Victoria And Albert Museum

Refreshment Rooms

Photograph of the Gamble Room of the V&A Refreshment Rooms

Designers: Godfrey Sykes, James Gamble, and Reuben Townroe (1868)
Copyright: V&A Images

The South Kensington Museum was the first museum in the world to have its own public restaurant, which opened in 1857. Initially it was housed at the east end of the site in a much derided brick building with mock timber-framing. This was quickly replaced by the suite of three rooms which are still in use today: the Green Dining Room (Morris Room), the Gamble Room, and the Grill (Poynter) Room.

Opening in 1868 the new Refreshment Rooms were located more centrally in the museum, in the Lecture Theatre building, now the north wing of the Quadrangle.

Gamble Room

The Gamble Room, pictured here, is an incredibly grand space, sandwiched in the middle of the suite of three rooms. It has a semi-circular northern side, following the plan of the Lecture Theatre which sits directly above it, with stained glass windows to hide the kitchens behind.

It was designed by Godfrey Sykes, James Gamble, and Reuben Townroe. The entire room is washable, with an enamelled iron ceiling and every surface covered in ceramic tiles. Even the four large free-standing columns in the room are faced in majolica tiles. The overall result is a glossy, highly coloured, opulent room.

Green Dining and Morris Rooms

Either side of the Gamble Room are the two smaller, less grandiose, but nevertheless beautiful rooms. To the west is the Green Dining or Morris Room since it was one of the first big jobs of the firm Morris Marshall & Faulkner. Philip Webb was responsible for the overall design, and Burne-Jones painted the dado panels and designed the stained glass.

The room at the east end is the Grill Room designed by Edward Poynter. A more intimate room with blue Dutch tiles set in wooden panelling, and larger tiled panels of figures representing the seasons designed by art school students.