Home Archives & Manuscripts Archive Contents COOPERATIVE HOUSING SCHEMES (A50)

Since the mid-1850’s various schemes have been initiated for the provision of shared accommodation for learned societies. On 27 May 1853 the Vice-President of the Ethnological Society, G.B. Greenough, FRS, reported that the Royal Society with other learned societies was trying to obtain accommodation in the proposed building, Burlington House, at public expense. Council resolved to appoint a Sub-Committee ‘to represent the claims of the society to participate in the advantages about to be conferred on science’. On 30 June of that year it was reported to Council that the Ethnological Society would be included in the application to the government. The Royal Society and other principal societies were accommodated in Burlington House but not the Ethnological Society; see A1, ff. 134, 142, 162, 188-9, 204-5.

The RAI published the outline of a co-operative scheme in May 1914 which came to naught. The needs of other smaller societies and the establishment of new ones led for a desire in 1944 for a national centre of Science the prime mover being the Royal Society. In 1947 the Royal Society appointed the Scientific Societies’ Accommodation Committee under its auspices which, in 1950, resulted in the government’s decision to bear the cost of building a science centre on the South Bank of the Thames with rent free accommodation; the plans were outlined in the House of Commons on 21 Nov. 1950. However, by Feb. 1953 the proposed science centre was ‘deferred in view of the need for economy’. Since then it has lapsed. World Goodwill tried to obtain funding in 1961 for an international centre for non-governmental agencies in which the RAI expressed interest; they were not successful. See Council minutes, A10:5, 24 Oct. 1944, Minute 7; 16 Jan., 15 Mar. 1945, Minutes 4d, 1b respectively; 6 Jan., 2 Mar., 4 May 1948, Minutes 5b, 11a, 7 respectively; 11 Oct. 1949, Minute 3c; A10:6, 3 Oct., 7 Nov., 5 Dec. 1950, Minutes 3c, 1, 1 respectively; Report of the Council, 1950/1; and Executive Committee minutes, 13 Feb. 1945, 20 Feb. 1951, EM/74/2/4d, CM/80/5/4b


WBF    W.B. Fagg, CMG (1914-92), RAI Hon. Secretary, 1939-56, Hon. Editor of Man, 1939-65

RS        Royal Society

SSAC    Scientific Societies’ Accommodation Committee


1/    RAI initiative

Outline of proposed scheme of co-operation between the Royal Anthropological Institute and three or more similar societies for the purpose of providing suitable library, office accommodation and lecture hall, under the same roof. Welch & Co., Pinners Hall, Austin Friars, EC, 8 May 1914. 4 leaves. (tp.)

The Hon. Treasurer Robert W. Williamson (1856-1932) submitted a rough draft for joining premises to the Executive Committee on 5 May 1914. Mr Welch, the RAI Hon. Solicitor, was asked to draft a scheme and ‘that other societies, which were desirous of obtaining new quarters be forthwith approached with a view to entering into the proposed scheme’. At the Council meeting of 12 May Dr H.W. Marett Tims, Zoological Dept, Bedford College, reported on the applicants for the lease of Bedford College premises and that the Portman Estate was willing to extend the lease for another 15 years. The Hon. Treasurer’s scheme was referred to the Executive Committee. Following Council minutes for 6 Oct. 1914, ‘The report for the vacation’, Item 9 records that a move to new premises was considered and ‘the premises viewed’. The Hon. Secretary had written to the Duke of Bedford’s Agent making ‘tentative proposals … Owing to the War, however, the matter of removal … was postponed sine die’. During 1915 leases of 22 Chenies Street and from the Royal Historical Society however, were also considered (see Executive Committee minutes, 16 Feb. and 23 Nov. 1915, ff. 39, 49). The RAI remained at 50 Great Russell Street from 1909-24.


2/    Burlington House accommodation

1    Prof. (Sir) John L. Myres (JLM), President to Sir Warren Fisher, The Treasury, 30 June 1931 – advised by the Earl of Onslow to submit request for accommodation should it become available (autogr. carbon)

2    Sir Warren Fisher to JLM, 17 July – has no knowledge of availability of accommodation; letter forwarded to HM Office of Works which deals with government accommodation (tp.)

