History in Structure

The Learned Societies, Forecourt Buildings to Burlington House

A Grade II* Listed Building in City of Westminster, London

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Latitude: 51.5086 / 51°30'30"N

Longitude: -0.1391 / 0°8'20"W

OS Eastings: 529243

OS Northings: 180488

OS Grid: TQ292804

Mapcode National: GBR DF.YD

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.JBVW

Plus Code: 9C3XGV56+C9

Entry Name: The Learned Societies, Forecourt Buildings to Burlington House

Listing Date: 5 February 1970

Last Amended: 6 September 2000

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1389279

English Heritage Legacy ID: 487914

ID on this website: 101389279

Location: St James's, Westminster, London, W1J

County: London

District: City of Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: West End

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St James Piccadilly

Church of England Diocese: London

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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1900/81/10273 The Learned Societies, Forecourt
1900/70/10273 Buildings to Burlington House
(Formerly listed as:
Burlington House including forecourt
buildings and Picadilly facade)


Forecourt buildings. 1867 - 1873 by R.R.Banks and C.Barry ( with E.M.Barry) for the Learned Societies. Ashlar, rusticated at ground floor, brick rear, slate roofs. Grand Italianate manner, inspired by Burlington House. Symmetrical, forming three sides of quadrangle with grand entrance to Piccadilly. Three storeys, four storey centrepiece, and basements.

Piccadilly elevation: Seven bays each side of central 3 bay entrance, this and the end bays breaking forward and treated similarly; two storey bay to right, arched entrance to left. Ground floor sashes in moulded architraves on bracketed cills under cornice hoods on scroll brackets, enriched frieze, dentil cornice. Second storey engaged garlanded Ionic order, with enriched frieze, modillion cornice with dolphin gargoyles breaking forward over each column, between pedimented sashes in moulded architraves with stone balustrades, end pavilions having pilaster order, enriched mermaid panel above and garlanded lion mask apron below window with cornice hood. Third storey sashes in enriched eared architraves between pilasters with enriched Ionic capitals, dentil cornice breaking forward over each. Centrepiece: central arch rising through two storeys, moulded arch with scrolled keystone, spandrels with low relief reclining figures, flanking pedestrian entrances under single storey arches with vermiculated rusticated voussoirs and mask keystone. Elaborate iron gates. Third and fourth storey central tripartite sash windows, those to fourth storey round arched, at third storey set back behind enriched Ionic screen at fourth storey under Corinthian derived arcade; flanking sashes similarly treated in shallow pavilions with enriched low relief panels and pilasters at the angles. Balustrade to fourth storey windows. Returns similarly detailed blind arcades. Parapet balustrade between stone piers carrying elongated vases. Right entrance to Geological Society, two storeys, vermiculated rustciated arched entrance with pair of panelled doors; above, tripartite pedimented balustraded window, balustraded parapet with enriched central panel. Left hand vermiculated rusticated archway with plain keystone, pair of coffered doors; above, royal arms, A.D. 1873. Attached iron railings on moulded stone parapet wall.
Central entrance: three bay arcades with low relief panels to piers and soffits, VR insignia to capitals. Coffered barrel vaulted central arch, three bay pedestrian entrances under hemispheric domes. Entrance to Geological Society (formerly to Chemical Society) set back under arch, low relief panels to linings. Linnean Society entrance set back in two bay ashlar lined corridor; both with oak panelled doors with etched glass with Society ensignia. Entrances to corridor and main archway, double leaf panelled oak doors, in stone moulded architraves, to former post office and porter's lodge.

