The Oxford University Museum of Natural History


  • Natural History

  • natural-history-02

  • natural-history-03

  • natural-history-04

A highly specialised and complex refurbishment and re-roofing of an iconic Grade I-listed museum building.


This famous Victorian neo-gothic building, which was designed as a cathedral to scientific study, holds Oxford University’s internationally significant collections of geological and zoological specimens. Beard carried out the re-roofing of the Grade I-listed building, stripping and cleaning 8,500 diamond-shaped glass panes before putting them back into the Museum’s vaulted roof. Internal timber and metalwork also underwent conservation cleaning. The works were carried out in two phases.

The project received the Oxford Preservation Trust’s Building Conservation Award 2014.


  • Working in a live, occupied building
  • Protecting the existing building fabric, furnishings, artefacts and displays from damage
  • Maintaining weather tightness and gaining access to the roofs


Extensive protection works were carried out to safeguard the building’s fabric and precious contents. Many of the glass display cases and some of the larger dinosaurs and other skeletons remained in situ during the refurbishment works. These were protected by purpose-built plywood boxes. The fragile floor was protected with a geotextile membrane and two layers of plywood.

The project team used made-to-measure tarpaulins to keep the rain out of the building while the glass tiles were removed. Scaffolding was erected both internally and externally to carry out the refurbishment works. This was specially designed to fit within the structure and minimise the loadings on the fragile floor, as well as providing safe access to carry out the roofing and conservation cleaning work.

The scaffold was also constructed to provide a secondary method of protection from water ingress. During opening hours no materials were moved in and out of the works area and movement of personnel was carefully controlled.

“Beard produced a high quality finish with zero snags.”

Neil Hyatt Oxford University Estates Services




Oxford University Estates Service

Contract value

£1.8 million



Quantity Surveyor

Turner & Townsend

Contract duration

Phase 1: 16 weeks

Phase 2: 50 weeks

Form of contract

JCT Design and Build 2005

Procurement Method

Two-Stage Tender

Related Projects

Leave a reply

Back to Top