Reaching new heights

Laying the new floor structure at Alexandra Palace Theatre was a major piece of work, including creating space below for the planned natural air ventilation and heating system – but there is a lot of work to do before we can relay the original floorboards.

Now that we have a strong and stable base to work from, our contractors Willmott Dixon have built a large bird cage scaffold to enable us to attend to the next big job – stabilising and consolidating the iconic ceiling and repairing/strengthening the roof structure.

Climb the scaffolding to the top and you realise just how massive the ceiling panel is: a huge lathe and plaster structure suspended from the roof timbers and extending right across the auditorium. Features that look delicate from down on the auditorium floor suddenly loom large – it really is quite an extraordinary piece of interior design.


It is also very, very fragile, and over the past 140 years has been subjected to water damage and some pretty unsympathetic repairs. The large decorative mouldings that were a later 1920’s addition to the original flat panel ceiling are fairly secure, but large areas of the original Victorian ceiling have disintegrated or de-bonded from the timber laths. The team have a huge amount of work to do in the next few months to restore and replace these damaged areas of the ceiling.

At least the roof structure itself is now more secure. Surveys revealed that the trusses fixing the timbers to the walls were also in a poor state, with a couple of them almost completely rotten.

Thankfully, these trusses have now been strengthened with new steel brackets. The Theatre’s outer roof can now be replaced.

The view from the top is dizzying. Looking down onto the balcony, with scaffolding almost everywhere, it is clear just how much work is required to bring the Theatre back to life.

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(photo credit: Keith Armstrong)