The history of our academic venues

In the first of a three part series on the various types of academic venues we are taking a look at the historic. Universities and colleges are synonymous with great halls, mansion houses and dreaming spires, so it made sense to start here. 

A redbrick university
And so, we start with one of our oldest members, the University of Liverpool. In the heart of Liverpool’s city centre you will find the original redbrick University of Liverpool. The term redbrick, was originally used to refer to nine civic universities founded in the major industrial cities of England in the 19th century, and was inspired by Liverpool’s flagship venue the Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M), built in 1892. Originally the University’s headquarters, the Victoria Building is a truly unique venue that provides a ‘wow’ factor!

The building was designed by the Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse and is Grade II listed. After restoration of the building at a cost of £8.6 million, the museum and gallery opened on 28 May 2008 as part of the city’s European Capital Culture award. It houses the University of Liverpool's art and museum collections, donated to and created by the university.

The venue is ideal for all sorts of events - conferences, drinks receptions and dinners, and is available throughout the year. The tiered Leggate Theatre offers space for up to 230 delegates, while the gothic Tate Hall Museum creates the perfect setting to host a drinks reception, offering delegates the opportunity to browse the University’s exhibits while they network. The grand entrance hall can accommodate up to 150 guests for a drinks reception or 100 guests for a dinner.

An academy of science
Heading into London is the Royal Society, the national academy of science in the UK and the Commonwealth. Located in central London, this beautiful venue offers 12 rooms, meticulously restored to their original condition. For over 350 years the Royal Society has hosted and organised some of the most important events in the scientific world, and their founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science, encouraging its development and use for the benefit of humanity.

Richly decorated with wood panelled marquetry, the Kohn Centre’s walls are hung with portraits of past presidents of the Royal Society. The room is fully air-conditioned, soundproofed, and allows for flexible audio visual requirements making it an ideal conference facility. With truly impressive views over St James’s Park and The Mall, the room works equally well as an atmospheric dining room.

Decorated in the Venetian style, the Marble Hall is a spectacular venue for receptions for up to 100 and dinners for up to 60. This historic room is situated close to the main entrance of the Royal Society. The Marble Hall is perfect as a catering space for events in the Kohn Centre and serves as an elegant registration and reception area.

Meticulously restored to its ornate condition of the 1890s, the Wolfson Library Suite offers a dramatic setting that can be adapted for a range of events. With views of the Mall, St James’s Park and Waterloo Gardens, and lots of natural daylight, this newly available space is an exceptional addition to the Royal Society’s rooms.

The Royal Society is based in the heart of London, just a few minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross tube stations. Trafalgar Square, and all bus services through it, are also very close.

A hall fit for a Duke
Keele University Events and Conferencing team lay claim to their ballroom being the largest conference and banqueting space in Staffordshire, providing 500 square metres of flexible space and hosting up to 400 dinner guests. This a magnificent venue is located at the centre of the University campus. The historic mansion, Keele Hall, is one of Staffordshires finest stately homes and was previously owned by the Sneyd family and stands in hundreds of acres of lush parkland and immaculate gardens.

The Keele Estate came into the possession of the Sneyd Family, influential North Staffordshire landowners, in 1544 and the first manor house was built on the property by Ralph Sneyd in 1580. With interests in coal and iron and also brick and tiles, the family prospered in the 19th Century and in this period, the original house was remodelled several times. Between 1851 and 1861, it was replaced with the present Keele Hall designed by the celebrated Victorian architect Anthony Salvin well known for his work on Windsor Castle, Alnwick castle and the Houses of Parliament.

The Hall has a long and colourful history; it provided a home and a place of exile for a Russian Grand Duke in the early 1900s and was requisitioned by the army during World War II. In 1948, with the aid of grant funding, the Keele estate was purchased from another Ralph Sneyd for the establishment of the University College of North Staffordshire, and in 1962 the college became Keele University.

