Science & Environment

Royal Institution: UK science body 'may sell home'

Drawing of Albemarle St
Image caption Albemarle St has been the RI's home since the 18th Century

One of the oldest scientific organisations in the world may have to sell off its home in Mayfair, London.

The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 to link science with wider society and is well known for its televised Christmas lectures.

The RI has reportedly instructed a niche property agent to market its building on Albemarle Street for £60m.

The charity has been in financial difficulty for several years.

In a statement, the organisation's chairman Sir Richard Sykes said: "It is well known that the redevelopment of the [Royal Institution's] building during the last decade undermined the financial position of the charity.

"The recently appointed trustees have worked hard to put the charity back on a sound financial footing."

The £22m project to re-fit the 18th Century buildings, and provide an upmarket restaurant and bar, was intended to help attract more people to the site and promote the science body's work.

But the RI was not able to recoup the investment through hiring out its facilities and found itself in a financial crisis.

Image caption The RI is famous for its Christmas lectures

The Times newspaper reports that the RI has tasked property agent Cyril Leonard with marketing its 21 Albemarle Street home.

Sir Richard explained: "The RI and its advisers are exploring a range of options to ensure it can continue to pursue fully its charitable aims and deploy its resources optimally."

He added: "It is clear that this is likely to involve a restructuring of the charity and, ideally, a substantial partnership. It may also involve the RI sub-letting or disposing of some or all of its Albemarle Street property."

Many notable scientists have worked at the Royal Institution, including Michael Faraday. The organisation provided the setting for much of the research by Faraday that led to the practical exploitation of electricity.