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The history of Savoy Place

The modern interior and architectural elements to the building have undergone frequent changes over the years to offer a fully functioning state-of-the-art event venue, but behind the façade of modernity and advanced technology lies an interesting history.

IET milestones

  • 1871: The IET began life as the Society of Telegraph Engineers. It was formed to address the concerns of an emerging profession and within a decade encompassed electrical science
  • 1889: It became the Institution of Electrical Engineers
  • 1909: The IEE purchases a lease for the Medical Examination Hall, Victoria Embankment, which becomes Savoy Place
  • 2006: The IEE and IIE merge to form the Institution of Engineering and Technology
  • 2009: The centenary of the IET at Savoy Place
  • 2015: Savoy Place reopened after an extensive refurbishment project
  • Today: Advancing and sharing knowledge about science, engineering and technology remains at the heart of the IET’s purpose.

The site

The area of the Savoy manor takes its name from Peter, Count of Savoy, who was given the land by Henry III in 1246. He built a palace on the site, but after his death in 1268, it was left to a hospice in France. His niece, Eleanor of Provence, Queen to Henry III, bought back the land and it was given to her son, Edmund Plantagenent. Successive Earls refurbished and extended the palace. During the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, the palace was burnt down and its contents destroyed.

In 1509, Henry VII left a substantial amount of money in his will to rebuild the Savoy Palace as a hospital, but mismanagement and corruption sent the hospital into decline and it eventually became a military barracks and a prison.

Following the construction of a German Lutheran Church on the grounds in the 18th century, this was subsequently destroyed to make way for the Victoria Embankment. Savoy Place as we know it was completed in 1889 as a joint examination hall for the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Surgeons, designed by Stephen Salter and H Percy Adams.

The building

In 1909, The Institution of Electrical Engineers bought the lease of Savoy Place and refurbished it to suit the needs of its 5,000 members.

In 1923, the newly formed British Broadcasting Company was offered space at Savoy Place for its broadcasts. The BBC extended into Savoy Mansions in 1925, just behind the main building which has since been bought by the IET and is now known as Savoy Hill House.

Adapting to the needs of modern-day events and recent members, 2013 saw the start of a major refurbishment project to become a more flexible, technologically advanced venue with sustainability and accessibility in mind.

The building re-opened in 2015 after a £30 million investment. Transformed from top to bottom, the venue now offers cutting-edge technology, inspiring event spaces, and a spectacular roof terrace overlooking London.

To find out more about the roots of your event venue, dig deep into the IET’s archives to uncover a rich history of technology, engineering, and innovation.