Quadrangle: Symmetrical plan forming south, east and west wings of forecourt, splaying slightly towards the north. Treated as Piccadilly elevation, but with less enrichment.
Entrance elevation: three bay, four storey centrepiece set back from three bay flanks with one window returns. Outer angles enhanced by paired Ionic pilasters at second and third storeys, and terminating in paired turret- like shafts. Pedestrian archways vermiculated rusticated voussoirs and mask keystones; central archway moulded with scrolled keystone, reclining figures to spandrels. Centrepiece window details and enriched mouldings as south elevation, outer bays as east and west elevations.
East and west elevations: 14 bays arranged 1:3:1:9. the northernmost bays set back, the angles treated as pavilions with turret-like paired shafts and pilasters as the south range; treated as south elevation but with less enrichment. Opposing entrances to Society of Antiquaries and Royal Society of Chemistry breaking forward; ground floor vermiculated rustication to round arched doorways with figure keystones, quadrant upper glazed lights to panelled oak doors with etched glazed lights, flanking stone plinths set forward each carrying iron lamp stand. Entrance to Royal Astronomical Society, and opposing doorway flush with facade, in enriched moulded stone doorcases. Entrance to former Secretaries' accommodation to northernmost bays, in moulded architraves. All doors of oak, most with etched glazed panels with Societies' ensignia, and beneath plain overlights. Window details as south range, but with less ornament. Attached iron railings; bracketted iron lamp to northernmost bays.

Linnean Society: Hall, three bay arched screen between pilasters with foliate capitals set against cantilevered open well stone stair with iron balustrade, to first floor of foliate scrolls, above of candelabra like shafts. Moulded mahogany rail and curtail. Moulded ceilings. Meeting room: pair of moulded oak doorcases with small broken pediments, central clock with enriched Ionic and foliate mouldings, pairs of raised and fielded panelled doors, one pair with etched glass panels. Heavy moulded ceiling with modillion cornices to panels, pulvinated oak leaf ribs. (Moveable fittings include original desk, President's chair, and benches some from other Societies, one original in basement). Library, reached by domed lobby with pair of etched glass doors: two storeys, four bays, top lit. Panelled piers to lower storey, carrying balustraded gallery on three sides. Upper storey, Corinthian order supporting flat top- lit ceiling with enriched modillion cornice. Chimneypiece with scrolled brackets under segmental pediment, marble mantelpiece, continuous moulded entablature, flanking pilasters. Secondary cast iron and timber gallery to upper storey. Library annexe: three bay Corinthian screen, modillion cornice, ceiling panels with vents to ribs.

Royal Astronomical Society: open-well cantilevered stone stair with candelabra like iron balusters, moulded mahogany rail and curtail. Pilastered hall, two-bay arcade on embellished column, panelled linings, Society's insignia to spandrels. Moulded ceilings, shallow dome to entrance hall, paired oak lobby doors with etched glass panels carrying Society's insignia. Council Room: tall coved ceiling with enriched cornice, over dentil cornice, panelled dado, red marble chimneypiece, insignia to radiator covers. Meeting Room, now subdivided with suspended ceilings. Herschel Room: coved ceiling with grille vents to coving, plain mouldings, pair of fielded panelled doors. Library: two storeys, top lit, gallery of timber on iron brackets, iron balustrade, stairs added c1900. Lozenge panelled ceiling with moulded ribs and rosettes. Marble chimneypiece and iron grate. Upper floor simple marble chimneypieces with iron grates.

Society of Antiquaries: entrance hall, three bays, lined with marbled Ionic pilasters, pairs of marbled Ionic columns in antis. Richly moulded ceiling with modillion cornices, moulded panels. Opposing doorways and recesses under round arches with panelled lunettes and linings, pairs of raised and fielded panelled doors. Rear stair hall treated as the front, arches supported on four marbled Ionic columns. Cantilevered open well stone stair with iron balustrade, each panel with lyre motif, moulded mahogany rail, modillion cornice. Meeting Room: 3 x 3 bays, enriched Ionic paired pilasters, deep modillion cornice and moulded ceiling with large central ring and flanking spirals, oak leaf moulded ribs; embellished reeded soffits; marble chimneypiece with pedimented overmantel. Former Secretary's Dining Room: modillion cornice, marble chimneypiece with polychrome tiled linings, cast iron fire. Library: two storeys, top lit, 5 x 3 bays. Pairs of panelled piers to lower storey with continuous dentil cornice, supporting balustraded gallery on three sides. Upper storey Corinthian order of paired columns supporting top lit flat roof. Engaged columns to south elevation, pilasters at the angles. Modillion cornice to ceiling, oak leaf moulded ribs, pendant gasoliers with daisy sprays. Chimneypieces obscured. Secondary timber and cast iron gallery to upper storey. Inner library formerly Secretary's Drawing room, dentil cornice, acanthus moulded ceiling panel, marble chimneypiece with polychrome tiled linings. Secretary's accommodation at rear mezzanine level reached by spiral stone stair with moulded iron balusters, mahogany rail. Marble chimneypieces, mostly roundheaded, except that to Fellows' Room also with polychrome tile linings. Ground floor chandeliers and Meeting Room clock formerly from Somerset House.

