Right up your street – Carlton House Terrace, London, and the Institutes who reside on the street

Materials World magazine
1 May 2007

The Royal Academy of Engineering has found a new home at 3 Carlton House Terrace, London, UK. It will have the Royal Society on one side at number 6 and our Institute on the other at number 1. As a Fellow of all three bodies, this development gives me particular pleasure, and I am sure it will lead to more active co-operation between IOM3 and Britain's national academies of both engineering and science.

Writing in its spring newsletter, the Academy's newly-elected President, Lord Browne, could hardly contain his exhilaration at the prospect of ‘an exciting new base from which to raise the profile of engineering'. He added, ‘The move will also enable the Academy to work more closely with other academies based in Carlton House Terrace.' In the current issue of the Academy's journal ingenia, Browne sets the targets for his presidency as putting engineering at the centre of society and emphasising its relevance to modern concerns. He identifies three priority areas - climate change and energy, poverty reduction, and health and well-being. Already he has involved the principal engineering institutes in creating a round table of experts to respond to the challenges identified in the ‘Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change'.

The history and past residents of Carlton House Terrace

A word or two about the history of Carlton House Terrace. It occupies the site of Carlton House and grounds, the residence of George VI when he was Prince Regent. The house was demolished in 1828 to make way for a new opening from Pall Mall into St James's Park consisting of a flight of granite steps. The Terrace, completed in 1831, consists of two blocks of nine houses designed by John Nash and located either side of the steps. UK Prime Minister Gladstone lived at number 13 and then at number 11 for many years. In the 1930s, the swastika flew over numbers 7, 8 and 9 as all three houses were incorporated into the German Embassy.

Later in this decade, in one of the embassy's rooms, von Ribbentrop entertained Winston Churchill under the mistaken impression that Churchill's right-wing journalism indicated sympathy with the fascist cause. Since 1967, numbers 6-9 inclusive have comprised the headquarters of the Royal Society. At number 1, our head office, the most famous resident was Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India, of whom it has been written

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person,
My cheek is pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim once a week.

When Bonar Law resigned in 1923, Curzon (like our present-day Gordon Brown) expected to become Prime Minister, but instead the honour went to the industrial metallurgist, Stanley Baldwin. One of our progenitors, the Iron and Steel Institute, eventually became the lease-holder of number 1, with the Savage Club holding the fort in the interregnum.

Interaction between engineering and science institutes

It might be thought that I have over-emphasised the advantages to be gained by our physical proximity to both the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, but regular contact between the permanent staffs of these three bodies will be of considerable importance. The Royal Society offers daily dining facilities to our staff and this has been a huge advantage, not only for the excellent food but also for the opportunities for informal contact. Should the Society provide subsidised meals to Academy staff as well (which is likely), then the dining room of the Royal Society might well become an informal national powerhouse for science and technology.


Further information:

Royal Academy of Engineering
Royal Society
History of Carlton House Terrace
A short history of 1 Carlton House Terrace