Save Burlington House

After over 150 years of continuous occupation of Burlington House, the Linnean Society faces being priced out of its London home because of unaffordable and rapidly rising rents.

We've been deeply moved by the messages of support from members, friends and the general public to further the Save Burlington House campaign. Please help us to continue these efforts by:

  • Supporting our programmes and activities to help us to achieve our charitable mission. Join us for our events, contribute to our publications, donate to our activities, and take the opportunity to visit us in Burlington House.
  • Raising awareness of our Society and our work with your networks, colleagues and friends. Talk to as many people as possible about the fantastic things we do, get more people involved in our work, nominate new Fellows, encourage people to sign up for our newsletters and join.
  • Writing to your local MP. If you don’t know who your MP is, you can find out, along with their email address here. Also, if by slim chance you also happen to know any other movers and shakers in government and can make some introductions, please also get in touch with us.

If you are based outside of the United Kingdom and would also like to support the campaign, please contact our campaign team who can provide instructions on request.

Campaign update (October 2023)

Since the launch of the campaign in November 2020, the Learned Societies have built a powerful coalition of support to allow them to remain at Burlington House, and we are now at a critical stage.

Our goal is to find an affordable, workable solution with HM Government to the untenable rents it is enforcing on the Learned Societies, securing their sustainable future and continuation of their valuable work.

In support of this objective, hundreds of Fellows have written to their Members of Parliament to ask for their support. We have also received strong support within scientific and cultural circles (in the UK and internationally), among the public, and across Westminster. This has compelled the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) - our landlord - to respond to our call for a solution to the rapidly escalating and unaffordable rents.

Current state of discussions

As a result, these discussions with DLUHC have focused on finding a lasting solution that recognises the unique value of keeping the Societies together. We have met with the responsible Ministers in the department and are in regular discussions with officials.

It is not possible to provide a running commentary. However, we are working hard to secure a new affordable arrangement that importantly does not impede investment in our charitable activities and programmes.

We acknowledge Government is seeking to ensure value-for-money for the taxpayer, and we believe there is a final position both sides should be able to agree upon. A successful outcome would replace the current rental mechanism which is causing an – unintended – rapid escalation in rents demands by Government, causing an increase of over 3000% over six years.

Through current discussions, we are determined to find a unique and sustainable solution that will:

  • Build on our current public engagement and outreach programmes to ensure the whole nation benefits from the activities conducted at Burlington House.
  • Support and facilitate the expansion of our scientific knowledge that will enable a world where nature is understood, valued and protected, and help ensure that we can meet the biggest challenges facing our planet today.
  • Maintain the UK’s world-leading position in the scientific understanding of nature, its management and conservation.

Campaign activities

  • The campaign has engaged with over 200 Parliamentarians through correspondence, online and in-person meetings. Parliamentarians are uniformly supportive and have played a key role in sustaining the campaign. In summer 2021, there was a to a Parliamentary debate on the subject in early June. (You can listen here (from 16.50) or read the transcript here.)
  • Multiple national and trade publications have covered the situation, including The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and BBC News with many posting about the issue on social media.
  • We have been delighted to welcome the support of leading public figures including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Brian Cox as well many supporting organisations.

Outlook

We hope that a solution can be found urgently before the Societies are forced out of our historical home due to rising rents.

We also look forward to a new era of life at Burlington House, where a wide range of people, from all walks of life, all over the country can benefit from not just the collections housed at Burlington House, but the discovery and innovation enabled through evidence-based policy making.

The background to the campaign

Papilio menelaus

After over 150 years of continuous occupation of Burlington House, the Linnean Society faces being priced out of its London home because of unaffordable and rapidly rising rents.

Finding an affordable solution with our landlord, the Government, is vital to secure the nationally and internationally recognised natural history collections, and our activities to inform, inspire and involve people of all ages and backgrounds about nature and its significance, for the benefit of economy and society, in the UK and beyond.

The Society’s home at Burlington House acts as an international hub for research, discovery and debate. It was purpose-built for the Society’s charitable activities and is a significant educational and historical resource for the nation. The first public presentation of the theory of evolution by natural selection was at a meeting at the Society in Burlington House. The Society continues to facilitate ideas that will help find solutions to the biggest challenges our society and the planet face today.

The Society has faced a rent increase of 3,000% over just six years and cannot, as a not-for-profit organisation, continue to pay rent escalating at this rate in the longer term.

In collaboration with the other Learned Societies at Burlington House, the Linnean Society has worked hard to engage with the landlord, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) over the past 8 years, but it has proved impossible to reach an agreement on terms that would secure our future at Burlington House alongside the other Learned Societies.

As a result, we have launched this public campaign as a final attempt to persuade the Government to take into account the £8.2 million in public value we contribute to the nation each year, and to work with us to find a mutually agreeable route forward.

An affordable and sustainable tenancy for the Linnean Society will help maintain the UK’s world-leading position in the scientific understanding of nature, its management and conservation. It will also help ensure that we can meet the biggest challenges facing our planet today.

The case for staying at Burlington House

Hercules beetle

The Linnean Society was founded in 1788 in honour of Carl Linnaeus, famous for his work in taxonomy, the science of naming, describing and classifying nature.

Much of this work still has fundamental, real and practical implications for today’s world.

The categorisation of nature enables us to identify baselines and track the impact of human activity on the environment around us, including food supplies, as we face the combined challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Burlington House has been refurbished and adapted to hold the Society’s many educational activities, safeguard its world-renowned and Arts Council England (ACE)-Designated heritage collections, and bring together academia and other enthusiasts about the natural world with a diverse public. It has enabled us to contribute evidence for policy-making, especially in relation to environmental impact assessments and the safeguarding of natural history collections, and continues to promote best practice in the sector through training.

The co-location of the Linnean Society of London, the Geological Society, and the Society of Antiquaries has allowed us to make significant contributions to the UK’s economy and society together over the last 150 years. We are asking the Government to help us to find an affordable arrangement that will enable the Linnean Society, and its neighbours to continue, and further enhance, the value delivered to the public each year from Burlington House.

The consequences of a forced move

Shell Murex trapezium

The Linnean Society faces a significant threat in the absence of a sustainable agreement for Burlington House. We do not have the capital to acquire an alternative space and would struggle to pay the higher rent it anticipated at Burlington House, or cover the costs of an alternative space in London.

The only affordable option may be to house the specimen collections and archives in storage facilities, effectively separating them from staff and users. This would significantly limit the Society's ability to deliver on its charitable objectives and threaten the value it generates for the UK:

  • Separate the Society from the international hub of research and discovery at Burlington House and threaten the UK’s position on the world-stage. Dispersal of the co-located learned societies, their collections, libraries and archives would inevitably limit the combined contributions made to research and discovery for both national and global benefit.
  • Diminish the Society’s network that supports its valuable work for the UK. The Society will lose its close ties to the other important biological and historical collections and associated research expertise in London (at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Natural History Museum, the Wellcome Trust and world-class universities such as Imperial College London and University College London), its political, diplomatic and media influence, and its international status as an awarder of medals and other awards for distinguished achievements in natural history.