3    Secretary, HM Office of Works to JLM, 23 July – has no knowledge that a learned society intends to vacate rooms in Burlington House; application noted for consideration if accommodation becomes available (tp.)

4    JLM to T.A. Joyce, succeeded JLM as President, 30 July – encloses correspondence; Chemical Society likely to join Institute of Chemistry in its new offices; other societies taking similar action (autogr.)

3/    Royal Society initiatives. 1943-53


1    Prof. J.H. Hutton (JHH), President to Sir Henry H. Dale, President, Royal Society (RS), 22 Dec. 1943 – understands Royal Society may vacate rooms in Burlington House; puts RAI’s case for accommodation (autogr. draft)

2    Sir Henry Dale to JHH, 29 Dec. – no authority for suggestion that the Royal Society may give up its accommodation despite press suggestions; he raised the whole question of learned society accommodation in his Anniversary Address (tp.); President’s acknowledgement, 10 Jan. 1944, not retained


3    RS to WBF, 15 Sep. 1944 – preliminary conference of learned society representatives met to discuss accommodation in general; Lord President of the Council has agreed to meet a deputation on 13 Oct.; RAI invited to appoint a representative (tp.)

4    Assistant Secretary, Miss Felicia Stallman (FS), RAI to RS, 22 Sep. – most interested in deputation; hopes President will represent RAI (tpc.)

5    Ibid., to JHH, 22 Sep. – asks if he can represent RAI on deputation (tpc.)

6    RS to WBF, 26 Sep. – confirms deputation will be received at 11 Downing Street, on 13 Oct.; suggests a preliminary meeting of members of the deputation at the Royal Society (tp.); RAI acknowledgement, 27 Sep., not retained

7    FS to JHH, 27 Sep. – outlines details of deputation and preliminary meeting; asks if he can represent RAI (tpc.)

8    Ibid., to JLM, 28 Sep. – informs him of revived interest in learned society accommodation; encloses correspondence; JHH cannot represent RAI; asks if JLM would do so (tpc.)

9    JLM to FS, 29 Sep. – has to lecture on 13 Oct.; cannot represent RAI; suggests Prof. A.R. Radcliffe Brown (autogr.)

10    FS to Dr G. Caton Thompson (GCT), 2 Oct. – asks if she will represent the RAI; gives information on deputation (tpc.)

11    RS to FS, 3 Oct. – suggests an earlier time on 13 Oct. for discussion before attendance at 11 Downing Street (tp., annotated by FS)

12    FS to GCT, 4 Oct. – glad she can represent RAI; will provide information for her (tpc.)

13    Ibid., 5 Oct. – encloses notes on accommodation (/14 below); outlines present position and future plans (tpc.)

14    RAI and Housing (tpc.)

15    FS to RS, 5 Oct. – informs him GCT will represent RAI (tpc.)

16    GCT to FS, 6 Oct. – will call at RAI for briefing by WBF and herself; has discussed matter with Dr E.J. Lindgren and JHH; asks for Executive Committee’s considered opinion and other details; gives her views on multiplicity of small learned societies; comments on lack of time allowed for discussion by RS (autogr.)

17    RS to FS, 10 Oct. – encloses notes for representatives (/18 below)(tp.)

18    Notes for deputation to HM Ministers re accommodation, 13 Oct. by Sir Henry Dale, 10 Oct. 4 pp. (mimeo., annotated by GCT and WBF)

19    FS to GCT, 11 Oct. – encloses notes (/20 below); mentions financial situation and inadequacy of Royal Society meeting for representatives (tpc.)

20    Notes on membership, Library expenditure, JRAI, Man, salaries (tpc.)

21    Notes on deputation to 11 Downing Street, 13 Oct. by GCT – 1, Preliminary discussion at RS; 2, Meeting at 11 Downing Street; 3, Reply by Ministers, C.R. Attlee (Prime Minister), Sir John Anderson (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Lord Portal (Minister of Works). 4 leaves (autogr., annotated by FS)

22    GCT to FS, 18 Oct. – on papers for the RS and report to Council (autogr.)

23    RAI: notes on accommodation requirements by FS (tpc.); draft (not retained) dated, 19 Oct., by WBF

24    FS to GCT, 26 Oct. – report on deputation should be in archives; Council appointed small Committee to prepare a statement on accommodation needs; appointed with H.J. Braunholtz and officers (tpc.)

