Topping out’ ceremony for rebuild of the Hunterian museum and surgeons’ HQ
24 Jan 2020
Press release – under embargo until 00:01 Friday 24 January 2020
The highest point has been reached in the rebuild of an iconic Grade II* listed building, which houses the Hunterian Museum and headquarters of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) and Faculty of Dental Surgery.
The £75m redevelopment will retain the historic frontage designed by Palace of Westminster architect Sir Charles Barry. At yesterday’s ‘topping out ceremony’, which marked construction of the highest point of the new building, RCS President Professor Derek Alderson and Sir James Wates explained the transformation of the Lincoln’s Inn building from a sprawling warren of corridors, built in the aftermath of WWII, to a state-of-the-art training centre for future generations of surgeons.
Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Alderson said: “Today marks an important milestone in transforming our treasured home and the world-famous Hunterian museum. We will create a modern, state-of-the-art headquarters for training the next generation of surgeons, and to continue our long history of supporting the exchange of learning and ideas on the future of surgery. The building has been designed to retain our rich surgical heritage, while embracing the cutting-edge future of modern surgery.
“The RCS has over 27,000 members across the UK and internationally. Our new building will be the nerve centre for the development and proliferation of the best surgical training techniques and practice in the world. Surgical skills taught here in the coming century, will radiate into operating theatres around the world, for the benefit of millions of patients.”
Mark Craig, Operations Director at Wates Construction London, added: “The RCS is in the middle of transformation, which requires modernised facilities to help it continue improving surgical standards through education, research and clinical performance. At the same time, it has a tremendously rich heritage going back hundreds of years in central London, which it is important to preserve.
“This is just the type of challenging build that our team love, using modern methods of construction to balance proud history with the need for a facility fit for the 21st century. Best of all, once construction is complete, the RCS will have a world-class home for its community of trainees and surgeons, its museum and library, supporting its mission of driving forward the standard of surgical practice through years to come.”
The new RCS building will comprise of a modern surgical education/ teaching/ examination and learning resource centre - used by surgeons and dental surgeons undertaking training courses, surgical tutors and researchers. The famous north frontage and library have been preserved and restored, and the Hunterian Museum will be expanded to occupy the majority of the ground floor.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England began as the Company of Barber-Surgeons in 1540, under Henry VIII. In 1799 the government purchased the collection of John Hunter, the famous scientist and surgeon, and entrusted it to the surgeons. A Royal Charter was granted in 1800, and the Hunterian Museum opened in 1813. The original Lincoln’s Inn building was so badly built, it was thought to be in danger of collapsing. Following a public competition in 1833, Sir Charles Barry – who went on to design the Palace of Westminster - designed the tall columns of the listed portico and the library, which survive to this day.
The rest of Barry’s building was badly damaged in the Second World War, although fortunately the iconic statue of John Hunter emerged unscathed. It will be reinstated in the main reception area of the new building.
The new building
Barry’s famous north frontage and library have been preserved and restored. The Hunterian Museum will benefit from a new façade and entrance on the south side of Portugal Street.
The Hunterian Museum will be expanded to occupy the majority of the ground floor. It will tell the story of surgery, giving the public access to John Hunter’s seminal anatomical collections, through seven linked halls and galleries, culminating in an exhibition which celebrates modern surgery and patients’ stories.
The new surgical education/ teaching/ examination and learning resource centre will include the teaching collections of the Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. This modern facility will help the RCS to remain at the forefront of academic and practical teaching of surgery, and to fulfil its main purpose: to equip future surgeons and their teams with the skills they need to treat patients in the 21st century.
For surgeons, the Lincoln’s Inn Fields site is synonymous with Diplomates’ Day, when surgeons receive their membership or fellowship of the RCS. This is a key rite of passage in the professional pathway of a surgeon. The new building will have a ceremonial hall for these events, as well as for formal council meetings, professional networking and academic conferences. There will also be new, open plan offices for RCS staff.
A new café, lounge area and shop will create a social space for visitors to relax, work or meet colleagues for a coffee or light refreshments.
The new modern building is more environmentally sustainable; replacing poorly performing post-war elements to meet modern environmental standards. A highly insulated and air tight envelope ensures thermal and energy efficiency, combined with improvements in building services, energy use, ventilation and the internal environment. Photovoltaic panels provide a sustainable energy source on the roof. There is space for 120+ cyclists to store their bikes, shower and change, promoting active travel. The completed building will achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating.
Notes to editors
- The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
- The redevelopment of the building is being carried out by Wates Group. Their extensive portfolio of heritage projects across London includes the refurbishment of the V&A Museum extension, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Grade II listed Hammersmith Police Station and multiple buildings on Parliament’s Westminster estates.
- A ‘topping out’ ceremony is a builders' rite, traditionally held when the last beam (or its equivalent) is placed atop a structure during its construction. For invitation queries, photographs or interviews, please get in touch.
- For more information, please contact the RCS press office: telephone: 020 7869 6047; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; out-of-hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.