For over a century the Science Museum in London has been inspiring visitors from across the world with the wonders of science. The museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical advancement from across the globe and includes objects ranging from Robert Hooke’s microscope to the Enigma machine and Tim Peake’s spacecraft. Back in 2019, we worked to faithfully recreate and reinstate ornate railings within new gallery Science City 1550 – 1800: The Linbury Gallery showcasing how traditional skills such as cast iron manufacture still play an important role in our modern world. Craftmanship is at the heart of the story of the gallery as it explores the role artisans played in aiding scientific discovery in London over the course of 250 years.
The Science City gallery overlooks a main atrium within the museum. At some point, the original run of cast iron railings on this end of the atrium had been replaced with glass. With the space being converted to house the permanent Science City gallery the museum were eager to reinstate cast iron balusters matching the design in the rest of the hall.
Getting the Measure of the Job
The gallery is located on the second floor of the busy museum, presenting a number of challenges we needed to overcome. As the space had to be accessed through a service lift, the balusters needed to be manufactured in short panels whilst retaining the appearance of a continuous run of railings once installed.
In addition, the existing glass balustrades were fixed within a concrete plinth which couldn’t be removed until the new balusters were ready. As a result, we had to design the bespoke cast iron run with fixings that could work with a wide range of potential substrates.
We carried out regular site visits throughout the project, taking measurements to allow us to produce the bespoke panels and carrying out detailed discussions with the site team about the site requirements and how the panels would be fixed.
The Science Museum’s current home was constructed in the 1910s and 20s and the cast iron metalwork exemplifies the decorative style of the period, with the railing panels centring around a detailed floral design.
To faithfully recreate this, we searched around the museum for a section of railing which could be removed – eventually locating this on a back service staircase. We took this section back to our workshop and used it to create an accurate moulding which could then be used to create the pattern for the new run. The section was then carefully reinstalled.
Our experienced team used the patterns to carefully cast the new railings, ensuring each individual section was finished to the highest standards before sending them off to be installed by our expert site team. Thanks to the careful pre-planning and bespoke manufacture, the installation progressed very smoothly.
The new cast iron balusters blend seamlessly with the other metalwork within the atrium. The finished effect is so accurate that most visitors won’t have a clue that they are recreations – proof that modern British manufacture can still be held up to the quality marks of old.
If you are looking to reinstate cast iron balusters or railings within your property, or simply to include railings as part of a new project, get in touch via phone or firstname.lastname@example.org. With our wealth of knowledge and experience, we are able to create railings in a wide range of styles, from traditional intricate patterns, to simple minimalist options.
The Science Museum is currently closed until 3 December. If you’d like to visit after this date you’ll need a book a ticket in advance, via the museum’s website. If you’d like to discover more about the objects and stories featured in Science City, you can explore these in more detail here.