History in the making as St Albans’ new museum moves closer to reality

Proposed new St Albans Museum and Art Gallery at night

Proposed new St Albans Museum and Art Gallery at night - Credit: Archant

This is the first look at designs for the landmark new St Albans museum and art gallery planned for the existing Town Hall.

West glazed wing with views of Cathedral

West glazed wing with views of Cathedral - Credit: Archant

Architects John McAslan and Partners have released images which show glass wings creating a walkway around the east and west sides offering a new view over the city centre and cathedral, and a revamped entrance to the Grade II neo-Palladian building.

The scheme will also incorporate a centrally located reception and information centre on the ground floor, a temperature-controlled basement gallery under the building to house national touring exhibitions and top contemporary art shows, and will make the ancient prison cells fully accessible for the first time.

Architect chairman John McAslan added: “Our proposals create an exciting museum and gallery within this historic building, ensuring that it will remain for future generations to enjoy, as part of the city’s rich heritage.”

The project has now passed the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Stage C Review, heralding the beginning of the project’s next phase which involves seeking planning permission for alterations to the existing building subject to the approval of English Heritage.

TV historian Dan Snow, who lectured in St Albans about Magna Carta, called it a wonderful project: “This ambitious project puts history and heritage right in the heart of St Albans where it belongs. St Albans is a place with a distinct and fascinating history, one that its residents are proud of. The new project is a perfect focal point for culture in the city.”

The museum initiative is being championed by Cllr Annie Brewster, district council portfolio holder for heritage, who said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add a new jewel in St Albans’ crown.

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“I’ve spent most of my life in and around St Albans and it’s striking that such a beautiful building in the heart of our city has been largely invisible for so long. It looks tired and desperately needs attention.

“We now have the chance to burst open the city, transform one of our greatest landmarks and create a new cultural hub benefiting not only St Albans but the whole surrounding area.

“It will be a wonderful place for us to meet with friends, find out all that is going on in the district plus see some great art and exhibitions. Visitors will be able to experience our historical yet contemporary city and discover a “miniature Britain” only 19 minutes from London and within not much more than a square mile.”

The council cabinet recently voted to increase the budget for the project by £1m to £7.75m to allow for inflation in construction costs, with the excess funded from the sale and redevelopment of the existing museum site in Hatfield Road.

But despite the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme still needs to raise match funding of £1.7m towards the total.

Cllr Brewster added: “It’s going to take all of us, and whether you are a passionate philanthropist making a six-figure commitment or a pupil raising money at school, the new museum and gallery project needs your help.”

To support the scheme contact the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust by calling trustees Mike Gray on 07710 039100 or Cllr Annie Brewster on 01438 832255.