What Exactly is Somerset House?


Welcome to a new series on the blog which takes a closer look at some of London’s most famous landmarks and their origins…

Beautiful Somerset House. One of my all time favourite buildings in London, whether it be in summer with the lovely fountains flowing, or winter with the gorgeous Christmas tree stacked with lights and the ice rink full of happy skaters.

This wonderful neoclassical building was designed by Sir William Chambers and following his death, work was completed by James Wyatt in 1801. Somerset House initially housed The Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries as well as the Royal Navy Board, where Horatio Nelson was one of its many visitors…

Here we see the beautiful entrance to the Royal Society of Antiquaries. The bust above the entrance is of George III (patron of the society) dressed here in Roman apparel. This and the larger bronze statue of George III in the courtyard (again in Roman dress) were provided by John Bacon.

Today Somerset House is home to the Courtauld Institute of Arts as well as some lovely cafes/bars and art exhibitions.

The courtyard plays host to many events including screenings and concerts and has been used for many film locations.

Whatever the season, it’s a must for anyone exploring London.

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