News | May 19, 2024

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration Awarded £3.75m to restore derelict New River Head Buildings

Nora Walter/Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Impression of the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

A major National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will help finance the opening of the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration on a heritage site in London's Clerkenwell. The grant brings the total funding secured to acquire and develop the site to £11.5 million, with work due to begin this autumn.

The project will create four galleries, a project base, a learning studio, gardens and play space, a café and a shop. It realises illustrator Quentin Blake’s long-held vision for a permanent national centre for illustration.

As well as offering exhibitions, tours and events, it will also secure a permanent home for Blake’s archive of more than 40,000 works created over seven decades. The largest and most comprehensive to document the work of a single British illustrator, the archive offers unique insights into 20th and 21st century illustration, storytelling and publishing.

The location for the Centre, the New River Head heritage site in Clerkenwell (London Borough of Islington), played an essential role in supplying Londoners with clean water from the early 1600s onwards. The atmospheric Grade II listed engine house, windmill base (the oldest remaining example in London) and cobbled courtyards are currently derelict, locked behind iron gates. The works to sensitively restore and repurpose them will begin later this year, led by Tim Ronald Architects, a Clerkenwell-based practice.

“New River Head will be the most extraordinary home for the art of illustration," said Blake, "the building could not be more appropriate if we’d designed it specially, and it’s setting is especially charming and sympathetic. It will be an international centre for the display, discussion and celebration of the extraordinary wealth of illustration."