Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

Pencil drawing of the front and side elevations for Lowther Lodge

Detail of the front and side elevations for Lowther Lodge
Architect: Richard Norman Shaw
RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) was founded in 1830, and moved to Lowther Lodge in Kensington in 1912. Although not part of the 1851 Commissioners' original plans for the area, the RGS's objectives and activities complement the ideals of the area and it is now one of the members of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group.

Richard Norman Shaw

Lowther Lodge was designed by Richard Norman Shaw in 1873. It was to be a 'country house' on the edge of town for the MP, William Lowther, who had bought the site in 1870 and pulled down the previous property.

When a perspective view of Shaw's design was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874 The Building News declared it to be a house of the 'most uncompromising Queen Anne character'. This was a new style of architecture of which Shaw and J.J. Stevenson were the main proponents. Key characteristics of the style were the use of redbrick; tall pedimented or Dutch gables; towering chimney stacks; and the use of the sunflower motif. All of these features can be seen at Lowther Lodge.

The RGS purchase Lowther Lodge

Lowther died in 1912, and his son James, Speaker of the House of Commons, sold the house for £100,000 to the RGS. In 1928-30 the building was altered and extended to better suit the needs of the society.

A new lecture theatre on the site of the stables was added by Kennedy and Nightingale. They also added a bare external wall on the corner of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road which has no windows, mainly for acoustic reasons. The only decorations to the wall are two statues of noted explorers: Shackleton by C. Sargeant Jagger (1932), and Livingstone by T.B. Huxley-Jones (1953).