Victorian London - Education - Professional / Technical Colleges / Institutions - Royal Institution of Great Britain

The Royal Institution, in Albemarle Street, was incorporated by royal charter of George III., in 1808, for the purpose of diffusing the knowledge, and facilitating the general introduction of useful mechanical inventions and improvements, and for teaching, by courses of philosophical lectures and experiments, the application of science to the common purposes of life. The important discoveries made here by Sir Humphry Davy have given a lasting celebrity to this establishment. The building, though old, is extensive, and well adapted to its purpose; it contains a very complete chemical laboratory, a commodious theatre, in which the various professors deliver the lectures, a handsome library, with reading-rooms for the perusal of periodical publications, and apartments for the professors. Tickets of admission to the lectures may be obtained from any of the members.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN, a Library, Reading, and Lecture Room, 21, ALBEMARLE STREET, PICCADILLY. Established March 9th, 1799, at a meeting held at the house of Sir Joseph Banks, for diffusing the knowledge and facilitating the general introduction of useful mechanical inventions and improvements, &c. Count Rumford was its earliest promoter. The front -a row of Corinthian Columns half-engaged- was designed by Mr. Vulliamy, architect, from the Custom House at Rome; and what before was little better than a perforated brick- wall, was thus converted into an ornamental façade. Here is an excellent library of general reference, and a good reading room, with weekly courses of lectures, throughout the season, on Chemical Philosophy, Physiology, Chemical Science, &c. The principal lecturers are Professors Faraday and, Brande. Members (candidates to be proposed by four members) are elected by ballot, and a majority of two-thirds is necessary for election. The admission fee is 5 guineas, and the annual subscription 5 guineas. Subscribers to the Theatre Lectures only, or to the Laboratory Lectures only, pay 2 guineas; subscribers to both pay 3 guineas for the season; subscribers to a single course of the Theatre Lectures pay 1 guinea. A syllabus of each course may be obtained of the secretary at the Institution. The weekly evening meetings of the members are generally well attended. Mr. Harris's printed catalogue of the Library is methodically digested and very useful. In the Laboratory, Davy made his great discoveries on the metallic bases of the earths, aided by the large galvanic apparatus of the establishment.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN, Albemarle Street, Piccadilly, was founded for the promotion and diffusion of science and useful knowledge, in 1799, at the house of Sir Joseph Banks, the then president of the Royal Society, and incorporated by Royal Charter, in 1800. Its principal features are:
    A Theatre for public lectures, erected in 1803. The first lecture was delivered by Dr. Garnett, in 1801, when Mr. (afterwards Sir H.) Davy was assistant lecturer. The principal lecturer at present is Professor Faraday. Subscription (to the lectures only), two guineas for the season, or one guinea for a single course; to lectures and laboratory, three guineas.
    A Laboratory, for the extension and promotion of chemical and physical science.
    A copious Library, of about 32,000 volumes, and a convenient Reading-Room for study.
    A Museum, chiefly mineralogical; the chief object being to furnish illustrations for the lectures. 
    The Friday Evening Meetings, during the sessions (9 to half-past 10), at which a popular lecture on some scientific, artistic, or literary subject is delivered by an eminent professor.
    Candidates for membership must be proposed by four members, and are elected by ballot. Admission fee, 5l. 5s.; and annual subscription, 5l. 5s.
The Albemarle Street fašade was reconstructed by Mr. Vulliamy, in imitation of the Custom house at Rome.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

Royal Institution, 1850  [ILN Picture Library]


Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Faraday's table in the theatre of the Royal Institution

Faraday's table in the theatre of the Royal
Institution - photograph


"Plain Michael Faraday" will always be remembered as one of the greatest scientists this country has ever produced, and none was ever better able than he to set forth science in an attractive form to an audience of the uninitiated. His lectures in the plain little theatre of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, from behind the table laden with apparatus for experiments, were much frequented, perhaps the most popular of them being "The Chemical History of a Candle". The theatre is remarkable for its admirable acoustic properties and it was here that Faraday, as a boy, first heard Sir Humphrey Davy lecture. Faraday was connected with the Royal Institution from1813 to 1860. He long resided here, and his best research work, resulting in so many important discoveries, was done in its laboratory.