William Godwin's Diary


Somerset House is located on the south side of the Strand, and faces out onto the Thames. It was built on the site of the old palace of this name, officially the residence of the queen consort, which dated from 1549. This palace was dilapidated and, following an act of Parliament, was demolished in 1775 to make way for a new public building. The new building was erected in a number of stages and was largely completed by 1801, with the majority designed by the architect Sir William Chambers. Somerset House housed a number of departments and learned societies, including the Society of Antiquaries, from 1780 the Royal Society, and the Geological Society of London. It also housed a number of Public Offices, including the Navy Board, the Duchy of Cornwall Office, and the Stamp Office. Its most widely recognised role as home to the Royal Academy of Arts from 1780-1836. Godwin’s earliest recorded visit to Somerset House was in 1808.