Morecambe engineering firm’s work set in stone at Westminster Abbey gallery

Staff at TP Aspinalls
Staff at TP Aspinalls

A Morecambe engineering firm has its work on show for generations to come after working on the display at new galleries inside Westminster Abbey.

T.P. Aspinall & Sons Ltd completed a contract to design, detail, manufacture and install more than 50 display support structures for the new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries.

The galleries are located in the 13th century triforium, high above the abbey floor and previously used as storage space until a £23m refit.

Aspinall’s, based on White Lund, won the tender for the contract following a rigorous interview process last year.

The firm then worked closely with the abbey’s team to design the structures, which display the abbey’s greatest treasures and tell the story of the abbey’s thousand-year history.

They produced their work to a tight schedule in readiness for the official opening by the Queen and Prince Charles earlier this month.

Triforium, December 2016. Picture: Alan Williams

Triforium, December 2016. Picture: Alan Williams

Director Simon Aspinall said: “It has been a real privilege and pleasure to have been involved with this special project and it is gratifying to know that our work will be appreciated by visitors to the gallery for generations to come.”

The team worked on more than 50 structures, including frames for portraits including one of the Queen measuring 4m by 5m, which is the main feature of the galleries and was painted to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

They also made a support for the Queen Mary II’s coronation chair, as well as supports for numerous other portraits, statues and important treasures.

Aspinall’s had carried out similar work for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, but on a smaller scale.

“This was another step which expanded our expertise and pushed our boundaries,” Simon said.

“It was quite a challenge in taking the architects’ vision and getting that into a practical and buildable structure.

“We worked right up to the last minute.

“The Queen opened the gallery on June 8 and we were still there on June 7; it was a really tight programme.

“It was a real privilege. There was a special feel about the gallery; it’s an unusual place and it’s not been open to the public before.”

Simon said the whole Aspinall’s team was involved in the process.

“Although about half a dozen were doing the installation, we have 35 people here and everyone was involved at some stage,” he said.

“We are now hoping that there will be more opportunities like this for us.”

The gallery is the first major addition to the abbey church since 1745 and is part of a £22.9m, privately-funded development project for the two million visitors and worshippers who go to the abbey each year.

The gallery has been arranged to tell the story of Westminster Abbey in four themes – Building Westminster Abbey, Worship and Daily Life, Westminster Abbey and the Monarchy and The Abbey and National Memory.

Objects including the 13th century Westminster Retable, the funeral effigy head of Henry VII, and the marriage licence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.