The Royal Society
- Original design
- Decimus Burton, John Nash, 1831
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme on 21st August.
Carlton House, named for its then owner Henry Boyle, 1st Baron Carleton (1669-1725), was built on what was part of the grounds of St James’s Palace. A grand building that cost £3,000 to construct, it was sold to Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-1751) in 1732. He employed the pioneering landscape artist William Kent (c.1686-1748) to design a garden for the property.
In 1783, Carlton House was gifted to George, Prince of Wales for his 21st birthday. Afterwards, the house underwent a lavish transformation at the hands of architect Henry Holland (1745-1806). Characterised by opulent French neoclassical design with walls lined with works of old masters as well as paintings from contemporary artists, Carlton House was truly fit for a King.
Upon his accession in 1820, King George IV (1762-1830) did not agree, preferring to develop Buckingham house into what would become Buckingham Palace.
Interiors, decorative and architectural features were moved from Carlton House to Buckingham Palace. The House itself was in poor structural condition and, given the expense required to maintain it, the decision was taken to demolish it.
You can still see a part of the original Carlton House today. A surviving portico (a roof-type structure with columns) now forms the front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
Architect John Nash, who masterminded Buckingham Palace, designed and built two blocks of nine terrace houses on the Carlton House site. These were designed in the Roman classical style with a Corinthian column façade overlooking St James’s Park. The houses were built with “persons of the highest social rank” in mind and the wealthy individuals who leased them were able to employ their own designers for the interior décor. Decimus Burton (1800-1881), who would later become a Fellow of the Royal Society, was just one architect whose reputation was secured by enhancements to the terrace.
During the nineteenth century, notable residents of Carlton House Terrace included the industrialist John William Mackay (1831-1902) and the politicians Charles, 3rd Earl Somers (1819-1883) and Albert Denison FRS, the first Baron Londesborough (1805-1860).
Two of the four houses had been partially merged from 1923. At that time, numbers 8-9 were linked as the German Embassy in London having already been used by a succession of Prussian and Imperial German Ambassadors.
Between 1936 and 1937, there was a large internal renovation of the embassy – this followed the arrival of Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946) in October 1936. Led by Hitler’s favourite architect, Albert Speer (1905-1981) the design team intended the new terrace to reflect German luxury and artisanship. Rumours persist that swastika designs lurk beneath the carpeted floors, but these were common, often India-inspired design motifs from the early twentieth century.
During World War II, Carlton House Terrace sustained significant bomb damage however, numbers 6-9 were not badly affected.
The first meeting of the Royal Society in November 1660 took place at Gresham College, then located in the City of London. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Society moved to Arundel House before returning to its first home in 1673 for the next 37 years. From Crane Court, the Society moved to Somerset House and then to Burlington House before moving into its current headquarters in 1967. Extensive renovations modernised the building and ensured it was fit for purpose.
Recent refurbishment throughout 6-9 Carlton House Terrace by Burrell Foley Fisher has ensured that the building remains a key venue for scientific meetings and events. The Kohn Centre (1999) saw the first refit, while a major refurbishment (2001-3) produced a striking reception area and offices overlooking a new atrium at upper floor levels. More recent upgrading of the City of London Rooms, Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall and Dining Room (2008) was followed by Library refurbishment in time for the Society’s 350th anniversary in 2010 – a major milestone for the Society’s history and for science.