The popular locations during the late 12th century were Strand frontage and the riverside for the citizens of London especially those who were on a lookout for influence at the Westminster Court. There were great houses situated in that area such as the Bath and Wells, the Bishops of Exeter, Chester, Llandaff, Norwich, Worcester and Durham. Later in the year 1531 these houses were united by the houses which were belonging of to the King, the Queen, Suffolk and Richmond, the Dukes of Norfolk, and Exeter and the Marquesses of Dorset. After the death of Henry VIII in the year 1547 his son Edward VI though very young ascended the throne but Edward Seymour who was the uncle to Edward VI seized his chance and became the Lord Protector and the Duke of Somerset. Desiring to possess a suitable residence in view to his new rank was determined to build himself a new palace. Now the Duke also owned land on which is a prime site between the Strand and the Thames which linked the Palace of Westminster and the Whitehall to the west and the Tower of London to the east, so, the Duke began to build his significant palace called the Somerset House in the year 1547. Nonetheless the site required to clear and demolish many number of chapels and church in the region which was an extremely loathed and provocative move which caused a dispute with the ruling Privy Council which led to Duke’s arrest with a brief imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1549 on the subject of indictment but was reinstated after he was soon released.

The Completion and Restoration

Finally in the year 1551 Somerset House was completed virtually barring the cost of over £10,000 for construction. The Duke of Somerset, the Lord protector of England was executed on Town Hall on the charges of treason after his arrest of his opponents in the year 1551. After Charles I’s his wife and widow the Queen dowager returned to Denmark House while during this period the building of coach houses, apartments and stables were made and a significant new building was erected which included the Privy Chamber and Presence Chamber. Later in the year 1665 the was a plague which made all who could leave London, especially the wealthy left and Henrietta Maria, who was the Charles I’s wife never returned to England as she died in France after four years from then. In the year 1666 started a great fire in the City of the east of the Strand which destroyed nearly three quarters of the town clearing the city’s disease. The Somerset house was spared by the fire as it was extinguished just short of the building. Later in the period of the 18th century the Somerset House was utilized for a variety of purposes as the court officials inhabited few of the room, the other part of the palace was used for offices and storage that also included the Duchy of Cornwall. The State apartments of the Somerset House were occupied by visiting dignitaries and foreign embassies. By the year 1722 the stables were taken over by the Horse Guards And a battalion of Foot Guards was sheltered in the palace.


The palace gradually fell into ruins during the period of the 18th century, in the year 1718 the architect Vanbrugh noticed that the repair of the Somerset House was out of hand. Because the palace no longer could keep away the weather due to its continued negligence that led to an inevitable determination to demolish and reconstruct the building. George III approved the site to be presented to public offices with the clause that Buckingham House should consider Somerset House to be the official dower house of the queen. The new Somerset House was built on the site after the “1775 demolishing” of the old palace that continued in different phases. The Royal Academy, which became the final resident of the old Somerset House became the inaugural resident of the new constructed Somerset House’s apartments that fronted the Strand which gave a real continuity to the former and the new.

somerset house

The contemporary Somerset House

A trust was launched for the Somerset House known as the Somerset House Trust in July 1997 to preserve and develop the palace and the open places just about it for the public and for restoring the South Building, the River Terrace and The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court as the chief priority. For after over 100 years in 2000 the River Terrace was opened to the public for the first time after its restoration and this area has a sitting for a summer Cafe along with a bar, restaurant, a Shop feature and deli on the ground level of the South Building. The large new construction which holds a classical feel is the original Tudor Palace that overlooks the river Thames towards the east of Waterloo Bridge. The expansions included the North and South as the Victorian Wing and towards the east wing is the part of the King’s college London. The Somerset House in the heart of London as it is the major art and ethnic centre that stages concerts, demonstrations, family workshops, complimentary guide tours of spaces hidden to visitors, contemporary, design and art exposition. During summer you can get refreshed under the water as the Somers House’s 55 fountains dance in its courtyard and the favourite Ice rink where you can skate along the ice. The primary aim of the trust is to preserve the highest standard in the Somerset house and to modernize it for visitors making it as the world class visitor attraction and the core of excellence in arts and culture.

Somerset House as a Venue

The riverside location has eleven venus that has the neo-classical architecture to the contemporary designs as there is something which will suit variety of events and styles such as meetings, dinners, group discussions , party, reception, or a marriage ceremony. Flexible and diverse range of spaces and rooms provides a broad diversity of opportunities for individual and corporate entertainment and events that can hold a range from 8 guests to 15,00 guests.

The Shop

United Kingdom’s only Rizzoli Bookshop that is dedicated to expanding the best ever range of graphic conception, illustrated subjects of fashion, interiors and architecture and photography is only found in the Somerset House. The Bookshop is stocked with a broad choice of handmade greeting cards and stationery for innovative and new British based designers, as the bookshop sells merchandise and books which pertains to the Somerset House’s exhibition programme.


You will be delighted to refresh, refuel and relax at the Somerset House as there is a great deal of ways as you can try the Fernandez & Wells bar and cafe for tapas and launch, you can even enjoy exciting and fresh luncheon ideas at the Courtauld Cafe and the Tom’s Deli, for all your special occasions, bookings Tom’s Kitchen or the Tom’s terrace during summer months as you can choose a walk while viewing the Thames or even you can totally see the festive celebrations of Tom’s Lounge during winter.


Embankment Galleries is opened daily during exhibitions 10:00-18:00 and admits visitors till 17:00. The Terrace Rooms is open daily during exhibitions 10:00-18:00 and admits visitors till 17:30. Courtyard Rooms are open daily during exhibitions 10:00-18:00 and admits visitors till 17:45. East & West Wing Galleries are open daily during exhibitions 10:00-18:00 and admits visitors till 17:30.


Admission fee:
Free except few exhibitions
Embarkment Galleries
24 April  – 5 May 2014: £10.00 (£8 concessions), Festival Pass £17.50
The Courtauld Gallery

£6 (£5 concessions), £3 on Mondays (including bank holidays)
Free entry – Full-time UK students, under 18s, ES40 holders

Book tickets online



Somerset House
Strand, London WC2R 1LA,
United Kingdom

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