Save BH

Support our fight to stay at Burlington House

Michael Wood FSA appeals to the public to help us save Burlington House

Fellow Michael Wood has made a video to help us build on the mounting support from across the UK and beyond, to urge the Government to help us find a new basis for tenure.  From unearthing secrets of the Staffordshire Hoard, to finding out the true life of Richard III – he highlights what makes Burlington House so special.  We need your support more than ever as we enter into a critical stage in our campaign to remain at Burlington House. Please share Michael’s video with your MP and share it with friends and colleagues. For more information about how you can help visit our campaign page.


Campaign update (October 2023):

Since the launch of the campaign in November 2020, the Learned Societies have built a powerful coalition of support to allow them to remain at Burlington House, and we are now at a critical stage.

Our goal is to find an affordable, workable solution with HM Government to the untenable rents it is enforcing on the Learned Societies, securing their sustainable future and continuation of their valuable work.

In support of this objective hundreds of Fellows have written to their Members of Parliament to ask for their support. We have also received strong support within scientific and cultural circles (in the UK and internationally), among the public, and across Westminster. This has compelled the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – our landlord – to respond to our call for a solution to the rapidly escalating and unaffordable rents.

Current state of discussions

As a result, these discussions with DLUHC have focused on finding a lasting solution that recognises the unique value of keeping the Societies together. We have met with the responsible Ministers in the department and are in regular discussions with officials.

Whilst it is not possible to provide a running commentary, fundamental to a successful outcome is dependent securing a new arrangement which our Society is able to afford and does not impede investment in our charitable activities and programmes.

We acknowledge Government is seeking to ensure value-for-money for the taxpayer, and we believe there is a final position both sides should be able to agree upon. A successful outcome would replace the current rental mechanism which is causing an – unintended – rapid escalation in rents demands by Government, causing an increase of over 3000% in rents between 2012 and 2021.

Through current discussions, we are determined to find a unique and sustainable solution that will:

  • Build on our current public engagement and outreach programmes to ensure the whole nation benefits from the activities conducted at Burlington House.
  • Support and facilitate the expansion of our scientific knowledge – that will help us to understand more about our human past.
  • Maintain the UK’s world-leading position in the scientific understanding of nature, its management and conservation.

Campaign activities  

  • The campaign has engaged with over 200 Parliamentarians through correspondence, online and in-person meetings. Parliamentarians are uniformly supportive and have played a key role in sustaining the campaign. In summer 2021, there was a to a Parliamentary debate on the subject in early June. (You can listen here(from 16.50) or read the transcript here.)
  • Multiple national and trade publications have covered the situation, including The TimesThe GuardianThe Telegraph and BBC Newswith many posting about the issue on social media.
  • We have been delighted to welcome the support of leading public figures including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Brian Cox as well many supporting organisations.

Outlook

We hope that a solution can be found urgently before the Societies are forced out of our historical home due to rising rents.

We also look forward to a new era of life at Burlington House, where a wide range of people, from all walks of life, all over the country can benefit from not just the collections housed at Burlington House, but the discovery and innovation enabled through evidence-based policy making.

How can I help?

The campaign has got to this stage thanks to the contributions and representations of Fellows and friends of the Societies of Burlington House. Please continue these efforts by:

  • Supporting our programmes and activities to help us to achieve our charitable mission. Join us for our events, contribute to our publications, donate to our activities, and take the opportunity to visit us in Burlington House.
  • Raising awareness of our Society and our work with your networks, colleagues and friends. Talk to as many people as possible about the value of our work and the things we do, get more people involved in our work, nominate new Fellows, encourage people to sign up for our newsletters and join.
  • If you haven’t already, please write to your local MP. For a guide on how to do so please click here. Also, if by slim chance you also happen to know any other movers and shakers in government and can make some introductions, please also get in touch with us.

What does Burlington House mean to the Society?

A hub of discovery for the UK, the building houses thousands of unique artefacts, books, and works of art spanning centuries of human history, under the guardianship of the Society of Antiquaries. The result of nearly 300 years of acquisition, people come from all over the world to study the collections at Burlington House, where enthusiasts meet experts, and ideas are shaped in the Library and lecture room.

