The College transformed with a new vision

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The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) has opened its new headquarters in London on 12 July 2021. The College’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields building has been transformed from a sprawling warren of corridors, built in the aftermath of WWII, to a state-of-the-art training centre for future generations of surgeons and dental professionals.

The redevelopment retains the historic frontage designed by Palace of Westminster architect Sir Charles Barry, whilst the rear focuses on being high-tech and environmentally sustainable, reflecting the College’s changing functions as a home for surgical excellence in the UK and across the world. Central to the building’s makeover, are the state-of-the-art learning, examinations, and event facilities, including the Professional Surgical Centre. This is complemented by the Lumley Library, contemporary meeting rooms, members’ areas, Surgical Speciality Association facilities, office zones, and a new public entrance and café’.

The College is also launching The View, a modern, light, and flexible space for meetings, conferences, weddings, and parties. The View boasts beautiful views over the city, and a terrace for guests to enjoy on summer evenings. The Hunterian Museum, which is also housed in the College and is a popular destination for tourists, will reopen in early 2023.

The Hunterian Museum, which will re-open in early 2023, benefits from a new façade and entrance on the south side of Portugal Street. The museum will be expanded to occupy most of the ground floor. It will tell the story of surgery, giving the public access to John Hunter’s seminal anatomical collections, through seven linked halls and galleries, culminating in an exhibition which celebrates modern surgery and patients’ stories.

The new modern building is more environmentally sustainable; replacing poorly performing post-war elements to meet modern environmental standards. A highly insulated and airtight envelope ensures thermal and energy efficiency, combined with improvements in building services, energy use, ventilation, and the internal environment. Photovoltaic panels provide a sustainable energy source on the roof. There is space for 120+ cyclists to store their bikes, shower, and change, promoting active travel. The completed building achieves a BREEAM Excellent rating.

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Historic premises

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has its origins in the Company of Barber-Surgeons in 1540, under Henry VIII. In 1799 the government purchased the collection of John Hunter, the famous scientist and surgeon, and entrusted it to the surgeons. A Royal Charter was granted in 1800, and the Hunterian Museum opened in 1813. The original Lincoln’s Inn building was so badly built, it was thought to be in danger of collapsing. Following a public competition in 1833, Sir Charles Barry – who went on to design the Palace of Westminster – designed the tall columns of the listed portico and the library, which survive to this day.

The rest of Barry’s building was severely damaged in the Second World War, although fortunately the iconic statue of John Hunter emerged unscathed. It has been reinstated in the main reception area of the new building. Barry’s famous north frontage and library have also been preserved and restored.