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The British Academy celebrates 20 years at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace

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This month (March 2018) marks 20 years since the British Academy moved to 10-11 Carlton House Terrace.

Since then, the Academy has grown in size and reputation: research funding has increased by tens of millions, there is a greatly expanded programme of activities, and the staffing has nearly doubled in order to make it all happen.

Here, three long-serving British Academy staff members share their memories of the move to Carlton House Terrace.

James Rivington – Head of Publications:

We had to move from the premises we occupied at 20-21 Cornwall Terrace, overlooking Regent’s Park, because we were running out of office space for the growing numbers of staff, and because we needed more and better meeting and function rooms to accommodate the evolving programme of Academy events. It also provided the opportunity to bring under the same roof the colleagues who handled our postgraduate schemes in Stanmore (at that time, the British Academy consisted of two separate branches).

Carlton House Terrace wasn’t the first site that was looked at as a new home, but when it came up as a possibility, there was a real attraction in being just opposite the Royal Society, creating something of an ‘academic powerhouse’ across the Duke of York steps. And it was situated much closer to the heart of government.

The Council Room in 1998 and 2018

The Council Room in 1998 and 2018. Credit: The British Academy

Staff were given the opportunity to tour the new building when it was still very much a building site during the extensive refurbishment - a lot of effort was put into restoring some of the public spaces to their former glory.

The Academy’s first home in Burlington Gardens had been opened by the Prince of Wales. The Cornwall Terrace office was formally opened by The Queen. The move to Carlton House Terrace received no such royal endorsement. But there was a really good house warming party for staff, with plenty of energetic dancing and loud karaoke.

Helen Langan – Research Funding Officer:

I remember gazing in awe as I stood outside 10 Carlton House Terrace for the very first time. The sight that met me that morning could not have been any more different from the Academy’s offices in Stanmore in north-west London.

The offices in Stanmore were in Honeypot Lane on a government site of roughly six acres. The site itself was made up of four separate buildings, all single-story units with corrugated roofs – known as Block 1, Block 2, Block 3 and Block 4. The Academy’s offices were in Block 1 and although we were only a small team (about a dozen or so staff), we processed many thousands of applications from postgraduate students – something that the British Academy had taken over the responsibility for from the Department of Education and Science in 1984.

The British Academy's old premises at Stanmore. Credit: The British Academy

I was part of the British Academy’s postgraduate studentships team at the time of the move, and our first day in Carlton House Terrace was spent unpacking crates and boxes on the Mezzanine floor where our new office was situated. We had all been issued with a briefing pack prior to the move, and although the pack included a plan of the layout of the building, that still wasn’t enough to stop us all getting completely lost among the maze of stairs and corridors – and we had to step around workmen who were still finalising the laying of carpets and finishing the paintwork on the lower floors.

Ken Emond – Head of Research Funding:

My first impression of the Carlton House Terrace building was of how much bigger and how much more space it had than the Cornwall Terrace building. It seemed possible to get lost in endless corridors and secret staircases…

The Lee Library in 1998 and 2018

The Lee Library in 1998 and 2018. Credit: The British Academy

In my role what I have most enjoyed both then and now is the engagement with Fellows and award-holders, many of whom have benefited from our numerous funding schemes. For instance, of the 28 new British Academy Postdoctoral Fellows who took up their award in 1997-98, 15 are now Professors, (one of whom is an FBA, Miranda Fricker), 5 others are in established academic posts, and 8 are pursuing non-academic careers, including two solicitors, one strategic planning officer and others undertaking consultancy work and independent research and writing.

Over the years, Carlton House Terrace has been home to former Prime Minister William Gladstone, the wealthy and influential Ridley family, and the Foreign Press Association.

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