Around the balconies

Waterhouse’s magnificent ‘flying staircase’ is an impressive bridge staircase that spans the Central Hall and offers an excellent viewpoint. The staircase was constructed around a framework of wrought iron, like many buildings around the middle of the 19th century. These include the Albert Memorial a few 100 metres away in Hyde Park, which was completed in 1876. Its iron framework holds up the entire monument. The elaborate stencils on the ceiling are reminiscent of the designs found on Minoan pottery.

 Flying staircase

The flying staircase spans the Central Hall and offers an excellent viewpoint. Like most bridges, this was built over a huge timber framework for support. The staircase itself depends on an internal structure of wrought iron.

Minoan pot

Some of the stencils to be found on the balcony ceiling are reminiscent of designs found on Minoan pottery as shown here, and Roman mosaics. Others show some of the few insects that decorate the Museum.

Detail of the stencilled ceiling

This octopus stencil bears similarity to Minoan pottery. Waterhouse had intended all the ceilings to be elegantly panelled with wood, but successive rounds of cost-cutting meant that they were made of plaster.

The Natural History Museum from Cromwell Road, 1880.
History of the Museum

Trace the evolution of the Natural History Museum, from Hans Sloane's collections at the British Museum to cutting-edge research taking place today.