Open House Festival

Burlington House: Linnean Society of London

institution/profession, library, education, scientific

Robert Richardson Banks and Charles Barry, 1873

Piccadilly, W1J 0BF

The world's oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829.

Getting there


Piccadilly Circus, Green Park


14, 19, 38, 6, 9



Accessibility notes

The steps up to our building require a portable ramp, and so staff will be on hand at the door all day to help visitors


About the Linnean Society

The Linnean Society is a historical collection and learned society devoted to the science of natural history. Our collections and programmes bring the current challenges of the natural world, such as biodiversity loss and climate change, to people of all ages and backgrounds.
As well as marking our 150th year at Burlington House, in 2024 we are also celebrating our new lease arrangements, which enable us to stay in our historic home.

Things to see and do

- Take part in a nature craft activity
- Find items from our 'Hidden Treasure' trail around Burlington House
- A display of photos, drawings and archive material telling the history of the Society
- A chance to see our exhibition 'From Woodblocks to X-rays', exploring the way we have visualised nature throughout history

The Meeting Room

The Meeting Room, with an oak display bench engraved with Linnaeus’ signature flower Linnaea borealis, has retained its original character while providing modern facilities. Particularly notable is the original painting of Charles Darwin by John Collier. It is now partnered by a specially commissioned posthumous portrait of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection.


The main staircase has a selection of images from the Linnean Society collections, as well as a shop area where you can purchase books and gifts relating to our collections, as well as hot and cold drinks.

The Library

Our Library is in the form of a double cube with its classical pillars rising to the roof. These are not supported by any similar structures beneath, the weight of the books being carried on the walls. The height of the Library provides two galleries, the lower has a balustrade with bookcases behind, the upper footway is supported by cast iron brackets. The glass roof lights have been replaced with replicas of the original engraved glass panels.

The history of the building

In 1854 Burlington House and gardens were purchased by the Government. Burlington House was originally built for Lord Burlington by Sir James Denham.

In 1856 the Royal Society, the Chemical Society and the Linnean Society were permitted to occupy the rooms with the Government providing accommodation “under one roof” for the Learned Societies.

In 1867 the Government leased the main building to the Royal Academy of Arts and allocated £20,000 for provision of new apartments for the Learned Societies in purpose-built wings around the courtyard.

The architects for the Learned Society Rooms were Messrs. Banks and Barry, and the Linnean Society moved into its new rooms in 1873. The section immediately adjacent to the archway entrance was occupied by a post office until 1904, now only the wooden post box remains.

In 1969 the building was redeveloped to incorporate a climate controlled vault for the Linnaean Collections, which still form the key source for identification of plants and animals worldwide. The changes also provided new office accommodation (using the old post office).

Online presence


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