The Main Entrance Hall and Staircase, a print

The British Museum, London, England, around AD 1847

Reproduced in the Illustrated London News 24 April 1847

The Main Entrance Hall and Grand Staircase of the British Museum were built during 1846. They were designed by Sir Robert Smirke and built by his younger brother Sydney. The floor of the hall was paved with York stone, the staircase balustrate and ornamental vases were carved from Huddlestone stone and the sides of the Grand Staircase were lined with red Aberdeen granite. The vivid colours and rich gilding were based on classical designs, very fashionable during the mid-nineteenth century.

On 19 April 1847 the Hall was officially opened and won much praise. A periodical, The Builder, approved of the 'modern' colour scheme, stating:

'...the polychrome enrichments have been applied with very considerable success. The sunk panels are blue, with a yellow star in each; the enrichments are variously coloured, red and white predominating, and the stiles, beams, etc., are covered with frets, guilloche, and scrolls, in the flat colours, for all of which precedents were sought in the Museum collection.'

The original stonework has all survived to this day, and the original 1847 decorative scheme by Collman and Davies was restored in 1999-2000.

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Height: 157.000 mm
Width: 223.000 mm

Museum number

Archives CE115/2/53/1


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