Somerset House

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


Somerset House

 
Som­er­set House is a cul­tur­al cen­tre and gov­ern­ment office build­ing sit­u­at­ed between the Strand and the Thames, imme­di­ate­ly east of Water­loo Bridge. It occu­pies the site of the for­mer man­sion of Edward Sey­mour, 1st Duke of Som­er­set, broth­er of Jane Sey­mour and uncle of Edward VI. The build­ing became Crown prop­er­ty after Somerset’s exe­cu­tion (1552) and was lat­er renamed Den­mark House by James I, in hon­our of his queen, Anne of Den­mark. It was occu­pied in turn by two oth­er queens, Hen­ri­et­ta Maria of France and Cather­ine of Bra­gan­za.

The present neo­clas­si­cal struc­ture was built (1776–86) by Sir William Cham­bers. It has been put to sev­er­al uses by the gov­ern­ment, most famous­ly as the cen­tral record office for births, mar­riages and deaths. The prin­ci­pal present-day occu­pants are HM Rev­enue & Cus­toms and the art gal­leries of the Cour­tauld Insti­tute. The cen­tral Foun­tain Court hosts open-air con­certs and film shows in sum­mer and is con­vert­ed to an ice rink in win­ter.
 
Somerset House courtyard