- The future of three learned societies at London’s famous Burlington House is now under threat as rents increase by over 3,000% and continue to escalate
- Geological Society and Linnean Society join the public campaign initiated by the neighbouring Society of Antiquaries
- Relocation represents a major threat to the Societies and the important work they do furthering science, heritage and learning
26th February 2021 – The Geological Society of London, Linnean Society of London, and Society of Antiquaries of London are purposefully co-located at their historic home in Piccadilly’s Burlington House. Together, they further our understanding of the Earth’s systems, the natural world, and our human past, and are guardian to many artefacts and scientific collections of great societal significance.
However, they are all under threat from vastly escalating rents imposed by their landlord, HM Government. All three are now campaigning for the Government to take into account their combined scientific and cultural value – in the order of £39.7 million annually according to independent analysis by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) – rather than force them out for considerably smaller potential rental income, which was £0.5 million in 2020.
Burlington House was purpose-built in the 1870s by Government to house the three Societies and to support their academic and charitable work. As a hub of cultural and scientific discovery and a significant educational resource for the nation, it has delivered immense public benefit. However, rents have already escalated by over 3,000% over the last ten years, and this unaffordable trajectory is set to continue. If no solution is found imminently, they will each be forced to move. This will break up their cooperation, force the re-housing of internationally-important collections at great expense, and tear apart a renowned hub of cultural and scientific excellence.
Since the Society of Antiquaries launched its campaign in November 2020, over 100 MPs from across the nation have been mobilised to query the Government’s handling of Burlington House, which is under the remit of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and treated purely as an investment property. At the time, MHCLG responded to the campaign with a promise to “explore a solution that can deliver public value and help them to remain at New Burlington House”.
Paul Drury, President of the Society of Antiquaries, said, “After several months we are still awaiting options from MHCLG, and fear they may not be adequate, nor presented in time to save us from a forced move. The costs of uncertainty, campaigning, and planning for relocation are mounting, and our ability further to develop our role and activities in the heritage sector has been hindered by this issue for a decade.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the Geological Society and the Linnean Society have now been alerted to the precarious financial position they too face if they are to remain at Burlington House, and as such have begun adding to the growing pressure on MHCLG to prevent them from being forced out.
The Geological Society is the UK’s national society for Earth sciences and the oldest of its kind in the world. Its work focuses on improving knowledge of the Earth system. It supports around 12,000 members across the UK and overseas, and plays a world-leading role promoting Earth sciences through publishing, education and outreach, informing policy-making, and upholding professional standards. It is estimated to deliver £26M of public value every year.
Dr Michael Daly, President of the Geological Society, said, “At a time when our world faces unprecedented environmental challenges, our understanding of the interactions between human activity and the Earth’s systems and resources are more relevant than ever before. In our current situation at Burlington House, we face either unaffordable rent rises or an extremely costly move. This is creating significant uncertainty at a time when we should be focussing, more than ever before, on the UK’s Earth science research needs, national capability development, international collaboration and digital expertise.”
The Linnean Society is the world’s oldest active society dedicated to the natural world. It plays an important role in ensuring nature is understood, valued and protected by all. Its home at Burlington House is an international hub for research, discovery and debate, where people come from across the globe to advance our understanding of the natural world. It is where Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection was first debated and the unique collections, libraries and archives are essential resources for documenting and understanding the diversity of life on Earth. It is estimated to deliver £8.2M of public value each year.
Dr Sandra Knapp, President of the Linnean Society, said, “The natural world underpins our food, the materials we use every day, our physical and mental health and, as the recent Dasgupta Review has shown, our economies. The Linnean Society, through its mission to inform, involve and inspire people about nature and its significance, is playing a key role in bringing this message to people of all ages and backgrounds. Unaffordable rent rises threaten our future in Burlington House, thus putting at risk our work to really make a difference to the planet. Reaching a sustainable and affordable agreement with Government will enable us to seize the opportunity to make nature central to people’s lives, to continue the significant and global impact of the Society in understanding, valuing and protecting nature and its contributions to people.”
Supporters of the campaign are invited to write to their MP, and post on social media using the hashtags #SupportGSL #LinneanatBH and #SocAntiquaries.
Further information about the campaign can be found at: