hipped gable roofs that seem to form a significant element of the character of the existing listed building.
    That this extension is based on a building apparently dating from as recently as the 1990's (despite appearances) surely doesn't necessarily justify it - anymore than the opportunity to create a copper clad structure more akin to a very wide box dormer than a 'bay window'.
    Perhaps the accommodation schedule - and the access to finance - led to the perceived unavoidable need for this extension, but the resultant opportunity for architectural expression does rather look like the 'tail wagging the dog' in this context. Walking around Ely many years ago my recollection is of the modest scale of the streets, and the existing single storey building (whether relatively modern or not) is surely more in tune with the street than the new extension with its metal clad box dormer and large plate glass gable window.

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