Carlton House Terrace

Carlton House The Royal Society continues to occupy 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, a Grade 1 listed building that overlooks The Mall and St. James's Park.

Carlton House Terrace is the Royal Society's fifth home and has been used since 1967.

Carlton House was located on part of the former Royal Garden of St James's Palace, roughly where Pall Mall and Waterloo Place now intersect. Henry Boyle, who became Lord Carlton in 1714, leased the land from the Crown and built a house and gardens overlooking St James's Park. These were subsequently acquired by George, Prince of Wales, on his coming of age in 1783. As Prince Regent, George spent huge sums of money on the house, which was intended to form the southern end of the great Regent Street development by the architect John Nash.

However, by the time he took the throne as George IV in 1820, Carlton House had fallen from favour, with Buckingham Palace the preferred site for the royal residence. The King therefore authorised the demolition of Carlton House and the development of the site and gardens as a residential area, choosing Nash as his favoured architect once again. In 1827 Nash came up with the idea of a terrace of two great blocks of nine houses apiece, with a central space in between. Originally envisaged as a site for a large domed fountain, this space was later taken up by the flight of steps down to the Mall, surmounted by the statue of Frederick Augustus, "the grand old Duke of York", which can be seen today.

Nash's design for the two blocks of Carlton House Terrace is based on a Roman classical style, with Corinthian columned facades overlooking the Park, supported on a podium with sturdy Doric columns on the Mall at basement level and a terrace above. The buildings at either end of the two blocks have an additional full fourth storey to create a pavilion effect, and each block has a central pediment with stucco scrollwork. The overall effect is of a sweeping "processional" accompaniment to the Mall.

Marble HallThe Marble Hall is used for receptions and as a meeting room for seminars and conferences.

Numbers 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, the present home of the Royal Society, were completed in 1829 as four separate houses. In common with the rest of the terrace, they were leased to "persons of the highest social rank", who were free to employ their own architects for interiors, though eleven of the fifteen original lessees on the terrace chose to employ Nash for this work.

Each house had several residents and then from the beginning of World War II until the middle of the 1960s, numbers 7, 8 and 9 Carlton House Terrace were used by the Foreign Office. Number 6 remained in private hands until 1944, and subsequently served as accommodation for, among other organisations, the Ministry of National Insurance and the War Damage Commission.

The Terrace had grown rather shabby over the years, and at one stage a plan had been put forward to demolish the buildings and replace them with a contemporary design, preserving only the Nash facades on the Mall.

Financial and conservation arguments won the day, though, and in 1961 a Crown Estate Commissioners' discussion document advised that the buildings, while unsuitable for Government offices, should be restored in accordance with Nash's original designs. The new leaseholders, envisaged as being "Embassies, clubs, learned societies or analogous organisations", would be free to remodel the interiors. The appearance of this report coincided with the Royal Society's increasing space problems at its home in Burlington House, and by November 1963 the Government had agreed that the Foreign Office should move out, and that a 99-year lease for 6-9 Carlton House Terrace should be given to the Society, which would itself pay for the restoration work.

The official opening of the new buildings on 21 November 1967 by Her Majesty the Queen, Patron of the Royal Society, came after an intensive period of reconstruction. Externally, the balconies, porches, cornices and other features were restored, and a garage built within the podium facing the Mall.

Conference RoomThe Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall is used for meetings, conferences, dinners and receptions.

Internally, a coherent single building had to be created from the four original houses, including number 6, which had still been a completely separate building when the project began. Number 9 required the most work, in order to create what is now the Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall, a large meeting space both for Society events and for external organisations. This necessitated the removal of a central spine wall and new load-bearing columns in the side walls - a highly complex procedure.

The staircase of number 8 was also extensively remodelled, while retaining its original columns and Travertine marble. The huge picture on this staircase showing Burlington House during a Royal Society evening soirée, with background views looking eastward towards the Thames and the City of London, was presented by William Holford and Partners, the architects responsible for the building work in 6-9 Carlton House Terrace. Further down the same staircase, the stained glass window showing the Arms of the Society was brought from Burlington House, where it had been installed to mark the tercentenary of the Society in 1960.

Further work carried out prior to the opening in 1967 included making the front door to number 6 into the single public entrance to the building, and fitting out a second, smaller meeting room on the ground floor of number 6. Above this, the Library was moved into rooms restored to their ornate condition of the 1890s when Charles Sanford was in residence, and at basement level the former honeycomb of walls was greatly simplified to allow the Library periodical stacks to be installed.

Many subsequent changes have taken place since the Royal Society moved into Carlton House Terrace in 1967. In recent years, the Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall and the Dining Room were refurbished (1994-5), and the meeting room in number 6 was refitted and reopened as the Kohn Centre (1999).

The Society's refurbishment of 6-9 Carlton House Terrace has ensured that this historic building remains a cutting-edge venue for scientific meetings and events.  The project, designed by Burrell Foley Fischer Architects, began in 2001 with the creation of a striking new reception area and main entrance at number 7.

The refurbishment was completed in 2003 with the opening of a series of meeting rooms known as the Mercer Suite.  New staff offices overlook an atrium which features a model of UK Ariel 1, the world's first international satellite.


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