IET Archives research guide: Savoy Place rooms

A guide intended to provide information on the named rooms in Savoy Place, home of the IET in London. Every named room has relationship a with the IET or with the development of engineering and technology.

Painting of Savoy Place by A Bryett c1930s

Savoy Place was designed by Stephen Salter and H Percy Adams as a joint Examination Hall for the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians.  The building was finished in 1889.  After being used for various medical events and, later, for laboratories, the IET bought the building as its first permanent home in 1909.

More information can be found on the history of the site, dating back to 1381, in the History of Savoy and Savoy Place.

ENTRANCE AND GROUND FLOOR

Reception

Architecture
The entire reception area is lined with Pentelikon marble and decorated with brass friezes.  This work was carried out when the Institution first acquired the building in 1909. 

Presidents
Names of all of the Institution’s Presidents are carved on the rear walls.  Each new President’s name is carved and gilded after the official announcement is made.

Savoy Place reception

War Memorials
Plaques on the walls next to the Lecture Theatre doors honour members of the Institution who died in service.  There is also a plaque dedicated to members of the London Electrical Engineers. For more information please see the online index for the WW1 Roll of honour.

Lord Kelvin
A bust of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, sits near the right-hand entrance to the Lecture Theatre.  

Photograph of the Faraday statue outside Savoy Place

Michael Faraday
A statue of Michael Faraday stands by the entrance to Savoy Place.  Faraday is honoured for his ground-breaking discoveries in the science of electricity, especially his discovery of electromagnetic induction in 1831, and he is depicted holding an induction coil.  A bust of Faraday can be seen opposite that of Kelvin. More information can be found in the Faraday online exhibition and Faraday biography.

Lecture theatre

Design
Although this room has been modernized to meet the requirements of current events, much of the original work carried out in 1909 can be seen.  The room retains its original panelling and carved cartouches made of Cuban mahogany, designed by W S Frith.  The ceiling was designed in the 1990s by artist Tony Raymond, and is based on an engraving from William Gilbert’s De Magnete, published in 1600.  The fibre optic lights show the magnetic declination from 1871 (when the Institution

Photogragh of the Lecture Theatre during the 1959 refurbishment at Savoy Place

was founded) to 2001, with each light representing a decade.  

Portraits
Portraits of notable engineers and scientists are displayed on the theatre walls.  The subjects are (from right):

André Marie Ampère

John Hopkinson

Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

Lecture Theatre at Savoy Place

Michael Faraday

Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti

Alessandro Volta

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan

Alexander Graham Bell

Common Room

This was also part of the 1909 building design, and had a ‘push- button’ service lift from the basement kitchens.  Photographs of past Presidents, with a large photograph of the current President, are on display here. There is also a group portrait of several past Presidents, painted by June Mendoza.

Kelvin Lounge

Named after Sir William Thompson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907), whose bust is displayed between the Archives exhibition cases.  Lord Kelvin was acknowledged as the leader in his field during his lifetime. His inventions included telegraph instruments, notably the mirror galvanometer and other instruments used on the first transatlantic telegraph cable.  Kelvin influenced the work of James Clerk Maxwell and introduced the absolute (Kelvin) scale of temperature. 

Kelvin bust in the reception of Savoy Place
Faraday Room

Named after Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the discoverer of electromagnetic induction whose work laid the foundations of electrotechnology.

Lancaster Room

Named after the Duchy of Lancaster, which owns the Savoy Site.  The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster, is also the patron of the IET. Please see The History of the Savoy and Savoy Place for more information on this ancient site.

Maxwell Suite

Named after James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), pioneer of electromagnetic field theory.  In 1873, he published his celebrated Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, in which he presented his equations for electromagnetic fields.

Siemens Room

Sir Charles William Siemens (1823-1883) was the first President of the Institution in 1871-2.  In 1858, he set up the firm of Siemens and Halske, which became Siemens Brothers in 1865.  He played a major role in the telegraph industry, helping to set up the London-Bombay telegraph network, and was involved in the emerging electric lighting and power industries. 

First Floor

West staircase
On the marble staircase leading to the Library there is a marble bust of Sir Francis Ronalds.  A pioneer in early telegraphy, he bequeathed his library of rare books and archives to the Institution. 

