Since first opening our doors on New Year’s Day 1895, Bishopsgate Institute has been a hub for culture and learning.
The original aims of the Institute were to provide a public library, public hall and meeting rooms for people living and working in the City of London. The Great Hall in particular was ‘erected for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement literature, science and the fine arts'.
Bishopsgate Institute was built using funds from charitable endowments made to the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate. These had been collected by the parish for over 500 years, but a scheme agreed by the Charity Commissioners in 1891, enabled these to be drawn together into one endowment. Reverend William Rogers (1819-1896), Rector of St Botolph’s and a notable educational reformer and supporter of free libraries was instrumental in setting up the Institute and ensuring that the original charitable aims were met.
Bishopsgate Institute was the first of the three major buildings designed by Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928); the other two are the nearby Whitechapel Gallery and the Horniman Museum in South London. His work combined elements of the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styles, along with the typically Victorian.
With its terracotta façade covered with stylised leafy trees and topped by two turrets, its impressive Great Hall, panelled Boardroom and recently-restored Reference Library, our Grade II* listed building is one of the very few in the area to have survived intact through the 20th century.