From Burlington House, the Society runs regular public, educational and academic events, gives grants for research and conservation, and contributes to the formulation of public policy.

Since the 1870s, the Society has been based at Burlington House under a bespoke Government arrangement which has delivered immense public value as a hub of cultural and scientific discovery. Due to a change in Government accounting rules, the Society is now being effectively forced out because of  rapidly escalating rents; already rent has increased by 3,100% since 2012.

After eight years spent attempting to seek a fair arrangement behind closed doors, the Society has now gone public to encourage the Government to recognise the immense value of the Society, its library and collections at Burlington House, and to find an affordable arrangement for the Society to remain.


The Society has launched a campaign to contest the rapidly escalating rental rates set by Government, in order to remain at Burlington House – its home for over 140 years.

Exterior view of main entrance of SAL building

A hub of discovery for the UK, the building houses thousands of unique artefacts, books, and works of art spanning centuries of human history, under the guardianship of the Society of Antiquaries. The result of nearly 300 years of acquisition, people come from all over the world to study the collections at Burlington House, where enthusiasts meet experts, and ideas are shaped in the Library and lecture room.

From Burlington House, the Society runs regular public, educational and academic events, gives grants for research and conservation, and contributes to the formulation of public policy.

Since the 1870s, the Society has been based at Burlington House under a bespoke Government arrangement which has delivered immense public value as a hub of cultural and scientific discovery. Due to a change in Government accounting rules, the Society is now being effectively forced out because of  rapidly escalating rents; already rent has increased by 3,100% since 2012.

After eight years spent attempting to seek a fair arrangement behind closed doors, the Society has now gone public to encourage the Government to recognise the immense value of the Society, its library and collections at Burlington House, and to find an affordable arrangement for the Society to remain.

The case to retain Burlington House

By continuing an affordable tenancy for the Society at Burlington House, the Government can enable a new era of public engagement with our heritage. The Society is already making progress towards modernising to ensure the nation’s history that the Society represents both reflects and reaches a more diverse public – progress which has been slowed by the ongoing uncertainty over its future.

Resolving this looming threat would mean the Society is able to continue its plans to further increase public engagement, and generate income which can be reinvested in exhibitions and activities in communities across the UK.

With the Society’s precious collection and public value activities there are options for the Government to recognise this value against that of the long-term tenancy. A 2019 assessment by PwC estimated that 78% (£4.2 million) of the total gross value delivered each year by the Society of Antiquaries (£5.4 million) would be at risk if the Society is forced to relocate.

According to this, the Government is set to lose 44 times what it would gain through the current agreement (approximately £120,000 in income per year compared to £5.4 million in public value).

The consequences of a forced move

The uncertainty of the Society’s tenure has already restricted its contributions to society over the last eight years, with investment in the building and public engagement activities shelved, and resources instead directed at quietly appealing to the Government to agree an affordable solution.

Without resolution, relocation represents a major threat to the continued existence of the Society in its current form. Leaving Burlington House would require the prohibitively costly process of recreating the infrastructure to house its unique collections elsewhere, while moving fragile historical items en masse is a huge and extremely costly undertaking in itself. As a self-supporting charity, the Society is under enormous pressure to raise funds for alternative premises to house its unrivalled library, unique archive and historically significant museum collections where they would remain safe and ensure they are accessible to academics, students, and the historically curious public.

An almost unthinkable yet looming scenario is that the Society may have to sell items from its collection to fund new premises in order to appropriately house the rest of its artefacts, even outside of a major city. In such a scenario, it is possible the UK may see items of huge historical importance go overseas, and they may no longer be available for research or education purposes.

The Library © The Society of Antiquaries of London


For more information on how you can help us click the links below.

If you wish to get in contact with us, please email [email protected] 

For Press Enquiries please email [email protected] 

To follow our story on social media please follow the hashtag #SocAntiquaries and to highlight your support for the campaign, please use the hashtag #BurlingtonHouse.