Sitting opposite the modern groundscraper that is the Broadgate offices by Liverpool Street stands a small oldish looking building squashed in-between more conventional food outlets and shops.

The Bishopsgate Institute, for that is what it is, is a 116 year old cultural venue made up mainly of a Great Hall and a library, and a few other bits – and last week, they held a bit of a drinkies do to celebrate the restoration of the Great Hall.

The main entrance and the hall were designed by the architect Charles Townsend, who was also responsible for the nearby Whitechapel Gallery and the Horniman Museum in South London.

The interior of the hall has had its ugly suspended ceiling stripped away to reveal the original roof, the garish painting removed and the wooden surround painted a more subdued green/grey, which actually reminded me more of Georgian decor than the Victorian Art Deco that it is.

They have also added in the now obligatory electric ascending rooms for accessibility, and a new cafe to add to cater to the office workers in the area.

I foolishly forgot to take a photo of the restoration, so this is what it used to look like, and if you want to see its new appearance, then this weekend they are hosting a number of events to celebrate the restoration in a more public manner.

Before restoration

There are a lot of events happening this weekend, and the full list is here, although my pick of the lot are as follows:

All are free and with the exception of the last talk, need pre-booking via their website

  • 11:30am History of Bishopsgate Institute and Library Talk
    • What was the ‘battle of the books’ and why did the institute lock away one archive item from the public fearing it may cause revolution? Find out at this popular behind the scenes tour of Bishopsgate Institute.
  • 12:30pm London History Course
    • Find out how London has changed in this course exploring the history of the City Gates and London Wall.
  • 2:00pm Bishopsgate Library Collections Talk
    • Join Library and Archives Manager Stefan Dickers to explore the stories that lie behind many of the collections on the shelves at Bishopsgate Library and explore the themes of London, labour, co-operation, freethought and protest.
  • All Day Explore the Institute Tour (10:30am12:30pm2:45pm4:30pm)
    • Discover both the fascinating history of Bishopsgate Institute and its newly refurbished spaces on this tour.

The following event is first-come for tickets on the day.

  • 3:30pm Transforming East London
    • In this talk Dan (gosh! golly!) Cruickshank provides an insight into how East London has been transformed over the years and examines the impact on this historical and significant part of London.

In slightly related news, they redesigned their website and adopted the current web designer fashion for making the headline text for each event not out of normal text, but as an image. Which makes it impossible to copy/paste into my events guide.

Very annoying. Please stop it.


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