Like a huge palace around its central square, Somerset House was built 1776-86 in grand neo classical style by Sir William Chambers on the site of the 16th century palace of the Duke of Somerset; later occupants of which included Elizabeth I and the Queens by marriage, of James I, Charles I and Charles II.
The river frontage, in monumental Palladian style supported on rusticated arches, stands four-square, anchor like, in contrast to the elegant ocean liner lines of the modern National Theatre on the opposite bank of the River Thames. Somerset House once housed the Navy Board, the Royal Academy and Royal Society, more recently the Inland Revenue and General Register Office. The Courtyard with its animated fountain display, is now an important public open space and events venue, concerts, exhibitions and seasonal ice skating take place here.
The Courtauld Galleries occupy the northern Strand side and the Visitor Centre, Embankment Galleries, restaurants and 800ft River front Embankment Terrace make up the south side, here also displayed in the original water gate, can be see the Navy Commissioners Barge, on loan from the National Maritime Museum.
Admission charges to the various exhibitions and events. Visitor centre and courtyard free.
Daily 10am to 6pm
Extended evenings for courtyard, river front terrace and restaurants
Telephone: 020 7845 4600
Address: Strand, WC2
Website: Somerset House
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