The Launch of the BRLSI Bicentenary

Professor Ian Gadd, with Bicentenary patron the Earl of Kerry with the Countess of Kerry.



Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution has just launched 12 months of festivals, world-class talks, exhibitions, family fun and other activities to mark its 200 years at the centre of the city’s cultural life. It is inviting everyone to enjoy its bumper programme of Bicentenary year celebrations at its home in Queen Square.

One of Bath’s oldest centres of culture and learning, the Institution kicked off its 200th anniversary at the weekend with an evening reception on Friday (19 January) followed by a special Bicentenary cake cutting for members on Saturday (20 January). “The Institution came into being in early 1824 and held its inaugural lecture in January 1825– which is why our Bicentenary events run from January 2024 to January 2025,” said Professor Ian Gadd, Chair of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

Currently on show at 16-18 Queen Square is a reproduction of Victoria Art Gallery’s1824Panoramic View of Bath from Beechen Cliff by Harvey Wood with, for comparison, a photographic panorama of Bath from the same viewpoint today.

Plans for the first part of the Bicentenary year include:

  • Brilliantly Engineered, a celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, with an exhibition open to all and workshops for students and families, for four days in February
  • A series of events around International Women’s Day in March, celebrating Extraordinary Women in art, science, philosophy, and music – from19th-century scientist Mary Somerville to Dolly Parton
  • A free Bicentenary exhibition, The World Revealed, from 23 March to 12 October, highlighting the Institution’s internationally renowned collection of historic and scientific books and objects, including items never displayed before and historic photographs of Bath in the 1850s There are also plans for a weekend of family activities in June, a revival of the very popular event for young people, Bath Taps into Science, in October, and a new Bath History Festival in November.

Eminent speakers lined up for a vibrant programme of talks over the next 12 months include Sir Max Hastings, Jonathan Dimbleby, philosophers Professor John Gray and Professor AC Grayling, and the BBC’s Justin Webb who will be the speaker for the Christmas lecture in December. Talks will take place at 16 Queen Square but many of them will also be streamed live online and later on the BRLSI YouTube channel VirtualBRLSI.

“We want to make 2024 a year to remember,” explained Professor Gadd. “We are very proud to still be at the centre of Bath’s cultural life after so long and we’ll be highlighting the city’s rich creative, economic and scientific life over the past 200 years – and into the future. “It’s a chance to explore how Bath has changed since 1824 and what the future holds, working with other organisations. We want this year to be a major step towards becoming Bath’s premier ‘cultural hub’. “One key difference since 1824 is that the Institution now also offers its extensive programme online.”

Also marking the 200th anniversary was the Earl of Kerry, who is the great-great-great-great grandson of the Institution’s founding President, the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne. Lord Kerry, who lives at the 3rd Marquess’s country seat, Bowood, near Chippenham, has agreed to be the Institution’s Honorary President for the Bicentenary.

“As a descendant of the Institution’s first President, the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, I am delighted to renew the 200-year-old connection between my family and the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution,” Lord Kerry told guests at the evening reception.

“I am sure the 3rd Marquess would be pleased that the institution he saw come into being has reached this landmark and that his heir has been invited to preside over its Bicentenary year. I wish it every success for the next two centuries.”

Among those also attending the evening reception were the Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset, Mohammed Saddiq; the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Dine Romero; the Countess of Kerry; and the MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse who said how much she was looking forward to the next 12 months of activities. She added, “I sincerely hope that this wonderful institution will continue to be an outward-facing, welcoming and inclusive place for discussion, ideas and friendship for the next two hundred years and beyond!” For more information about Bicentenary events and regular updates go to

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