Visit to The Royal Institution
with Tea at Richoux's on Piccadilly
26th July 2018
A group of twenty members of the Aldersgate Ward Club joined the Master for a visit to the Royal Institution of Great Britain.
This has been located on the same site since its foundation in 1799 for the devotion to scientific education and research but has been extended and refurbished over time. The present facade was created in 1838 by replacing the fenestration and brick front of the 18th century house to the present rendered neo-classical front with fourteen three-quarter round Corinthian columns. If the intention was to emphasise the importance of the Institution, it has certainly achieved that objective. The building is Grade 1 listed.
Our guide was Professor Frank James and for one and a half hours he informed and entertained us with his prodigious knowledge. We started our tour in the attractive lecture theatre which once seated 1,000 people but it was substantially re-built to conform to present day fire regulations. 60,000 lectures have taken place here, the most well-known being the Christmas Lectures to children. Humphry Davy’s discourses were so popular that the extra traffic resulted in Albemarle Street becoming one of the first one-way streets in London.
We admired the grand staircase with its restored colour schemes and descended to the Faraday Museum, passing a splendid statue of Michael Faraday on the way.
At the entrance to the museum is an interactive illuminated periodic table which operates to Tom Lehrer’s rendition of the elements song which is very popular with the schoolchildren! The exhibits were a tribute to the work done here by Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy, James Dewar, Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir William Lawrence Bragg among others.
We finally saw the bust of Isaac Newton which had pride of place in 10 Downing Street during the reign of Margaret Thatcher but was returned to the Royal Institution by her successor, John Major!
We then made our way to Richoux in Piccadilly for a very welcome afternoon cream tea.