Harris Museum set to show off spruced up exterior after year of work

The full impact of the Harris Museum’s external facelift will be on show within the next fortnight as the scaffolding that has clad the building for the past year is gradually dismantled.

The results of the work have been partially revealed in recent weeks with the removal of the covering that has kept the Grade I-listed landmark hidden from public view.

However, the Lancashire Post understands that the scaffolding will also soon be gone, meaning that the cleaned stonework and re-gilded inscriptions will be able to be fully appreciated. Perhaps less obvious, but now also complete, are the window repairs that have been carried out.

The milestone moment comes just weeks after it emerged that the overall Harris refurbishment project had been delayed, keeping the venue closed until spring 2025 instead of a planned reopening date of late next year.

The attraction, which last week turned 130 years old, closed for its £16.2m overhaul in October 2021. Interior and exterior work has been taking place concurrently, but the focus will now largely be on the inside of the building as it heads into the final 12 months of its renovation.

Lead contractor Conlon Construction told the Post earlier this month that it expected to be off the site by next autumn, at which point fitters will move in to enable the museum to be repopulated with its collections.

Cllr Peter Kelly, Preston City Council’s cabinet member for arts and culture, said that the 130th anniversary was not just about “looking back on history” but also looking forward “to a future where culture, community, and innovation unite”.

“The Harris Your Place project is a testament to our commitment to enriching lives and preserving our heritage. Together, we embark on a journey where the past inspires the future,” he added.


Designed by James Hibbert in the neoclassical style, the building was a gift to the people of Preston from city lawyer Edmund Robert Harris, who left £300,000 to Preston Corporation in memory of his father, the Reverend Robert Harris. The latter had been vicar of St George’s Church for 64 years and some of the money bequeathed, in 1877, was set aside to create a new library, museum and art gallery.

After 11 years of construction work, the doors were opened by Lord Derby on 26th October, 1893, following a procession through the city centre. Speeches, prayers and performances from the Bijou Naval orchestra, accompanied by a chorus of thirty voices, were amongst the highlights of the celebratory opening event.