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Encyclopedia > Burlington House

Burlington House is a courtyard building off Picadilly in London. The main building houses the Royal Academy while five learned societies occupy the two wings on the east and west sides of the courtyard. These societies, collectively known as the Courtyard Societies are:


Burlington House was built in 1660 by Sir John Denham but passed in 1868 to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, from whom it derives its name. Between 1716 and 1718 it was extensively redesigned and restructured, by the architect Colen Campbell, the current facade dates from this rebuilding. It was aquired by the British government in 1854, originally with the plan of demolishing the building and using the site for the University of London. This plan, however, was abandoned in the face of strong oppositiong and in 1857 Burlington House was occupied by the Royal Society, the Linnean Society and the Chemical Society (later the Royal Society of Chemistry). The Royal Academy took over the building in 1867 on a 999 year lease with rent of 1 per year, and building started on the east and west wings. These were completed in 1873 and the three societies moved into these. In 1874 they were joined by the Geological Society, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society of Antiquaries.

This arrangement lasted until 1968 when the Royal Society moved to new premises in Carlton House Terrace and its apartments were split between the RSC and the British Academy. The British Academy also moved to Carlton House Terrace in 1998 and the RSC took over the rest of the east wing.

In 2004 the Courtyard Societies went to court against the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister over the terms of their tenure of the apartments in Burlington House, which they have enjoyed rent-free. The dispute was sent to mediation, after which the following statement was released: "ODPM and the Learned Societies had a very constructive meeting on 16 March which envisages the continued presence of the Learned Societies at Burlington House. Discussions are continuing with a view to formalising the arrangement on a basis which is acceptable to all parties."

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