Royal Society of Chemistry: pilaster lined entrance hall, 2 bay screen to rear hall, engaged marbled columns, moulded ceilings; barrel vaulted enclosed stair with panelled linings, half landings under hemispheric domes. Meeting room: four bay, flat roofed, aisled chamber with Ionic columns, most flanking pilasters intact, Royal Society insignia to frieze, deep moulded ribs to ceiling. Ante room: screen of paired Ionic columns, flanking pilasters intact, richly moulded ceiling with central rondel and embellished ribs and spandrels. Moulded doorcases each with pair of raised and fielded panelled doors. Five bay first floor corridor under hemispheric vaults, panelled linings. Library: formerly two storeys, now one and a half, suspended ceiling inserted 1960's, 5 x 3 bays. Lower storey panelled piers supporting balustraded gallery, upper storey colonnade and engaged columns, interrupted by inserted ceiling. Ante Room: 3 bays, paired Corinthian derived pilasters, deep moulded beams with enriched soffits, enriched oak leaf ceiling mouldings. Council Room: 3 bay Corinthian screen, engaged Corithian columns to walls, pilasters to window bays. Pulvinated oak leaf frieze, dentil cornice, ceiling rondel and flanking spirals with enriched moulded ribs. Doorways on three elevations with richly moulded architraves under deep canopies on brackets, raised and fielded panelled doors. Hinshelwood Room: 2 bays, one set forward, coved ceiling with moulded soffits. Priestley Room: three bays deep moulded ceiling ribs, boxed cornices, paired panelled doors in plain moulded architraves. Refurbishment from July 2000.

Geological Society: Piccadilly entrance; three bay entrance hall, engaged columns between arched recesses with scroll keystones; stair hall, open well stone stair part cantilevered, iron balustrade of scrolled lyre panels, changing at first floor to candelabra like shafts, moulded rail and curtail. Ceilings with enriched panels, lined soffits. Ground floor moulded arches to doorways most with glazed fanlight, pairs of panelled doors, most with etched glazed panels. Library: Corinthian pilasters, set forward in pairs to centre bay to form screen like division, enriched reeded soffits and ceiling beams. Marble and limestone chimneypiece. Meeting Room completely refurbished. West stair: open well stone stair with candelabra like iron shafts, moulded mahogany rail, enriched plaster ceiling. First floor: Ionic pilasters to landing, Doorcases with richly moulded architraves under deep canopies on brackets, each with pair of fielded panelled doors. Council Room in three bays, modillion cornice, marble chimneypiece, iron grate with semicircular covers. Doorcases with eared architraves. Library, formerly museum. Two storeys, top lit, five bays, lower storey Doric columns supporting balustraded gallery on four sides. Upper storey Corinthian order supporting flat largely glazed roof, with grilles at the angles. Secondary upper storey timber and iron gallery. Fellows' Drawing Room: small-panelled walls, articulated by slender pilasters. Moulded plaster ceiling, marble chimneypiece with iron grate. Other enriched interiors not inspected.

Cherry and Pevsner, Buildings of England, London I, 1973, p.623
Survey of London, Vol. XXXII, 1963, 416ff & 426-7, Plates 70-71.
The Builder, 25 March 1871

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