If you wander along Exhibition Road to the museums, you might spy a cluster of old stone benches amongst all the modern street furniture and wonder why they’re here. The benches were installed for the London Design Festival last September 2021, as a temporary feature, and the stone they’re made from is what makes them particularly interesting.
When the new entrance to the V&A Museum was constructed on Exhibition Road in 2013, a tall solid wall, known as the Aston Webb Screen that used to block the courtyard behind had to be removed.
As the stones were taken down, to save them from being crushed into aggregate – which is the fate of most used stone, no matter how large, historic, and precious – they were donated to the Haysom Purbeck Stone quarry in Dorset for architectural salvage, where they have been dormant for nearly a decade.
And last year, some of those stones came back to London, to be rebuilt into new stone benches.
The new/old benches now sit on Exhibition Road between their original home on the VA& and the Natural History Museum.
Having proven popular, there’s now an application to make them permanent. That will need some additional work to be carried out later, as the seats were only rated for short term use, so the mortar needs reinforcing.
As a permanent installation, they will also act as hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) to protect the Natural History Museum pedestrian entrance.
Hopefully, they’ll gain a metal explanatory sign as well, as there was some carving into the top of one stone to explain their history, but it had eroded a bit and was hard to read.