End of an era

27 May 2013
IET London: Savoy Place

Savoy Place: from medieval beginnings, through changes over the centuries, to UK home of the IET, hub of engineering knowledge.

With the building set for major refurbishment, Member News is featuring members’ recollections and memories of Savoy Place.

In the build-up to the refurbishment of Savoy Place, we’d like to hear about members’ experiences of working or attending events in the building. What are the myths and legends? Do you know anything about the history of the building? Let us in on your stories and anecdotes!

We’ll be posting members’ stories here. If you’d like to add your memories to the series, email membernews.editor@theiet.org.

“My fellow Faraday Lecture tour manager, George Prichard, and I have happy memories of working at Savoy Place in 1977-78:
“The London presentations of the 1977-78 Faraday Lecture series were at Savoy Place. The sponsoring body was GEC, and as several of the team members were active IEE members (including one past president and a future secretary), we felt we should use the IEE's own lecture theatre if at all possible. When we came to work out the practicalities, the Savoy Place staff were a bit concerned that accommodating all the London area children who would want to come would tie-up the lecture theatre with presentations for most of a week
“…but it was agreed. The lecture title was ‘Let There Be Light’, and it dealt with producing light from electricity, producing electricity from light, and communicating by light. Obviously it was appropriate to mention the Faraday statue outside the building.
“I was one of the tour managers, and was responsible for organising the electrical supplies to the numerous on-stage demonstrations. We were well equipped for connecting to supplies in the numerous large public halls around the country where most presentations took place, but at Savoy Place we had to burrow down to the main supply intake in the basement. The staff were splendidly helpful, both in supporting the Lecture team and in coping with the hundreds of schoolchildren/potential engineers who came each day.
All the team enjoyed presenting at Savoy Place. It was a more intimate and engineering-related environment than the huge public halls elsewhere. It was part of the Faraday Lecture tradition to have a bang somewhere ‘to wake people up’. On one presentation a very senior member came in after his lunch and sat in the front row, only to be rudely awakened by the demonstrated explosion of a GLS lamp made without the internal fuse. The Lecture was a very effective team-building exercise, and Savoy Place was an important part of that.”
Patrick Wyman FIET


“One of my earliest memories of Savoy Place was my membership interview, being seated in trepidation in front of an august group of worthies. I came out with ‘my tail between my legs’ feeling that if they accepted me as a member after that interview then I would have a very low opinion of the IEE’s standards. I am pleased to say that I was at least able to retain a high regard for the IEE’s standards and I remained an Associate Member!
“Years later a presentation and reception at one of the upper rooms overlooking the Thames more than compensated for the gloomy memory that I had of the building – it is a simply a magical place to be on the balcony on a Summer’s day.”


Declan Vogt MIET shares his first memories of visiting Savoy Place as a Younger Member:

“In my last year at high school, I was fortunate enough to travel from a mining town in South Africa to the London International Youth Science Fortnight, hosted at Savoy Place. The event was a real eye opener for someone who came from a town with one cinema, traveling without my parents in a foreign city. At the time, I had no idea I would become an electrical engineer, but the aura of the building really impressed me. The sense of history, and the thought of the greats who had come through those doors and sat on those seats made a deep impression on me.

“During my PhD studies in the UK, I become a member of the IEE as it was then, and later travelled just once to Savoy Place to present at the Younger Members Papers Premium. Again, the sense of history in the building was tangible. Perhaps more awe-inspiring for me was the formal dinner that followed the Premium. I had heard of such affairs, but to attend one showed me a side of life that I didn't know existed.

“As a result of these two events, Savoy Place means more to me than just as a building that houses a professional society. In some ways, it is the society, and I will always link the two in my mind.”

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