King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
In the Beginning ...

The opening

drawing of front of new main building of King's College London showing archway at endNew King's main building 1831Work on the main building and archway entrance was completed in time for the official opening of the College on 8 October 1831.

The total cost to date was £85,889 out of receipts of just £113,598, and much work still remained to be done to decorate and furnish the main College buildings appropriately. The south-west wing and other river front buildings were still incomplete.

The opening events were poorly attended due to the wet weather and the electoral reform debates coincidentally taking place in Parliament.

They were centred on the new College hall and chapel and began with a lecture by the new Principal, William Otter, and sermons delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London on the importance of charity and of the centrality of Christian understanding to any successful scheme of education.

'Our desire', declared Bishop Blomfield, 'is to erect the shrine of science and literature…to promote the best interests of society by methods which tend to the glory of God'.

Finishing the work: the river front buildings, 1831-1835

The grant of land by the Crown stipulated that the river front buildings containing the Principal's accommodation, had to be completed within five years in a style consistent with the existing Somerset House frontage. Smirke estimated the cost at £6,000.

Its true cost, following the launch of a successful appeal fund in 1832, was over twice that but work was nevertheless completed ahead of schedule in April 1835.

During the 20th century, the Strand complex was enlarged with the purchase of houses along Surrey Street, the construction of the physics laboratories beneath the car park and recently by the Strand and Macadam buildings.

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