Open House Festival

RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

historical house, institution/profession

Adam Brothers, 1774

8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ

A very good example of Georgian/Adam architecture. Restoration 2012 of Great Room (James Barry paintings), Benjamin Franklin room. 2019, restoration and installation of 1754-2018 mural in the new Long Gallery.

Getting there


Embankment, Charing Cross


Charing Cross, Waterloo


6, 9, 87, 91, 176

Additional travel info

John Adam Street runs parallel with the Strand and can be accessed via Villiers Street, at the Charing Cross end and from the Strand, via Adam Street. The rear entrance can be accessed by turning into Durham House Street from John Adam Street or via the steps down to Durham House Street from the Strand.



Accessibility notes

RSA House will be open at the main entrance in John Adam Street and also at the rear entrance in Durham House Street. Wheelchair access is via a door to the right of the main entrance on John Adam Street. Please inform reception that you require entry and they will open the door.


RSA History

The Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce was founded in London by William Shipley in 1754.

The building was designed as part of the Adam brothers' Adelphi complex, the architect was Robert Adam and the foundation stones were laid in 1772, a time capsule was placed under each stone, with the enclosed items listed in an archive record. The House, as it is referred to was completed in 1774 and the Society (after 1908 'Royal') has been in residence, ever since. The House boasts several original Adams features, including the cornice in the Great Room, Adam stairwells and 14 Adam fireplaces. The Great Room showcases James Barry’s series of paintings started in 1777 and completed in 1801, alongside portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds.

Join the Society’s historian as he explores the RSA's rich history and our unique building.

The RSA welcomes all visitors and offers

• Digital/printed visitor guides to explore RSA House and the unique Adam brothers Adelphi complex, from RSA House to Benjamin Franklin House, and vice versa.
• Robert Adam’s original plans of No 8 John Street, (now John Adam Street), indentures, prints, letters, minutes etc.
• Horwood's 1799 map of London.
• Archive material relating to the laying of the foundation stones in 1772.
• Document of 1772 time capsule plus original medal that was buried in it.

Take a tour of RSA House

• The Great Room and James Barry’s Paintings, started in 1777, completed in 1801
• Benjamin Franklin Room and Troika chandelier based on Franklin's design for bi-focal lenses.
• The Atrium, previously the rear yard of the main building including the original flagstones and an award-winning contemporary staircase.
• The vaulted Durham Street Auditorium with an 18th-century stone road and pavements incorporated into the design.
• The Vaults underpinning the building was used as warehousing and are now a unique event space.
•Follow the Library's journey from its first location in the House to its current home following the 2018 redevelopment.
• The Long Gallery's full-length 1754–2018 mural, chronicles the history of the RSA in the style of the RSA Animates.
• As a family activity visitors will be invited to colour-in the mural's historic characters and consider what would go in a time capsule of today.
• Attach your hopes and dreams for the future to regenerate people place and planet to the wishing tree.
• Celebrate the centenary of the Student Design Awards (SDA's) with a walk-through exhibition.
• Explore our numerous private hire event spaces.
• The Coffee House will be open throughout the day, with light refreshments available to purchase.
• Learn all about our Fellowship.

Online presence


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