Gresham College and Arundel House
The Royal Society was founded at Gresham College on 28 November 1660.
Gresham College was the Royal Society's first home and was used from 1660 to 1710.
The College was inaugurated as a seat of learning in 1597 as part of a bequest made by Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579), merchant and founder of the Royal Exchange. The College still exists as an educational institution but the original building, formerly Gresham's mansion in the City of London, was demolished in the eighteenth century. It stood in Bishopsgate, to the south of the modern Liverpool Street Station, on the site now occupied by Tower 42 (the former NatWest Tower).
The Royal Society was founded following a lecture by Christopher Wren, Gresham Professor of Astronomy, at the College on 28 November 1660. A pattern of regular weekly meetings began, initially in the rooms of Lawrence Rooke, Gresham Professor of Geometry. The Society, via the Gresham Professors, was given generous accommodation in the College - a contemporary account describes a great hall, a room for the Anniversary elections on St Andrew's Day, a separate room for ordinary weekly meetings and one for the Society's Repository or museum of curiosities, in addition to a gallery and further adjoining areas.
However, events in the mid-1660s meant that the Society's presence in Gresham College was far from continuous. Weekly meetings were suspended from June 1665 to March 1666 because of the plague, with many Fellows retiring to the comparative safety of the country. Shortly afterwards, the Great Fire of London in September 1666, while leaving the College intact, led to a shortage of accommodation for the city's merchants, and Gresham College was used as a temporary Exchange from 1666 to 1673. During this time, room was found for the Society in Arundel House, home of Henry Howard, later sixth Duke of Norfolk, an early contributor to the Society's Library. Arundel House was located in Arundel Street, just off the Strand.
Hopes of a permanent home were raised when Chelsea College and its surrounding lands were granted by the Society's founder Charles II in the third Royal Charter of 1669. However, the King changed his mind before the Society could move to the site, and the land was repurchased in order to provide an infirmary for soldiers. Built by Wren, this became the famous Royal Hospital, Chelsea, home to the Chelsea Pensioners.
Back at Gresham College, the poor state of the buildings and growing commercial pressures at the end of the seventeenth century led to calls for a redevelopment of the site.
An attempt by the Gresham trustees to obtain an act of Parliament which would oust the Society, by now renting rooms in the College, was thwarted by Robert Hooke FRS, the only Gresham Professor still in residence. Hooke died in 1703, leaving the way clear for his great rival Isaac Newton to become President of the Royal Society. Newton, wishing to sever all links with the days of Hooke, began to search for alternative accommodation, but was unsuccessful in petitioning Queen Anne for new premises. He continued his efforts, working with Royal Society Secretary Hans Sloane, and in 1710 a new home was finally found at Crane Court.