RSA House is home to the RSA (The royal society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce), an independent charity founded in 1754 by Nottinghamshire businessman William Shipley with a belief that the creativity of ideas could improve the quality of people’s lives.
The RSA’s first ever meeting took place at Rawthmell's coffeehouse in Covent Garden and the society moved to its current location on John Adam Street two decades later. This year’s appearance at London Open House marks the 250th anniversary of the laying of the building’s foundation stones.
RSA House was designed as part of the Adam brothers' Adelphi complex by architect Robert Adam. Visitors will be able to see Robert Adam’s original plans of No 8 John Adam Street as well as indentures, prints, and letters relating to the construction of the building, plus documents and artefacts relating to two time-capsules that were placed under the east and west foundation stones when they were laid in 1772.
Tours and activities
RSA House is not normally open to the public, but Open House visitors are very welcome to tour the Great Room, decorated on all four sides with a frieze painted by the artist James Barry, a commission which took him from 1772 to 1801 to complete.
Visitors can also see our:
- Troika chandelier based on US President Benjamin Franklin's design for a bi-focal lens
- vaulted Durham Street Auditorium with the original eighteenth century stone road and pavements incorporated into the design
- Long Gallery with a twenty-five-metre mural, that chronicles the history of the RSA from 1754 –2018, including the crucial role the society played alongside Prince Albert in organising the world-famous Great Exhibition of 1851.
RSA House is one of London’s most significant buildings, where the Blue Plaque scheme, and the UK’s first school exams were created, but tucked away between the Strand and Charing Cross, you would never really know it was there.
Hundreds of prominent historical figures have found a home here, from Charles Dickens and Karl Marx to David Attenborough and Prue Leith, who was the RSA’s Chair from 1995-1997, when she led the campaign for contemporary sculpture to be exhibited on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. In more recent times, our front door has doubled for No 10 Downing Street innumerous movies and TV shows.
During the day on 18 September there will be activities for children, a chance to explore our eleven private event spaces named after William Shipley and the Duke of Edinburgh, among others. Visitors will be able to imagine what it might have been like in the very earliest days of the RSA by spending time in our refurbished Coffee House which will be open throughout the day with light refreshments available to purchase.
Visit the Open House Festival website to find out more.
A Georgian townhouse providing an inspiring venue for any occasion. RSA House seamlessly combines original period architecture with modern design and technology to create a truly memorable backdrop for any event.