Sir Francis Ronalds bust and books from SP Thompson library

Books from the library of S P Thompson, whose library was bought by the Institution after his death, are displayed on the East and West staircases.

Library

This room retains most of its original 1909 design, although modern refurbishment has added computer terminals, power points, reading lamps at each desk and Wi-Fi access. Please see the history of the library and archives for more details on the collections and how they were acquired.

President’s Office

Faraday’s desk, on display in this office, was presented to the IET in memory of C H Merz, electricity supply pioneer.  This room also contains an early electric clock manufactured by the Synchronome Company.

SECOND FLOOR

Mountbatten Room

This room commemorates the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers (IERE), which merged with the Institution in 1988.  It is named after Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979), twice President of the IERE. 

Portrait of Earl Mountbatten in full naval uniform
Nuffield Room

This room commemorates the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers, formerly the Institution of Production Engineers, which merged with the Institution in 1991.  William Richard Morris, Viscount Nuffield of Nuffield (1877-1963) was President of the Institution from 1937-1939.  The first Morris Oxford car was produced in 1913 and by the 1920s Morris was the foremost car manufacturer in Britain.

Thompson Room

This room is named after Silvanus Phillips Thompson (1851-1916), whose papers and library are held at the Institution.  Thompson is noted for his work on a wide range of scientific subjects and his pioneering activities in engineering education.

Appleton Suite

This member’s suite is named after Sir Edward Victor Appleton (1892-1965), noted for his research into the upper atmosphere.  In 1924, Appleton was appointed Professor of Experimental Physics at King’s College London and between 1939 and 1949 was Permanent Secretary to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.  

In 1924, Appleton proved the existence of an electrified layer in the upper atmosphere that reflected radio waves, first postulated by Oliver Heaviside and A E Kennelly.   He also discovered a second layer of the ionosphere, often referred to as the Appleton layer.  He was awarded the Institution’s Faraday Medal in 1946 and was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1952.

Photograph of Sir Edward Appleton
Watson Watt Room

Named after Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (1892-1973), who played a major role in the development and introduction of radar during World War II.  He was appointed Scientific Adviser to the Air Ministry in 1940 and was knighted for his work on radar in 1942.

THIRD FLOOR

Riverside Room

In 1959, a third storey was added to the building, making room for a refectory.  This is now used for formal dinners and external events, with the Blumlein Room acting as a dining room for staff and members. 

The glass screens in the dining room were designed by Graham Jones and created in association with Andrew Moore Associates.  The panels show images of scientific innovations, based on original illustrations.  The images are as follows:

View of the Riverside dining room showing the glass screens
  • Directional magnetic fields;
  • Marconi transmitter used at Poldhu for the first transatlantic wireless transmission;
  • Kilburn highest factor routine;
  • Binary computer programme;
  • Edison’s patent for the electric light bulb;
  • Elements from Tesla’s complete polyphase alternating current system;
  • Magnetic field diagrams;
  • Diagram from Noyce’s integrated circuit/chip.

 

View of the Thames and Waterloo Bridge from the Riverside Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blumlein Room

Dining room for staff and members, named after Alan Dower Blumlein (1903-1942), who was killed in an air crash while testing the H2S radar prototype.  During his time working for EMI, Blumlein took out 132 patents, including a stereo recording system.  On the outbreak of World War II he started work on direction finding and radar.  Blumlein was responsible for the circuitry on the H2S project, an airborne radar system which could guide an aircraft in flight.

Haslett Room

Dame Caroline Haslett (1895-1957) was first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society in 1919 and President in 1941. This was a Society created to promote the study and practice of engineering among women, to enable technical women to meet and exchange ideas respecting the interests, training and employment of technical women, and to publish and communicate information on such subjects. Between 1924 and 1956 she was the first director of the Electrical Association for Women, of which she was a joint-founder. More information can be found in the Women in Engineering online exhibition.

Portrait of Countess Ada Lovelace by Mary Remington
Lovelace Room

Augusta Ada King (nee Byron), Countess Lovelace (1815-1852) published her Notes on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1843.  In these notes, she described what can be termed the first computer program.  Lovelace also corresponded with other scientists of her day, including Michael Faraday.  She suffered from ill health and died in 1852 at the age of 37.