Victoria And Albert Museum

Site plan of 1898

Site plan of the South Kensington Museum area in 1898

Architect: Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

Aston Webb produced this site plan whilst preparing his design for the extension and new front of the South Kensington Museum. It is a fascinating document not only for information about the museum, but also for other structures in the area.

His colour key explains the purple structures are the present museum buildings, and the blue are his new proposed art galleries, providing a new grand front on Cromwell Road. Webb was obviously keen to show off to best effect his new symmetrical front, with its imposing central tower and lantern. He notes on the map a 'New Approach to Museum' (shaded in green on the map) on the east side of Thurloe Square. This would give an impressive vista, however in reality the museum has never really been approached from this street.

The approach to the museum has always been influenced by the nearby underground station, which opened in 1868. The site plan shows a red line which denotes the 'subway from station' which further restricted use of Webb's new preferred approach to the museum.

At the end of the 19th century the museum was spread over a large area of South Kensington, as shown on the map. It had galleries (orange) either side of the Imperial Institute (dark grey), and also south of the 'New Science Schools' (later the Royal College of Science).

At the time of this map Webb was also planning the new Royal College of Science. The brown-coloured structure on the map is its original Exhibition Road location, now the Victoria and Albert Museum's Henry Cole Wing. The map shows a long structure, coloured in yellow along Imperial Institute Road, which is was to be the college's new home.