Open House Festival

The Royal Society

institution/profession, scientific, education, library, online

John Nash, Decimus Burton, 1831

The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y 5AG

A spectacular Grade I listed building designed by famed architect John Nash. Built in 1831, these former townhouses have undergone refurbishments throughout their history. The building is now home to the UK's national science academy.

Getting there


Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Charing Cross, Embankment, Westminster


Charing Cross


12, 13, 15, 453

Additional travel info

Located in congestion charge zone. On-street parking is available for up to four hours. Car parks, coach parks and cycle racks are close by.



Accessibility notes

Quiet room available. Breast-feeding space available.

What you can expect

No loud noises, bright lights or strong smells expected. Seating will be available in most rooms. Step-free access to most rooms.



Carlton House, named for its then owner Henry Boyle, 1st Baron Carleton, was built on a small house that occupied what used to be a part of the grounds of St James’s Palace. A grand building that cost £3000 to build, it was sold in 1732 to Frederick, Prince of Wales, who employed pioneering landscape artist William Kent to design a garden for the property.

In 1783, Carlton House was gifted to George, Prince of Wales, for his 21st birthday. During this time, the house underwent a lavish transformation at the hands of architect Henry Holland. Characterised by opulent French neoclassical design with walls lined with works of old masters as well as paintings from contemporary artists, Carlton House was truly fit for a King.

Upon his accession in 1820, George IV did not agree, and turned his attention to what would become Buckingham Palace.

A terrace is born

Interiors, decorative and architectural features were moved from Carlton House to Buckingham Palace. This left Carlton House in poor structural condition, and the decision was made to demolish it.

You can still see a part of the original Carlton House today. A surviving portico (a roof-type structure with columns) now forms the front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Architect John Nash designed and built two blocks of nine terraced houses. These were designed in the Roman classical style with a Corinthian column façade overlooking St James’s Park. The houses were built with ’persons of the highest social rank’ in mind, and people who leased them were able to employ their own designers for the interior design and features. Decimus Burton, who would later become a Fellow of the Royal Society, was just one architect who gained early prestige working on these designs.

During the 1800s, notable residents of Carlton House Terrace include John William Mackay, Charles, 3rd Earl Somers and Albert Denison FRS, the first Baron Londesborough.

A dark chapter

Two of the four houses had been partially merged from 1923. At that time, numbers 8-9 were linked as the German Embassy in London, having already been used by a succession of Prussian and Imperial German Ambassadors.

Between 1936 and 1937, there was a large internal renovation of the embassy – this followed the arrival of Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop in October 1936. Designed to reflect German luxury and craftsmanship, Hitler’s favourite architect Albert Speer was involved in the planning. Rumour even has it that the carpet in today’s City of London Room One covers a wooden floor bordered by ‘linked swastikas’.

During World War II, Carlton House Terrace sustained significant bomb damage; however, numbers 6-9 were not badly affected.

The Society moves in

The first meeting of the Royal Society in November 1660 took place at Gresham College in the City of London. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Society moved to Arundel House, before returning to its first home in 1673 for the next 37 years. After periods of time in Crane Court (near Fleet Street), Somerset House and Burlington House, the Royal Society moved into its current headquarters in 1967, following extensive renovations that modernised the building and ensured it was fit for purpose.

Recent refurbishment throughout 6-9 Carlton House Terrace by Burrell Foley Fisher has ensured that the building remains a key venue for scientific meetings and events. The Kohn Centre (1999) saw the first refit, while a major refurbishment (2001-3) created a striking reception area, the Mercer Suite of rooms, and offices overlooking a new atrium at upper floor levels. More recent upgrading of the City of London Rooms, Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall and Dining Room (2008) was followed by Library refurbishment in time for the Society’s 350th anniversary in 2010 – a major milestone for the Society’s history and for science.

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