Terracotta ornaments

Waterhouse’s plan to clad the entire building in terracotta was pioneering and a world first. Terracotta is a clay best known for making garden pots.


Waterhouse sketch

Working with a highly-skilled team of designers and engineers, Waterhouse produced 202 sketches for terracotta ornaments – this one is of a panel on the main staircase of the Hintze Hall (formerly the Central Hall).

Original plans, and a recently-acquired album of sketches, reveal that a Monsieur Dujardin was responsible for turning these detailed sketches into hundreds of ornaments.

  • An ornament is created
    An ornament is created - 01/01/2005 (video)

    See how Monsieur Dujardin and his team of sculptors created these astonishing terracotta ornaments in this video clip.

  • Air pollution discoloured the building
    Using terracotta

    Learn more about Waterhouse’s innovative use of terracotta, where he derived his inspiration, and how the building has been maintained.

  • Sketch for Waterhouse building elements
    Designing the ornaments

    Find out more about Waterhouse’s designs and his painstaking attention to detail.

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.

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