Lady Lever Art Gallery

Refurbishment and re-ordering of the South End galleries

North West
National Museums Liverpool

The redevelopment of the South End galleries is the latest phase from Purcell’s venue masterplan to be implemented at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, and involved the comprehensive re-planning of ten galleries.

The brief was to return the spaces to Lord Leverhulme’s original vision and improve the visitor circulation routes.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.2m towards regenerating a display of more than 1,500 items of fine and decorative art. The collection was amassed by William Hesketh Lever, who had a deep love of art and a desire to inspire an understanding of precious and rare art.

Lady Lever Art Gallery

Previously blocked up openings were uncovered to improve visitor flow and a new ramp at the entrance improved accessibility.

The design solution involved the removal of 1960s interventions such as suspended ceilings and mezzanine floors and reinstating original detailing and key views between spaces.

Lady Lever Art Gallery
A sketch of Lady Lever Art Gallery

The scheme has recreated the sense of space and volume as Lever originally intended, reconnecting the architecture of the gallery with the nationally significant collections.

The striking, original double-height spaces with barrel vaulted ceilings have also been revealed by removing the low, suspended ceilings that were installed in the 1960s.

Interactive displays have been introduced in the gallery to help visitors to better understand the collection, while new heating and lighting systems have been carefully concealed above cornices and behind interpretative panels.

The gallery remained open throughout the works and this created challenges in terms of noise, dust, vibration and security. Through increased supervision, good communication and detailed planning, disruption to visitors was kept to a minimum. Other challenges included managing humidity and temperature to protect the collections.

Location: Port Sunlight, Wirral
Client: National Museums Liverpool
Listing status: Grade II listed
Funding: Heritage Lottery Fund, DCMS Wolfson, private donations