The Georgian splendour of South West England
Many of the venues at the University of Bristol are in historic locations like the Georgian mansions in Clifton or the dramatic neo-gothic Great Hall in the Wills Memorial Building. Clifton Hill House was built around 1747 as a Palladian inspiration for Bristol merchant and shipowner, Paul Fisher. This fine house was once the home of Victorian writer John Addington Symonds. Now the home of functions and meetings it boasts elegant Georgian reception rooms, a print gallery and foyer and can cater for dining guest for up to 180.

The sunny Orangery and the panelled Mahogany Parlour of Goldney Hall show why it is such a popular venue with organisers. One of four houses, built by Thomas Goldney in Bristol, Goldney Hall was erected in 1714 and has inspired generation after generation ever since. The sunny Orangery and the panelled Mahogany Parlour overlook ten acres of beautiful gardens, which offer a shell studded grotto, a rotunda and an ornamental canal.

We couldn't mention Bristol without name-checking the Wills Memorial Building. Standing tall above the University complex at the top of Park Street this ornately carved neo gothic treasure is a true Bristol icon, and makes a dramatic and inspiring venue. A sweeping double stone staircase and carved stone vaulted ceiling leads to the impressive Great Hall, and other splendid rooms, all with acres of carved oak, panelled walls and lead windows. Delegates are awed as soon as they enter the building.

Growing business since 1845
The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is set within 25 acres of magnificent grounds in the heart of the Cotswold’s and offers guests a diverse mix of spectacular Victorian gothic buildings and contemporary conference and meetings spaces. A prospectus on “the advantages of  specific education for agricultural pursuits” was circulated in 1842 and in 1845 work began on the college’s construction in the Victorian Gothic style. 

The University has over 30 unique meeting rooms housed in stunning gothic style buildings that can accommodate day meetings from 10-300 delegates. They also have a dedicated business suite in the 16th century 'Bathurst Wing'. Guests at RAU arrive along the tree-lined Monarch Way, register at the Porters Lodge, and whilst there feel every part of the rich history spanning back over 500 years.

The People’s Palace
With historic spaces across central London, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) offers a Grade II listed theatre and a Victorian Octagon, rub shoulders with the recently completed £39m Graduate Centre featuring a 200 seat lecture theatre with natural light at the Mile End location.

The Grade II listed Queens' Building is home to the elegant Octagon. Built in 1887, the Octagon was originally the QMUL library, designed by Victorian architect ER Robson and inspired by the Reading Room at the British Museum.

The Great Hall, or the People’s Palace was unveiled following a £6.3m refurbishment. Home to the Great Hall, a technically advanced 770 seat theatre with retractable seating, dressing rooms and one of London’s largest stages and originally opened in the 1930s, this art deco masterpiece has seen the likes of the Rolling Stones and Damon Albarn grace its stage. The addition of a dedicated foyer with bar and split mezzanine level balcony the venue is ideal for hosting anything from a theatre festival to a screening, a touring production or one off gig.

Queen’s and Prince’s Gates
Staying in London we have our final venue - Imperial Venues - one of London’s largest academic venues, with over 100 flexible event spaces in one central location in South Kensington, and nestled alongside some of the capital’s most prestigious historic attractions including the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums.

170 Queen’s Gate is a unique event venue in London. With three historic rooms and a private courtyard garden, it is an ideal venue for conferences, meetings and corporate events as well as a stunning backdrop for weddings, parties and private dinners. Available for exclusive hire, 170 Queen’s Gate benefits from a licence for civil wedding ceremonies as well as an on-site venue manager and chef, offering award-winning catering and service to match.

58 Prince’s Gate is an Edwardian townhouse ideally located just moments from Hyde Park and overlooking leafy Prince’s Gardens. The six historic rooms are full of period charm and the private outdoor terrace provides alfresco dining opportunities during the summer months.

Finally, there is the The Queen’s Tower Rooms is one of our largest and most adaptable spaces. Floor to ceiling windows overlook the Queen’s Lawn and Imperial College’s iconic Queen’s Tower, creating a light and airy space for guests to enjoy.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the history surrounding our academic venues, if you have then keep a look at our for our next blog.