Work starts on transforming the Grand Hall

17 03 2014

Work starts on transforming the Grand Hall

Construction work at the Gallery has very definitely moved from the rear of the building and there is now also considerable activity at the Oxford Road side too. Over the last few weeks, ISG have set up camp in the Gallery grounds to the east of the building and passers by will have seen a steady stream of contractors bringing material out of the building as demolition got underway on the Grand Hall.

The first job was to remove the 1970s suspended ceiling that hid the old air conditioning and wooden walkways – clearly visible in the photograph above. Once this has also been stripped away, the historic hammer beam roof and decorative arches, until now hidden from view, will be a beautiful feature of the Grand Hall.

The new Grand Hall will be a lovely space for Gallery events and functions

The new Grand Hall will be a lovely space for Gallery events and functions

Also now gone are the partition walls that for so long had divided up the space creating the two separate study rooms for fine art and textiles, and also small central curatorial offices – the scale of the room that will be used for a variety of functions and activities is truely magnificent (see details of our plans for the new Grand Hall in a blog post last November: https://capitaldevelopmentwhitworth.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/return-of-a-grand-hall/)

A forest of scaffolding poles heralds the next phase in the work on the Grand Hall

A forest of scaffolding poles heralds the next phase in the work on the Grand Hall

More recently scaffolding poles and planking have been taken inside and a forest of scaffolding is being built inside the Grand Hall to continue with the next phase of work, so watch this space as the development progresses. Due to the ISG move to the front of the building, there is now no public access to our grassy frontage or to the Park via the Gallery grounds. However, the daffodils are out in Whitworth Park – its a lovely place for a stroll or a lunchtime picnic, and still accessible from all the other park gates.

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Return of a Grand Hall

4 11 2013

Return of a Grand Hall

Its quite a weird feeling to walk through empty spaces that until only a few weeks ago were bustling with activity – anyone who visited our Print Room or Textile Study Room on the first floor would have known these spaces as combined curatorial offices and study rooms, filled with mobile shelving containing large parts of the collection, walls lined with books, and layout tables for close study of watercolours, drawings, prints or textiles. They were practical rooms serving a specific purpose, having been turned into study areas in the late 1970s, but with motley furniture, functional partition walls and a false ceiling made of unattractive ceiling tiles, they were far from aesthetically pleasing!

Fine Art study room4

However, all this is set to change as the two rooms are returned to their former glory, becoming one magnificent function room and reclaiming the name as given in the 1906-8 plans of ‘Grand Hall’.

At the time of the 1977 conversion it seems there were financial difficulties, which may explain the rather unsympathetic materials; fortunately most of the work undertaken appears to be reversible, with the major elements of the original structure and decorative scheme being in theory retrievable. The prominent mahogany doors at each end, and the parquet floors are in good condition, much of the panelled walls to dado level are intact, protected behind bookcases and hardboard, and hidden above the suspended ceiling are the original hammer beam roof trusses.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 21.22.49

Once refurbished, this huge room will serve as a lecture theatre and dedicated function room, providing the Gallery with wider venue hire options for weddings, conferences and banquets… and of course access to the Grand Hall will be via the Grand Stairs, see recent blog post: https://capitaldevelopmentwhitworth.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/opening-up-the-whitworths-19th-century-grand-staircases/