Phase One of a £1 million scheme to upgrade and modernise Housesteads Roman Fort Museum is now complete.
The first phase of the project – located alongside Hadrian’s Wall – was completed in March 2012 by English Heritage. Works comprised the restructuring of the internal layout, the installation of a brand new audio visual exhibition and improvements to the gable entrance.
Access to the site was also improved through the creation of DDA compliant external pathways, including a new path that connects the museum to the south gate of the fort.
The museum was closed to visitors whilst construction work took place, however the building reopened to the public on 31st March 2012 following the completion of Phase One.
Phase Two of the project is due to take place towards the end of 2012 and will see the National Trust visitor centre remodelled, alongside improvements to the cafe, gift shop, toilets and staff accommodation.
As part of the project the car park will also receive a makeover to provide 40 additional visitor parking spaces at the site.
Main contractor for the project is MGM Ltd, whilst the architect is historic building consultants Spence & Dower LLP and the project manager is Steve Garland of English Heritage. The mechanical and electrical consultant is Ian Carswell Associates and the structural consultant is Alan Wood & Partners.
Phase One began in October 2011 and included the removal of two internal brick wall partitions in order to open up internal areas of the building. Two side entryways were also removed from the building, whilst the gable entrance was reinstated to create just one access point for visitors.
English Heritage Project Manager, Steve Garland, said:
“The gable was reconstructed to its original configuration and now includes stunning stone arches that really have transformed the entrance to the building.
“In addition to the work within the museum, we’ve also recreated an external pathway that allows entry from the museum into the Fort via the south gate.
“We wanted to improve the tourist attraction for visitors to the site and one way that we thought of doing that was to have people enter the building the same way that the Romans would have originally entered.”
Many of the improvements to the museum were implemented in order to return the building back to its original layout. This included the installation of two brand new steel roof trusses that were designed to match the existing trusses.
In addition to the restoration work, all of the electrical services in the building were completely removed and a brand new heating system was installed. The system uses gas and warm-air to provide a more efficient form of heating.
MGM Ltd Joint Managing Director, Brian Young, said:
“We’re proud to be associated with the refurbishment of such an important building on such an important and historic site.
“As a company we are very diverse. However my side of the business is heritage work, so I get a great deal of joy from being part of a project like this one.
“When visitors see the improvements – including the magnificent gable back to its original condition – it will make all of the hard work really worthwhile.”
During the refurbishment work sculptures and altars were carefully removed from the site before being cleaned and scanned. The data collected from the Roman stonework will now be used to create bespoke plinths to support the fragile artefacts.
For more information on the new museum at Housesteads visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/housesteads