The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

The Grade II Listed Beaney Institute was created from the legacy of Dr Beaney, a 19th Century local philanthropist, who wished to provide Canterbury with a museum, art gallery and library. Over the years, there had arisen a clear need to expand facilities to satisfy curatorial and environmental requirements, to improve accessibility and the range of community services offered to the public. In addition, serious deficiencies in the building fabric presented a range of challenges and opportunities to be embraced in the new development plan.

The acquisition and demolition of adjoining buildings on Best Lane provided the opportunity to address circulation issues, creating a major new accessible public entrance to the enlarged building footprint. The new entrance leads into a dramatic top-lit foyer space that progresses sequentially, culminating in new library and gallery accommodation. This route engages at right angles with the existing axial corridor approach from the High Street. The reception is located at this important focal point, opposite a glass-fronted lift shaft and open staircase that act as a pin inter-locking the old with the new, bringing coherence to the design.

The new accommodation includes a doubling of the library space, the creation of a new temporary gallery and associated education spaces adjacent to the existing upgraded gallery. Listed finishes are renovated generally, with upgraded security of the museum and art gallery spaces combined with improved specialist lighting and environmental controls provided in all exhibition spaces to meet international standards. Other new accommodation includes a café and service / office space for administrative staff and curators.

The new extension is designed to achieve a very high thermal performance, and is clad in locally sourced warm red facing bricks, while new clay-tiled roofs match the existing. The existing 19th century façade facing the High Street has undergone substantial architectural conservation, including wholesale replacement of projecting bay windows in natural oak sections, re-bedding of existing terra-cotta ceramic mosaics in lime putty, and renewal of all lead-work.

Similarly, existing internal finishes have been extensively upgraded, including in-situ terrazzo and wooden parquet floor repairs, restoration of stained glass screens and lanterns, existing staircase and balustrades, shaped ceiling and lay lights. New internal finishes include porcelain floor tiles in the public atrium space, solid oak block flooring in gallery spaces and rubber acoustic flooring in the library spaces.

The development plan has been made possible by English Heritage Lottery funding, implemented with support of our in-house Conservation Architect, and working in close collaboration with exhibition designers and installation artists. Completed in early 2012, the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge successfully responds to the expectations of a 21st century cultural centre, providing Canterbury with a state of the art facility.

“You have made a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ for us all. The new internal spaces are full of light with designed panorama that draw the visitor from one space into another. There are many old friends there, all newly restored and vibrating with original colour and many objects and artworks that I have never seen before. I was particularly struck by the mixing of materials and chronological periods in all galleries. All the grand features of the former Beaney have been enhanced to create a magnificent setting for a cultural feast. The library spaces are attractive and the two elements blend very successfully. The teaching areas are well proportioned and have great views inside the building and out across the rooftops of the city. I have no doubt that many of us will make very good use of these spaces in the future. Congratulations to all, I think the new Beaney is wonderful; a fantastic addition to Canterbury’s heritage assets that has something to amaze and delight every single visitor.”

Paul Bennett, Chairman of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust


Client: Canterbury City Council

Architect: John Miller + Partners


  • Project Manager: Faithful & Gould
  • Structural Engineer: Campbell Reith
  • Services Engineer: Mott MacDonald
  • Cost Consultant: Faithful & Gould
  • Conservation Architect: Norman Chang
  • Exhibition Designer: Casson Mann

Wates Construction

Photographer: Tim Stubbings

Status: Completed 2012