Spotlight on the Royal Institution Lecture Theatre

Ri Lecture Theatre


The Lecture Theatre is by far the most recognisable space at the Royal Institution. Designed by Thomas Webster in 1800, the auditorium housed the original Royal Institution lectures and discourses.

Disaster struck in 1927 after it was destroyed by the explosion of an electrical substation just hours after the Christmas Lectures had finished. It was rebuilt to the same plans and even today after its most recent renovation which added state of the art audio-visual equipment and comfortable seating, the Theatre design has remained the same. It was found in the renovation processes that it is the distinctive shape of the Theatre that gives it it’s excellent acoustic making the perfect conference and event venue.

Many of you will recognise its distinctive magenta seats and amphitheatre-style design from the Christmas Lectures which have been hosted by and held at the Royal Institution venue Mayfair since 1825 and televised annually on the BBC since 1966. The Christmas Lectures are actually the oldest broadcast science programme as they were first broadcast in 1936 for one year. Started by Michael Faraday, the Christmas Lectures were designed to bring the world of science to young people in a time when there was limited formal education for all. This tradition is continued to this day as Young Ri members receive exclusive access to the Christmas Lectures ticket ballot.

The Theatre is used for more than just the Christmas lectures, it is the heart of the Royal Institution venue and has seen countless great scientific minds present their world-changing discoveries and share their research. Our Central London auditorium has seen Humphry Davy announce the existence of sodium in 1807, Michael Faraday share his field theory of electromagnetism in 1831, and JJ Thomson announce the existence of the fundamental particle later called the electron in 1897.  Even Charles Darwin has sat in the audience of the Theatre, and in 1872, the poet Lord Tennyson watched a lecture by William Henry Preece, featuring the first UK demonstration of a phonographic recording which included a recording of one of Tennyson’s poems as well as the first demonstration of a telephone. Indeed the Royal Institution has been associated with 14 Nobel prize winners!

Over 25,000 lectures have been delivered here in our Mayfair venue to audiences from current science professionals to the scientists of tomorrow, inspiring future generations. Now with seating for up to 400 it is home to our public lectures and discourses and is also available for corporate venue hire ideal for conferences, lectures and presentations. Included in the auditorium hire, you'll have access to our in-house audio-visual equipment with a dedicated technician on-hand to support your needs. The Theatre's steep rake and precise design ensures every guest has a perfect view and that the speaker feels close to the attendees, creating an engaging atmosphere.

Bring your guests to one of the most prestigious venues in Central London, brimming with scientific heritage and elegant Mayfair charm and available to hire from up to 400 people day or evening.