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How the Museum was Made
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How the Museum was Made

From stables to museum in 12 months.

The Household Cavalry Museum was created by converting former eighteenth century stables within the Horse Guards, a building of exceptional historic and architectural interest. The rest of the building is a functioning military headquarters.

The place was a real mess; the area chosen for the main gallery had been used as storage for over half a century. The original stables was a warren of little rooms, its magnificent vaulted ceiling hidden above an ugly concrete slab. The present entrance gallery had been offices since the early twentieth century and had concrete three-feet thick (1 m) on the floor which had to be taken up. The whole area was riddled with damp. The first stable area was to be the museum entrance. What had always been a false door on to Horse Guards Parade for the sake of the building's Palladian symmetry became the front door. The original cobbled floor came to light unexpectedly and has been repaired and retained. One of the original leaded light windows was also discovered and preserved and can be seen in this gallery.

How the Museum was Made

The second gallery was part of the working Queen's Life Guard stables. A full-height glazed screen allows visitors to watch the horses being looked after from the museum side where the stable fixtures have all been left in place. This creates the impression you are actually visiting the working stables.

How the Museum was Made

Before work started. The concrete mezzanine floor to the hay barn had to go. (Paul Carter)

Conversion of the third gallery was very complex. It had been completely concealed behind brickwork walls and a concrete mezzanine floor slab. This slab also braced the walls which had deformed as the building had settled over centuries. Without the slab, would the building collapse under its own weight? To avoid this, horizontal steel trusses and anchors were inserted above the roof vaulting. Careful demolition of the slab and internal walls followed and, to everyone's relief, the building did not move! Repairs were undertaken to stone columns and arches and the new floor was paved in Portland stone.

How the Museum was Made

Work in the main gallery: week 21.

The colours used to paint the walls and vaults were based on the original colours.

The systems management of the museum is very modern: computer systems run the audio-visual displays; gas boilers and a chiller plant heat and cool the museum as required; and a sophisticated filtration system moves air between the galleries.

Time for refurbishment was short - completed in 12 months, it was ready just in time for HM The Queen to open the museum in June 2007 at a huge pageant laid on by The Household Cavalry on Horse Guards Parade.

How the Museum was Made

How the Museum was Made

Two items from the museum: a trumpet from Waterloo and a Blues officer's uniform from the same era.

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