25    RAI accommodation – minutes of meeting on 11 Dec.; officers and Dr Otto Samson (by invitation) were present (tpc.)


26    Accommodation requirements, 1945 (tpc.)

27    RS to FS, 26 Feb. – encloses questionnaire; asks for speedy return (mimeo.); FS letter returning the questionnaire, 9 Apr., and Royal Society, acknowledgement, 11 Apr., not retained

28    RS questionnaire: accommodation of learned societies (tpc. copy, annotated by WBF and FS)


29    RS to WBF, 10 Oct. 1947 – Council has decided to form a committee to explore a scheme for scientific societies’ accommodation; invites a nomination (tp.)

30    FS to RS, 20 Oct. – reports WBF appointed as RAI representative (tp.)

31    RS to RAI, 19 Nov. – announces meeting of the Scientific Societies’ Accommodation Committee (SSAC) on 4 Dec. (mimeo.)

32    Terms of reference and membership of the Committee, 25 Nov. (mimeo.)

33    Agenda for first meeting, 4 Dec., circulated 25 Nov. (mimeo.)

34    Brief account of earlier discussions on accommodation of scientific societies, 25 Nov. (mimeo.)

35    Address of the President, RS, Sir Henry Dale, GBE … 30 Nov. 1943, Proc. R. Soc., A, vol. 182, 1944 reprint – problem of accommodation reviewed

36    SSAC, Minutes, 4 Dec. (mimeo.)

37    RS to WBF, 8 Dec. – Committee invites a revision of statement submitted in Feb. 1945; aim to provide a centre ‘for all the principal British Scientific Societies; inquires whether RAI would move from present accommodation and under what conditions (tp.)


38    Ibid., 28 Feb. 1948 – asks for floor space requirements; revised questionnaire returned for additions (mimeo.)

39    Accommodation of the scientific societies: questionnaire, Feb. 3 pp. (tp., with tp. and autogr. replies)

40    RS to WBF, 4 Mar. – notice of meeting on 8 Apr. (mimeo.)

41    WBF to FS, [17 Mar.] – asks for RS letter to be typed urgently; wishes President to comment (autogr.)

42    WBF to RS, 18 Mar. – outlines space required; encloses estimates (tpc.); RS’s acknowledgement, 19 Mar., not retained

43    SSAC: accommodation requirements – summary of replies, 24 Mar. 6 leaves (mimeo.)

44    Ibid., Accommodation in proposed science centre, 24 Mar. 2 leaves (mimeo., annotated by WBF)

45    Ibid., 24 Mar. – suggestions for immediate action following meeting on 8 Apr. 2 leaves (mimeo.)

46    Ibid., 31 Mar. – agenda for meeting on 8 Apr. (mimeo.)

47    WBF to RS, [1 Apr.] – draft letter amplifying views on accommodation. 3 leaves (autogr.)

48    Ibid., 2 Apr. – amplifies views on accommodation (tpc.)

49    SSAC, 2 Apr. – suggested site for science centre [Holland House, Kensington High Street](mimeo.); enclosed plan and rough lay-out of suggested building not retained

50    Ibid., to WBF, 5 Apr. – grateful for amplified views of RAI (/48 above)(tp.)

51    Rough notes on accommodation by WBF. 2 leaves (autogr.)

52    SSAC, 13 Apr. – minutes of the meeting held on 8 Apr. (mimeo.)

53    Ibid., to WBF, 7 May 1949 – enclosed paper, Summary of accommodation requirements as submitted by the societies, to be basis of discussion (tp., mimeo.)

54    Ibid., 17 June – notice of meeting on 5 July (mimeo.)

55    Ibid., 24 June – agenda for meeting on 5 July (mimeo.)

56    Ibid., 24 June – brief report on action taken since May 1948 (mimeo.)

57    Ibid., Appendix A: Accommodation for scientific societies – report of a deputation received by the Lord President of the Council, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Works on 7 July 1948. 3 leaves (mimeo.)

58    Ibid., Appendix B: Notes of a discussion held at the Ministry of Works on 28 Apr. 1949 (mimeo.)

59    Ibid., Appendix C: Copy of letter dated 19 May 1949 from RS to Ministry of Works on estimated requirements of the societies (mimeo.)

