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Westminster City Council Sturgeon Columns


Description of Works

Working closely with Westminster City Council (WCC), FM Conway’s Structures and Lighting teams worked on the removal and refurbishment of 42 sturgeon columns from the Thames wall along the Westminster section of Victoria Embankment.

This project is a prime example of the heritage in Westminster and the detailed design and craftsmanship that was used one hundred and fifty years ago to make the Westminster Victoria Embankment unique and much visited by tourists from all nations.

Services used on this project Lighting Structures
Delivering Innovation

The sturgeons along the Westminster Victoria Embankment date back to 1870 which makes them 149 years old - they are heritage listed.

The project aim was to remove 42 sturgeons; install temporary lighting to ensure compliance with existing lighting levels on the footway; and transport the removed sturgeons to Metalock in Coventry for initial inspection and quotation of refurbishment works required on each sturgeon, to establish the feasibility of either refurbishment or to cast new replicas if unsalvageable.

In total 42 sturgeons were removed. These were removed in batches of 16 at a time and would take up to three months to refurbish over a period of nightshifts. This included removing 16 sturgeons, glob lanterns and festoon lights in six nightshifts, and then reinstalling them in eight nightshifts.

FM Conway aided this project by delivering innovation, through using the old remaining centre poles for mounting the temporary lighting on, with good second-hand lanterns we sourced from another of our lighting contracts that was undergoing an LED replacement scheme.

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We’re proud to be playing our part in maintaining this iconic part of London.

Gary Martin - Contracts Manager at FM Conway
Challenges and Solutions

The main project challenges were to dismantle the sturgeons so as not to damage any parts that make up the whole unit. The sturgeons are in three main parts which are the base, shaft and globe lantern and lantern cradle. The three main parts are constructed with over one hundred separate parts that all need to be inspected and surveyed during the first inspection by Metalock.

We overcame these issues by submitting a detailed method statement and risk assessment to Westminster Council for their approval prior to any works starting.

Westminster Council and the heritage foundation were always consulted with regards to all operations of the works carried out. So, no works could start without their approval, plus work was carried out at night from 18.00pm to 05.00am to minimize disruption as the works were situated around a heavily pedestrianised area.

Gary Martin, Contracts Manager at FM Conway explained:

“Taking each column in turn, we’ve had to isolate the power supply and erect scaffold towers to allow us to carefully take them down, drawing on the experience of our structures team to ensure we don’t damage the columns in the process.”

There were also many risks involved, including working at height, working near water, manual handling and cyclists and pedestrians. The team actively managed health & safety by using tower scaffolding for working at height; HI-AB for all lifting works complete with lift plan and competent HI-AB operator and slinger/signaller to eliminate manual handling; plus we closed sections of the new cycleway and managed the pedestrians and cyclists by a marshal during lifting.

“Keeping the public safe during the works has been our highest priority,” continues Gary. “We’re completing the works in night-time shifts to minimise disruption and have introduced temporary closures of the pedestrian pathway running next to the columns and the nearby cycle superhighway.”



The FM Conway team were able to programme these works quite accurately as we have previous experience of removing the sturgeons to store for Tideway, who are building the river Thames sewage system along Victoria embankment.

Due to FM Conway's refurbishment works, it has meant the savings to the client have been substantial, with each sturgeon costing £20,000 to refurbish, set against £50,000+ for casting for a reproduction.

Gary added: “We’re proud to be playing our part in maintaining this iconic part of London.”