Coombe Cliff Conservatory Horniman Museum, Forest Hill Building Restoration, Gardens Design

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building Restoration

Pavilion Building in Forest Hill, London – design by Charles Harrison Townsend ; Donald Insall Associates

23 Jun 2017

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Restoration, Horniman Museum & Gardens

Location: Forest Hill, London, south east England, UK

Horniman Museum and Gardens’ Coombe Cliff Conservatory reopens

Restoration Design Architects: Donald Insall Associates

Donald Insall Associates have completed their work on the restoration of Coombe Cliff Conservatory for the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London.

Horniman Museum Exterior – mid-works:
Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building Restoration
photograph © Thomas Erskine

The Grade II listed building was originally commissioned in 1894 by Frederick John Horniman for his house at Coombe Cliff in Croydon as a place to tend his rare plants and offer his mother a garden sheltered from the elements.

Horniman Museum – Interior at beginning of works:
Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building Restoration
photo © Thomas Erskine

The building is considered a pioneering example of architectural cast ironwork in its day. In 1981, it was, however, dismantled and left as component parts at Crystal Palace Park (due to neglect and eventually fire damage in 1977). In the 1980s, English Heritage funded the rebuilding of the Conservatory at its current location on the Horniman’s 16 acre site in Forest Hill. It now sits adjacent to the main Museum building and is used as an events venue.

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building
photo Courtesy of Donald Insall Associates

The brief for Donald Insall Associates was to ensure that the Conservatory functions in an optimal way by increasing its viable lettable period to third parties. Improvements to insulation and heating were critical in ensuring the Conservatory is usable all year round particularly as in the past the building had over heated in the hotter months and leaked heat in the winter making it too cold to operate as a venue for the Horniman. New lighting has also been installed to improve the functionality of the space.

The conservation architects also wanted to reinforce the historic aesthetic of the Conservatory by replacing the existing quarry tile flooring with Victorian geometric patterned polychromatic tiles.

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building
photos Courtesy of Donald Insall Associates

Victorian glasshouse manufacturers aimed to produce lightweight, durable structures made of standard components that would give maximum sunlight, good ventilation and heating. The conservatory at the Horniman has stood the test of time.

Aimée Felton, Project Associate, said:
“As a part of our brief we also worked to enhance the building’s Victorian aesthetic to make it attractive to the general public. We therefore introduced a Victoriana tiled floor which adds a heightened awareness of the era.” Donald Insall Associates is a leading conservation architecture practice with nearly 60 years of experience managing change in the historic environment.

With more than 200 awards for design and craftsmanship, the 100-strong team continues to care for and repair historic buildings while using conservation as a catalyst for regeneration and new opportunities in sensitive settings. DIA has seven offices across the UK in Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, Chester, Conwy, Manchester, Trinidad & Tobago and London.

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building
picture Courtesy of Donald Insall Associates

Project details and information about Donald Insall Associates at

Coombe Cliff Conservatory Building Restoration at Horniman Museum & Gardens images / information from Donald Insall Associates

Previously on e-architect:

28 May 2012

Horniman Museum & Gardens

Location: Forest Hill, London, south east England, UK

Horniman Gardens to Re-open after £2.3m Upgrade

Design – clocktower (1901) + bandstand : Charles Harrison Townsend

Horniman Museum & Gardens

Design – Gardens Pavilion: Walters and Cohen

Revitalisation of Gardens brings new Display Gardens, a new Pavilion and opens up the spectacular London skyline terrace

Horniman Pavilion:
Horniman Museum & Gardens Building Horniman Museum & Gardens Building Horniman Museum & Gardens Building
photos : Michael Harding

On 31 May, the Horniman Museum & Gardens will reopen its 16.5 acre gardens to the public after a major £2.3M redevelopment.

Horniman Pavilion and Bandstand:
Horniman Museum & Gardens Building
photo : Horniman Museum

The project, which was masterminded by landscape architects Land Use Consultants, has taken 16 months to complete. It marks an important point in the history of the gardens, which were first opened to the public by Horniman Museum founder Frederick Horniman in 1895. Following decades of piecemeal alterations, funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery through the Parks for People scheme has allowed all major areas of the Gardens to be improved. The completed project has enabled the layout of the Gardens to be viewed as a whole, revitalised much-loved aspects and strengthened the ties between the Museum’s collections and its surroundings.

Horniman Museum entrance, 1896:
Horniman Museum & Gardens Building
photo : Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum & Gardens images / information from The Press Office

Walters & Cohen

Location: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ

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image Courtesy architecture office

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photograph © Adrian Welch
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photograph © Adrian Welch
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photo courtesy Four Seasons
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Commissioned by Reignwood Group, Aukett Swanke worked collaboratively on the restoration with heritage building specialist Donald Insall Associates to ensure that the new designs were sensitively detailed with minimum impact on the listed building fabric.

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Caernarfon Castle Entrance Pavilion Gwynedd
photo : Andy Marshall
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image courtesy of architects
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photo © Luke Hayes
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