60    Ibid., 30 June, Appendix D: Copy of the estimates received from the Ministry of Works dated 29 June 1949 (mimeo.)

61    Ibid., 4 July – Additional item to Agenda of meeting … on 5 May [i.e. 5 July] 1949 on requests for inclusion by other societies (mimeo.)

62    Note by WBF noting RAI’s support for the inclusion of the Prehistoric Society (autogr.)

63    SSAC to WBF, 7 July – minutes of the meeting held on 5 July (mimeo.)


64    Ibid., 21 Sep. 1950 – agenda for meeting on 25 Sep. 1950 (mimeo.)

65    Notes by WBF on government’s readiness to bear cost of building and to provide rent free accommodation (autogr.)

66    SSAC to WBF, 10 Oct. – minutes of the meeting held on 25 Sep. (mimeo.)

67    WBF to RS, 11 Oct. – draft letter conveying Council’s unanimous resolution welcoming the proposed Science Centre to be created at the government’s expense facing Somerset House with rent free accommodation (autogr.)

68    Ibid., 11 Oct. – conveys Council’s unanimous resolution as above (tp.); RS’s acknowledgement, 17 Oct., not retained

69    SSAC to WBF, 1 Dec. – following announcement ‘about the proposed science centre in both Houses of Parliament’ the Committee to be reconstituted as a Committee of Council with representatives from societies to be accommodated; Presidential address enclosed (/70 below)(tp.)

70    RS Presidential address including survey of efforts to establish a science centre from 1944 to the present scheme supported by Herbert Morrison, Lord President of the Council and Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer. [9] leaves (mimeo.)

71    ‘Site of science centre: concurrence of societies’, The Times, 1 Dec. 1950


72    WBF to RS, 6 Jan. 1951 – replies to letter of 1 Dec. (/69 above); reports his appointment as representative with full powers to act for Council(autogr.)

73    SSAC to WBF, 6 Mar. – notice of meeting on 4 Apr. (mimeo.)

74    Ibid., 21 Mar. – agenda for meeting on 4 Apr. and enclosures B-C (/75-6)(mimeo.)

75    Proposed science centres: Summarized report on accommodation requirements – based on discussions during Jan. and Feb. 1951 with representatives of the societies mentioned. 14 leaves (mimeo.); enclosure A, minutes of the meeting held on 25 Sep. 1950 missing

76    Ibid.: Some suggestions and matters for discussion, memorandum by Assistant Secretary, RS. 5 leaves and Appendix, 2 pp. (mimeo.)

77    Ibid.: Additional information received after 21 Mar. 2 leaves (mimeo.)

78    RS to WBF, 5 Apr. – requests details of all meetings of tenants and sub-tenant societies (mimeo.)

79    SSAC, 11 Apr. – minutes, 4 Apr. (mimeo.)

80    WBF to RS, [18 Apr.] – replies to letter of 5 Apr. (/78 above)(autogr. draft)

81    Ibid., 18 Apr. – ibid. (tpc.)

82    RS to WBF, 3 May – acknowledges letter of 18 Apr. (/81 above); encloses chart for completion ‘showing density of meetings’ (tp., autogr. note by WBF on verso)

83    RS chart, 3 May – marked by RAI (mimeo.)

84    RS to WBF, 13 June – enclosures, draft letter to Ministry of Works communicating accommodation requirements. 5 leaves (mimeo.); details, 1 June, as /75 above plus details from 3 societies not then available – not retained


85    RS to SSAC members, 20 Feb. 1953 – has been in communication with Ministry of Works; quotes extracts: planning of Science Centre … deferred in view of the need for economy … when the economic situation improved we hoped to lease the site on the South Bank …(mimeo.); the SSAC was still standing on 16 May 1957 when WBF received an invitation to a conversazione

4/    World Goodwill, London proposal


1    World Goodwill to RAI, 27 Apr. 1961 – on proposal to establish an international centre in London (tp.)

5/    Miscellaneous


1    Dr G. Caton Thompson to WBF, 7 Nov. 1979 – is writing memoirs; asks him to check papers on approach to government for improved accommodation; represented RAI; recalls Lord Portal who ‘ducked under the table’ during an air raid (autogr.); see /3/1-24 above

W.B. Fagg Papers combined with RAI files.