Foundation stone unveiled for the new London Museum as principal construction works begin

The Foundation Stone for the new London Museum was unveiled this afternoon, (Monday 16 October) at a special ceremony at its new location in Smithfield. It marks a key milestone in the project’s build to transform the historic buildings of Smithfield Market into a state of the art new museum, opening in 2026.

The Ceremony was attended by:

Clive Bannister, Chair, Museum of London
Sharon Ament, Director, Museum of London
Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Greater London Authority
Christopher Hayward, Policy Chair, City of London Corporation

Principal construction works are now underway on the project, following extensive early work to restore the historic façades and roof, including excavating the site’s former Vaults and Salt Stores, and cleaning 10,000m2 of Victorian brickwork in the basement. On Saturday, a 3-meter wide glass oculus was craned onto the roof of the General Market. It will rest above a newly laid copper-tiled roof, whose gleaming surface gives the museum a temporary metallic shine before it eventually turns green.

With scaffolding coming down inside the General Market, work is underway to start framing the internal spaces that will hold the museum’s permanent galleries. They will tell the story of London and Londoners in new and innovative ways. This autumn will also see work begin on the adjacent Poultry Market, which will house the museum’s world-class temporary exhibition and learning spaces.

Smithfield Market, covering almost ten acres in the heart of the City of London, was originally designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones, and completed in November 1868. It was once the country’s most important meat and poultry market. The new London Museum development is one of the largest cultural infrastructure projects in Europe and is designed by Stanton Williams and Asif Khan working with conservation architects Julian Harrap. The London Museum will save the historic Smithfield site for generations to come, enabling the museum to share more of its 7 million strong collection than ever before. Both the General Market building, which dates back to the Victorian era, and the 1960s Poultry Market building are being carefully restored to ensure that their history and character are celebrated as part of the new museum. The new building will reuse and repair over 70% of the existing fabric.

Already more than 50,000 Londoners have been involved in the creation of the new museum – from the design of inclusive and welcoming public spaces, to collecting objects, and working with the museum team to create future displays. This number is set to rise to 100,000 by 2026.

This autumn, the museum launches “We Are 40,000 Neighbours”, a major three-year programme of activities with people who work, live or study in the City of London and the Borough of Islington. Supported by a grant from the City of London’s CIL Neighbourhood Fund and with public funding by Arts Council England, it will include offering skills, training and employment opportunities for local young people, and working with healthcare providers and community partners to use culture to support the health and mental wellbeing of people in the area.

The creation of the world’s best new city museum is supported by principal funders the City of London Corporation and the Greater London Authority.

Today a new donation of £5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund was announced, bringing their total contribution to £10m, as well as a new donation from the N. Sethia Foundation. They join a list of supporters for the project including The Goldsmiths’ Company and its affiliated Charity, The Linbury Trust, and the Garfield Weston Foundation, alongside a number of individual philanthropists and charitable trusts who have also pledged significant support to the project. Global law firm DLA Piper is the project’s inaugural Corporate Champion.

Sharon Ament, Director, Museum of London, said:

“The start of the principle construction works is an exciting moment in the creation of this new museum, and we are working closely with thousands of Londoners to create an inspiring space that truly reflects what it is to be a Londoner today as well as exploring our history. I would like to thank the GLA, City of London and our funders and supporters who are helping us to create this world-leading museum that will be shaped by and celebrate Londoners of all ages.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Greater London Authority, said:

“The unveiling of the Foundation Stone is a historic occasion as we take another key step towards the creation of this incredible new London Museum. The new museum will be a wonderful addition to our city, creating jobs and securing our position as a global creative capital, as we continue to build a better and fairer London for everyone.”

Christopher Hayward, Policy Chair, City of London Corporation, said:

“The unveiling of the Foundation Stone and start of Principal Works is a huge milestone in the development of the new museum and the transformation of the Smithfield site; we are a step closer to the opening of this fantastic London Museum. The London Museum, backed by the unwavering support of the City Corporation, stands poised to be the crown jewel in our cultural tapestry and part of our Destination City initiative for the City of London to become a seven-day a week destination.”

Stuart McLeod, Director of England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“We’re proud to be a part of making history with this transformational, once-in-a-lifetime project. The Museum of London is so well-loved by Londoners and visitors alike, bringing the heritage of London to life. It’s fantastic to see the unveiling of the Foundation Stone – an important milestone in its journey to its new home at Smithfield.”

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