Work Begins to Replace the Science and Industry Museum’s Grade II Listed Roof – the size of two Olympic swimming pools

The next stage of one of the most significant heritage restoration projects currently underway in the UK has now begun at one of Manchester’s landmark museums.

By Sarah Jones · February 15, 2024

At over 140 years old, the New Warehouse is the next building to undergo essential conservation work as part of a multi-million-pound restoration programme taking place across the Science and Industry Museum’s globally significant site. Visitors will be able to see engineering in action as scaffolding is erected around the New Warehouse this winter as part of the museum’s current £14.2 million worth of national capital funding by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to complete urgent repairs. 

The Science and Industry Museum celebrates ideas that change the world, from the Industrial Revolution to today and beyond. It’s uniquely placed to tell this story – on the site of the world’s first intercity passenger railway station (formerly known as Liverpool Road Station), in the heart of the world’s first industrial city. 

The works will see a significant proportion of the building  covered in scaffolding, but it will be staying open throughout with lots for visitors to see, do and explore. There’s will be a packed programme of events, special exhibitions and new displays to enjoy alongside the museum’s permanent galleries. Exhibitions include world-premiere experience, Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You, open until June 2024 to take visitors on a rib-tickling adventure through the digestive system. 

Map of the Warehouse building from 1909.

 The New Warehouse was originally built in the 1880s to support the expansion of Liverpool Road Station, providing essential goods storage as the station grew into a hub of 19th century industry. It now houses the main museum entrance, three permanent galleries (Revolution ManchesterTextiles Gallery and Experiment), three changing exhibition spaces, a café, shop and conference space, spread across three floors. The building’s roof is now in need of essential repairs to ensure the museum can continue to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators by hosting and originating some of the world’s best exhibitions and experiences in the North. 

Working with Manchester-based architects Buttress, who specialise in restoring listed and historic buildings, the vital work will include:  

  • Critical repairs to the roof to make it watertight. The roof is 100m x 40m meaning it’s the size of almost two Olympic sized swimming pools. 
  • A complete re-tile of the roof, using around 60,000 Welsh Slate Tiles from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales used to match the original slates. This is the only working quarry that produces this specific slate. A sustainable and popular choice for restoration projects, the new tiles will be nailed to match the historic way the tiles were previously arranged.  
  • Improving thermal efficiency and making the building more environmentally sustainable, including key restoration work to the masonry and windows and replacing single-glazed rooflights with heritage style double glazing. The museum will be adding additional roof insulation made from environmentally friendly and natural wood fibres, to support with better energy performance.  
  • If lined up end to end the gutters surrounding New Warehouse would be the same length as London’s Tower Bridge. The current plastic gutters do not meet heritage standards for a building of this status and need replacing. The new gutters will be made from cast iron reflecting the original gutters of the building and will give them a new life expectancy of 100 years. 
  • Manchester based 3D Scaffolding are constructing a monumental scaffold. This will involve 65,500 linear metres of tubular materials, equivalent to over 41 miles to support the Temporary Roof structure. Taking approximately 34 weeks to install, the scheme will involve over 40,480-man hours to erect & subsequently dismantle! 
  • Installation of safe roof access walkways and inspection facilities, crucial for long-term maintenance. 

This latest stage of transformation will ensure the New Warehouse is able to be enjoyed for decades to come, hosting the very best science exhibitions and experiences, inspiring visitors and celebrating Manchester’s industrial heritage on a site which was at the very heart of it all.  

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum says:   

We are delighted that the next stage of the site’s multi-million-pound restoration project is underway. This marks an exciting moment as we carry out vital repairs to our main museum building, including a brand-new roof. Whilst this repair work will bring some disruption to our site, including our largest scaffolding structure to date, the changes taking place now will mean visitors can enjoy our museum for years to come. We’ve always been a place of change and transformation and the work on New Warehouse is our next step to future-proof our historic site.” 

Alex Scrimshaw of Buttress says: 

“This is a key milestone for the Science and Industry Museum. The comprehensive repair and renovations reflect our commitment to ensuring that the 140-year-old New Warehouse building will be welcoming visitors for many years to comeIt’s very exciting to be re-slating the roof with a sustainable national Welsh slate. Traditional lead-lined gutters have been reintroduced, to cope with the ever-increasing pressures imposed by extreme weather. 

The conservation of the New Warehouse will take place alongside restoration work happening across the site, including the Upper Yard, Gantry and the viaduct alongside continued work on Power Hall. It follows the restoration of the Station Agent’s House with Landmark Trust and the award-winning new Special Exhibitions Gallery which opened in 2021. This work will run alongside the current repair and improvement  of the Power Hall and the site’s ambitious decarbonisation work, and future plans that will enable visitors to enjoy every space across the expansive site in the coming years. This will include a new experience in the 1830 station, Wonderlab gallery for children, new entrance route through to Aviva Studios, significant new outdoor landscaping and public realm provision and opportunities for outdoor play.     

The New Warehouse work is expected to be complete by mid-2025 and the Power Hall is due to reopen in Spring 2025. The museum will also remain available for evening events in the Revolution Manchester Gallery and in the 1830 Warehouse across 2024 and 2025. 

By Gemma Gibb – Head of Communications and advocacy, Science and Industry Museum – Manchester