Open House Festival

The British Academy


John Nash, 1827

10-11 Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y 5AH

One of London's finest examples of Georgian architecture, Carlton House Terrace is a Grade 1 listed townhouse originally designed by John Nash and built between 1827 and 1833. Today it is home to the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

Getting there


Charing Cross, Embankment, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster


Charing Cross



Accessibility notes

The entrance to the Academy is not at street level.

What you can expect

The photography exhibition will be displayed on screens.



The creation of a British Academy was first proposed in 1899 so that Britain could be represented at the new International Association of Academies. The case had to be made to the scientists at the Royal Society (our sister Academy for science) and in similar organisations across Europe, where there was some scepticism about the so-called (at the time) “Literary Sciences”. In 1902 the British Academy received its Royal Charter from King Edward VII and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Many of Britain's most distinguished scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been involved in the life of the Academy. Our roll call of past Fellows and Honorary Fellows includes: the influential economists John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge; Sir Winston Churchill, the eminent thinkers Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin; Louis and Mary Leakey, who made pioneering discoveries on the origins of man; and Beatrice Webb and Gertrude Caton-Thompson, two of the first women elected to the Academy. Current Fellows and Honorary Fellows include classicist Mary Beard, historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, sociologist Tariq Modood, author and critic Marina Warner, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga and political scientist John Curtice. Our current President is Professor of Law, Julia Black CBE, though by Open House we will have announced the President-elect due to succeed Julia for 2025-2029.

A brief history of Carlton House Terrace

An example of one of London's finest Georgian streets, the Terrace was designed by John Nash and built between 1827 and 1833 on the site of Carlton House, the former home of the Prince Regent, later George IV. It consists of two residential blocks separated by the Duke of York’s Column and was designed by Nash to be an impressive backdrop to St James’s Park and the Mall. Carlton House Terrace rapidly became one of the most fashionable addresses in London and is the setting for Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan. The architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, himself a Fellow of the Academy, described the Terrace as among ‘the greatest terrace houses ever built in Britain’.

Former occupants of 10-11 Carlton House Terrace

From 1831 to 1924, No. 10 was the London residence of the Ridley family of Northumberland. The 2nd Viscount Ridley commissioned Detmar Blow and Fernand Billerey in 1905 to remodel a significant portion of the house in the French classical style. This included the installation of a black marble staircase with a bronze balustrade by Bainbridge Reynolds. During the First World War, Lady Ridley opened up the house as a Hospital for Wounded Officers. The occupants of No. 11 have a slightly more varied history. The original resident was Lord Monson who was followed by William Crockford, proprietor of the celebrated gambling hall, and then by the Duke of Norfolk. In 1875, William Gladstone and his family moved in. His diaries reveal that the Cabinet occasionally met at the house during his first term as Prime Minister (1868-1874). The Gladstones also held a regular Thursday salon where many of the country’s most prominent people met to exchange news and gossip, as well as to listen to fine music. Following Gladstone’s resignation as Prime Minister, the Guinness family took over the lease, staying on until the 1920s. The social upheavals of the First World War and the rapidly rising costs of upkeep meant that maintaining a large London house was becoming increasingly impractical. As a result, many of the houses in the terrace became clubs, learned societies or institutional offices. The Union Club took the lease of both No. 10 and No. 11 in 1923, thereby beginning the process of combining the two houses. The use of the two buildings as a club was slightly contentious, and conditions therefore stated that the building was to appear as a private house. In 1944, No. 10 suffered from bomb damage but much of the Edwardian interior survived and can still be seen today. Following the club’s departure in the 1950s, No. 10 and No. 11 were occupied by the Commonwealth Secretariat and The Foreign Press Association. In 1998, the British Academy moved into No. 10 and parts of No. 11 before expanding into the whole of No. 11 in 2010.

The Academy today

10-11 Carlton House Terrace is now home to the British Academy, the UK's national academy for the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is a Fellowship, a funder of research and a voice for its subjects, engaging the public and policymakers with the best thinking and debates on a range of pressing issues. Read more at

Although many of the building’s original architectural features remain, visitors to the Academy are often surprised by the rich and varied collection of contemporary British art (over 100 works) which adorn its walls. Upon taking occupancy of the building in 1998, the Academy established what was then called a “Pictures Committee” to acquire works to adorn the space. With a focus on contemporary British art, or art produced by artists residing or staying in Britain, the collection boasts artists such as Terry Frost, Paula Rego, Yinka Shonibare and Patrick Hughes. and spans paintings, ceramics, photographs, textiles and prints. Its portraiture consists of specially acquired works, non traditional portraiture and loans from the nearby National Portrait Gallery.

The Academy also has a library with a collection of 13,000 books written by Fellows of the British Academy and funded researchers, and an archive dating from its foundation in 1902 to the present.

In addition, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace has a busy commercial hire operation, hosting everything from corporate conferences to weddings and filming. You may well recognise parts of the building from BBC's Sherlock, the Comic Relief Bodyguard spoof, Bridget Jones's Diary, Cruella and Netflix's The Crown.

On the Day Talks

On Sunday 15 September, join us for a number of walking tours of this tremendous building held by Stephen Smith, partner at the architecture firm Wright & Wright which recently transformed the lower-ground spaces. The Academy's in-house curator, Sharon Messenger, along with other members of staff will also be leadingthese sessions, providing historical context and exclusive insight into this distinguished building. Rather explore the building at your own pace? This year’s event will also see the Academy launch its partnership with Bloomberg Connects, a free app which provides visitors the opportunity to take themselves on a self-guided tour of the expansive art collection this building houses. Featuring works from Yinka Shonibare, David Hockney and a new acquisition from Hew Locke, visitors will be free to navigate the building and explore these fantastic pieces of their own accord.

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