The British Academy
- Original design
- John Nash, 1827
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme 20 August at 10am GMT
The creation of a British Academy was first proposed in 1899 so that Britain could be represented at a meeting of European and American academies. In 1902 it received its Royal Charter from King Edward VII and has gone on from strength to strength ever since. Many of Britain's most distinguished scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been involved in the life of the Academy. The roll call of past Fellows includes: the influential economists John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge; the eminent thinkers Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin; Louis and Mary Leakey, who made pioneering discoveries on the origins of man; and C. S. Lewis and Henry Moore, Fellows who combined learning with creativity.
Current Fellows include classicist Mary Beard, historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, sociologist Tariq Modood, author and critic Marina Warner, and political scientist John Curtice. The President is historian Sir David Cannadine.
One of London's finest Georgian treasures, the Terrace was designed by John Nash and constructed from 1827 to 1833 on the site of Carlton House, the former home of the Prince Regent, later George IV. It consists of two residential blocks separated by the Duke of York’s Column and was designed by Nash to be an impressive backdrop to St James’s Park and the Mall. Carlton House Terrace rapidly became one of the most fashionable addresses in London and is the setting for Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan. The architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, himself a Fellow of the Academy, described the Terrace as among ‘the greatest terrace houses ever built in Britain’.
From 1831 to 1924, No. 10 was the London residence of the Ridley family of Northumberland. The 2nd Viscount Ridley commissioned Detmer Blow and Fernand Billerey in 1905 to remodel a significant portion of the house in the French classical style. This included the installation of a black marble staircase with a bronze balustrade by Bainbridge Reynolds. During the First World War, Lady Ridley opened up the house as a Hospital for Wounded Officers.
The occupants of No. 11 have a slightly more varied history. The original resident was Lord Monson who was followed by William Crockford, proprietor of the celebrated gambling hall, and then by the Duke of Norfolk. In 1875, William Gladstone and his family moved in. His diaries reveal that the Cabinet occasionally met at the house during his first term as Prime Minister (1868-1874). The Gladstone’s also held a regular Thursday salon where many of the country’s most prominent people met to exchange news and gossip, as well as to listen to fine music - it was one of the hottest tickets in town. Following Gladstone’s resignation as Prime Minister, the Guinness family took over the lease, staying on until the 1920s.
The social upheavals of the First World War and the rapidly rising costs of upkeep meant that maintaining a large London house was becoming increasingly impractical. As a result, many of the houses in the terrace became clubs, learned societies or institutional offices. The Union Club took the lease of both No 10 and No 11 in 1923, thereby beginning the process of combining the two houses. The use of the two buildings as a club was slightly contentious, and conditions therefore stated that the building was to appear as a private house. In 1944, No 10 suffered from bomb damage but much of the Edwardian interior survived and can still be seen today. Following the club’s departure in the 1950s, No. 10 and No 11 were occupied by the Commonwealth Secretariat and The Foreign Press Association. In 1998 the British Academy moved into No 10 and parts of No 11 before expanding into the whole of No. 11 in 2010.
10-11 is now home to the British Academy, the voice of the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers; a funding body for research, nationally and internationally; and a forum for debate and engagement. It offers a wide range of free events to the public – to find out more visit www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk
Although many of the original architectural features remain, visitors to the Academy are often surprised by the rich and varied art display. The collection ranges from full length oil portraits of Lord Nelson and Edward VII to more contemporary pieces by artists such as Terry Frost, Carol Robertson and Patrick Hughes. There are around 100 works on display, including paintings, ceramics, prints, photographs and textiles.
In addition 10-11 Carlton House Terrace is a busy event venue hosting everything from corporate conferences to weddings and filming. You may well recognise parts of the building from BBC’s Sherlock, the comic relief Bodyguard spoof featuring Richard Madden, ITV’s Mr Selfridge and Bridget Jones's Diary to name a few.
The Academy is currently developing plans to transform the lower ground floors to create a state-of-the-art auditorium and a series of flexible, digitally equipped spaces. These new spaces will enable the academy to offer a new forum for world-class thinking, where academics and researchers can share ideas and collaborate; where policymakers can access world-class insight, analysis and tools for problem solving and where anyone who shares a passion for the humanities and social sciences or an interest in the issues the Academy covers, will be welcome.
To discover more, visit: www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk