Architectural Walk

Discover some of the key architectural features of the Horniman in this walk, taking in the Clocktower, the Conservatory and more.

The impressive Clocktower has become an iconic feature of the Horniman Museum and Gardens. It was designed by architect Charles Harrison Townsend in an Arts and Crafts style.

Originally built between 1889 and 1901 at a cost of around £40,000, and it’s a glowing beacon on top of Forest Hill. It is made from Doutling Stone, the same material used in the construction of Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. This iconic limestone comes from the Doulting Stone Quarry in Somerset and is one of the oldest quarries in England, having been used during the Roman occupation of Britain.

The Clocktower incorporates a tree motif and Romanesque arches, similar to some of Townsends’ other famous buildings – the Bishopsgate Institute and the Whitechapel Gallery.

With its rounded edges, the Clocktower is meant to evoke the natural world to reflect Frederick Horniman’s desire that the Museum collections, Gardens and buildings be unified in one theme.

The Museum was further extended in 1912 by Emslie Horniman, son of our founder Frederick Horniman.

Like the original building, the Emslie Horniman extension was also designed by Charles Harrison Townsend.

It was originally constructed to house our Library and Lecture Hall. The Horniman used to host lectures from visiting experts, as well as our own curators, up until the 1980s. The Horniman was the only recorded venue delivering lectures by women during the early part of the 20th century. This included Marie Stopes and Kate Hall, Curator of the Whitechapel Museum, and the first paid female curator in the country.

Take a walk to the left and you’ll find the green-roofed CUE building, which houses our Library and some offices.

The CUE building opened in 1996 and was designed by local architects Architype using methods developed by Walter Segal. The grass roof has been constructed with sustainable materials.

An ecological survey of the Library building’s green roof recorded 52 insect species living there, including a rare type of ant and other unusual species. We also have a living roof on our Pavilion. They are self-sustaining and, no, we don’t mow them!

Originally designed as a temporary structure with a projected life of ten years, it has stood for over twenty.

Celebrating 100 years of the Horniman, we opened a new extension in 2002. This extension is where the main entrance is today, facing the Gardens.

Designed by architects Allies & Morrison, the new build doubled the public spaces in the Museum with new galleries, a Café and shop.

Past the entrance and Cafe, you come to the impressive Victorian conservatory. It was originally built in 1894 as an extension to Frederick Horniman’s parents’ house at Coombe Cliffe, Croydon.

Conservatories were popular additions to large houses in the 19th century, providing shelter and an artificial climate for sensitive plants to flourish.

The Coombe Cliff Conservatory was constructed by Glasgow firm of MacFarlane’s, Scotland, at the time a world leader in architectural cast ironwork. The company was well known for its decorative cast iron and had been awarded an International prize at the 1862 International Exhibition.

Coombe Cliffe house had been the home of our founder’s parents, and Frederick Horniman’s mother lived there until her death in 1900. After being sold in 1903, the house later served as a convalescent home for children, college of art, education centre and teachers’ hub.

The house was eventually left abandoned and suffered from neglect. In 1977, the building suffered considerable damage in a fire.

Eventually, the Conservatory was moved to the Horniman in the 1980s and opened in 1987.

The cast-iron work-panels, friezes, roof spandrels within and the fish scales, terminals and crestings without, all show the wealth of pattern available from MacFarlane’s. The decoration is ornate but it lightens the effect of the structure and gives it an airy appearance belying the weight of the materials from which is it made.

The Conservatory today holds some beautiful events and weddings, and is occasionally used by the Café as a tea room. It’s even been featured in magazines such as Vogue, featured on TV shows and in music videos.

Continue up the avenue and you will reach the Bandstand terrace with the beautiful views over London behind it.

The Bandstand dates from 1912 and was also designed by Charles Harrison Townsend.

Bandstands (originally known as band houses) were very popular in Victorian Britain. The number of public parks grew as a response to improving the health and wellbeing of working class people. Bandstands had a role to play in this, as music was seen to have a good influence on moral health.

Our Bandstand was renovated in 2012 with new floorboards, its original weather vane was restored, and screens which blocked the windows for decades were replaced with glass.

The Bandstand and the modern Pavilion (built in 2012) both offer beautiful views of the Meadow Field below, Dawson’s Heights and London’s skyline.

To the right of the Bandstand is the Pavilion. Designed by Walters and Cohen, this building opened in 2012.

A contemporary timber building, it features floor to ceiling windows, a living roof and an outdoor terrace with views of the London skyline

The Pavilion host school groups, lectures, performances, and can be hired for other events like children’s parties.

Behind you is the Dutch Barn.

Frederick Horniman brought this small building back from Holland and it dates from around 1895. It originally had a thatched roof, which can be seen in some archives pictures of the structure.

It now provides a useful indoor shelter for picnics in inclement weather.