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Museum of London commits to Smithfield move


The Museum of London has confirmed it intends to move out of its Powell & Moya-designed home at the Barbican and into empty buildings at Smithfield Market

The news could pave the way for a new ‘world-class concert’ venue to be built on the then-vacant London Wall site - ambitious proposals which are being championed by the London Symphony Orchestra’s new music director Simon Rattle.

It is understood John McAslan + Partners has already been asked by the Museum of London to look at how the institution could be re-housed in the larger market buildings by 2021.

Original plans by the practice for developer Henderson Global Investors to convert the historic Victorian landmark into an office and retail scheme were thrown out by communities secretary Eric Pickles in July last year (AJ 08.07.14) leaving the future of the market in doubt.

A spokesman for the Museum of London said: ‘We do not currently have the space to present our collections properly. Our visitor numbers have doubled in recent years and continue to grow; our schools programme is at capacity.

‘Over the past few months we have undertaken a detailed expert analysis of various options for the long-term future. We have done this at the request of the Corporation of the City of London.

‘[The] next phase will see us consider in detail the logistics and viability of relocating from London Wall to Smithfield General Market with the aim of creating an unrivalled experience and contributing to the regeneration of a vibrant and historic part of London.’

The museum, which hopes to attract around 2 million visitors a year to its new home, admits it still needs to thrash out a deal with long-term tenant and developer Henderson Global Investors which had been looking at alternative retail-led plans for the market buildings.

Speaking about the proposed relcoation Mayor of London,  Boris Johnson, said: ‘The Museum of London tells the incredible story of this great city through its unique and exceptional collection [but] it desperately needs more space.

‘In its new home at Smithfield General Market the Museum of London will be able to unleash its full potential to attract millions of people each year and work with even more schoolchildren.’

Geoff Harris, head of development, TIAA Henderson Real Estate, would not be drawn on the Museum of London’s proposals, but said: ‘We are committed to developing a viable and conservation-led regeneration scheme for the Western end of Smithfield market, which involves restoration while bringing the site back to life for the 21st century. 

‘We have been working on various options, each of which will seek to preserve its historical character, while enhancing the public amenity, infrastructure and physical structure at the Western edge of Smithfield.’


Christopher Costelloe, director, Victorian Society
‘The Museum of London’s ambition to move into Smithfield General Market is potentially great news both for the future of this historic London building and for the museum itself - which is likely to see more footfall.

‘Relocating the Museum into Smithfield Market would also appear to be the kind of ‘beneficial use’ envisaged by the Secretary of State during the public inquiry.

‘However, our stance will ultimately depend on the detailed plans. We look forward to working with the Museum to help ensure that any alterations to the buildings preserve what makes them special.’


The Museum of London has confirmed it has already applied for a certificate for immunity from listing for its current 1976 Powell & Moya-designed home.


Readers' comments (2)

  • J C Muirhead

    This is fantastic news. A win, win, win, win situation!
    Win 1 - The historic General Market gets a genuine reprieve adn excellent reuse, and what could be more appropriate than the Museum of London and its 3000+ year old collections
    Win 2 - Sir Simon Rattles request is actually being taken seriously by the Corporation and the wider political class in local and national government.
    Win 3 - The opportunity for London to finally have the best concert hall in the world. This is a truly one off opportunity to right a serious, cultural and artistic vacuum in the capital. I can but hope this is run as an international competition of the highest calibre.
    Win 4 - Last but not least, where the wanton disregard for Hoarce Jone's built legacy by the Corporation and blind adherence to more bland office floor plates. In my eyes, for quite sometime it had made them look rather like cultural philistines. Yet now, here is the multiple opportunity to right what had for sometime looked like an appalling wrong!

    I am intrigued to know if any of the vast underground vaults of the market will become the collections store? So freeing the Regents Canal site for redevelopment as well as bringing the whole institution together in one place.

    This is a truly exciting development for London

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  • It is to be hoped that a little more natural light can be thrown onto the collection in the new building. The offputtingly stygian gloom of the existing building is what sticks in my mind every time I visit.

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