THe Duke of Edinburgh visits the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution


The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution has hosted its first royal visit in 199 years!

His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the Institution on the morning of Wednesday 19th July. Fresh from a graduation ceremony for the University of Bath at Bath Abbey, the Duke was escorted to BRLSI’s home in Queen Square by Professor Ian Gadd, the current Chair of the Board. Along the way he learned about BRLSI’s history, activities, and ambitions as well as its plans for its bicentenary next year.

BRLSI is an educational charity founded by Georgian scientists, naturalists, and intellectuals in 1824. It holds over 120 talks each year, covering all aspects of science, literature, the arts, and world affairs, and hosts many exhibitions, drawing on its extensive palaeontological, geological, and ethnographic collections. Thanks to its digital programme, begun in lockdown, BRLSI is able to make its programme of activities and events more accessible than ever before. It also acts as host for a number of local cultural organisations, such as the Bath Film Society, the Bath Shakespeare Society, the Historical Association, and others.

The Royal visit was a particularly exciting moment for BRLSI. Royal patronage was conferred on the Institution by King William IV in the 1830s and continued under Queen Victoria but this is the first formal visit by a member of the Royal Family to the Institution since its foundation.

The Duke of Edinburgh was met by staff, volunteers, and directors of the Board, and accompanied by Collections Manager, Matt Williams, was treated to a tour of the current BRLSI exhibition ‘Riches of the Earth.’  The exhibition reveals the beauty of minerals through the astounding forms and vibrant colours of more than a hundred carefully selected specimens from the Institution’s collections. Afterwards, the Duke took a tour of the BRLSI vaults where he saw an 1854 calotype photograph of the former Institution building on Terrace Walk made by Francis Lockey; John Evelyn’s Silva, or, A Discourse of forest-trees and the propagation of timber in His Majesty’s Dominions which was the first publication of the Royal Society in 1664; antiquities from the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685; an ostrich feather from the Duke of Monmouth’s plume; and a 17th-century rapier found in the roof of a farmhouse near Axbridge.

There followed a tea and cake reception where the Duke talked to a range of volunteers about their contributions to BRLSI’s activities and community outreach; he also met past and current members of the Board of Directors, which included representatives from the University of Bath, local cultural organisations, and the Deputy Mayor of Bath, Bharat Pankhania. The Duke heard more about the exciting plans for the Institution’s future, including a 12-month series of activities and events to mark its bicentenary and its hopes of redeveloping its space at Queen Square to become a ‘cultural hub’ for the city of Bath.

At the close of the visit, Professor Gadd presented the Duke with a BRLSI publication, Innovation and Discovery, which celebrates Bath’s history of innovation and discovery in science, medicine and technology.

Professor Gadd, a professor from Bath Spa University, said:

We are honoured to have hosted His Royal Highness. This was a very special occasion for the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution as the first royal visit in our history, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to show how the Institution is one of Bath’s historic and cultural jewels, to celebrate the hard work and enthusiasm of our volunteers and staff, and to talk about our exciting plans for the bicentenary year and beyond.

BRLSI News, General News
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