Somerset House Trust
Somerset House Trust was established in July 1997 to conserve and develop Somerset House and the open spaces around it for the public, with the refurbishment of the South Building, the River Terrace and The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court as our main priority.
The catalyst for this ambitious project was the gift to the nation of the magnificent Gilbert Collection of gold, silver and mosaics, and the subsequent financial support provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the development of a new museum here to house these works of art.
From 2000 to 2007 the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House housed superb exhibitions of works of art on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and between 2000 and 2008 Somerset House was home to the Gilbert Collection.
The courtyard has proved to be a successful space for events with a variety of concerts and other outdoor performances planned for each summer. The courtyard also became the backdrop to the popular Somerset House Ice Rink during the Christmas and New Year period. When events are not being staged, The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, which is the first major public fountain scheme to be commissioned in London since 1845, has seen the courtyard transformed into one of the capital's most vibrant public spaces. The restoration of the Somerset House courtyard was recognised at the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust's Building of the Year Awards 2001, when Somerset House Trust; and architects Donald Insall Associates, and Jeremy Dixon / Edward Jones, were announced winners of the 'Public Space' category.
Following extensive restoration, the River Terrace opened to the public for the first time after more than 100 years in 2000, and provides the setting for a summer café. In addition, a restaurant, bar, deli and a shop feature on the ground floor of the South Building.
Elsewhere, displays can be found which explain the building and the intriguing story of the site, which has played a key role in the nation's history, including a cast of characters such as Protector Somerset himself, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), Queen Henrietta Maria, Oliver Cromwell and Admiral Nelson.
Access to Somerset House and its environs was greatly improved with the creation of two access points; one through the Great Arch from the Embankment, the other across a pedestrian ramp linking Somerset House to Waterloo Bridge. Together with the Strand entrance, these unlock public circulation around the site.
Somerset House is one of this country's finest and largest 18th century buildings and is of international importance to our architectural heritage. There are a growing number of reasons to visit Somerset House and we hope that you will have the opportunity to come along in person to discover the new focal point for cultural life in London.