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Ely Museum

RIBA East award and RIBA Conservation Award, 2022; Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design, 2023, Highly Commended: Civic Trust Award 2023.

HAT designed the award-winning renovation and extension of Ely Museum, transforming the Grade 2 listed former Gaol and its surroundings. The £2.2m project, which re-opened to the public in 2021, increased the floor area available for displays, created a new multi-purpose space for education and community programmes, and restored historic features previously hidden from view.

HAT Projects have taken on a badly degraded historic building and lovingly restored and extended it...The project exemplifies the rejuvenation of a civic building in a way that provides great community value.

HAT are to be congratulated for their combination of architectural nous and sympathy, exhibiting a willingness to work with what’s there and listen carefully to what’s needed.

RIBA Awards citation

The Grade 2 listed building has a fascinating history as the Gaol of the Bishop of Ely. It was originally converted into a museum in 1997, with the addition of a small extension, and numerous internal alterations which obscured the historic plan form and features.

We stripped out the unsympathetic alterations so that historic features, such as the original medieval stair and prisoner graffiti, could become part of the museum displays and experience. An additional storey was added to the 1997 extension, clad in handmade local tiles and with a beautiful copper-toned bay window overlooking Lynn Road, acting as a beacon for the museum.

"HAT's design, on a construction budget of just of £1m, succeeds in doing simple moves beautifully... the show stopper is the rear extension, making the museum accessible in a dramatic way."

Jan-Carlos Kucharek, RIBA Journal

The whole building is now fully accessible for the first time, with the addition of a lift and level floors throughout. All the museum displays have been renewed, with exhibition design completed by Simon Leach Design, allowing unique items such as the Gold Torc to be showcased fittingly alongside other treasures from the Museum’s collections. Archive and storage facilities have also been improved, enabling the museum to improve its income and ensure its future sustainability.

Photography: Philip Vile