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Founders Building - the heart of the college

Founders NW 450pxThe Founders building is the heart of the College. As soon as you enter the grounds through the main gates it strikes you in all its glory. Many alumni were struck by it when they arrived for their interview or when they first started their course and spent many hours in it during their student days.

It has its own section in the top menu of the site and also appears in the 'Hall of Residence' section.

When Founders was first built it was, and still remains, a multipurpose building with multiple functions.

  • the administrative centre for the University
  • the location for a high proportion of lectures and seminars
  • the main meeting room
  • Picture Gallery
  • Health Centre
  • Chapel
  • Student Union offices
  • A women's hall of residence

There were reported hauntings on some of the upper floors and the clock tower always let you know that time was passing.

In the 70s the accommodation rooms and offices all had working gas fires which were ideal for toasting crumpets or just for creating a cosier atmosphere. These days the fire regulations mean that there are no gas fires any more and any alarm guarantees the arrival of several fire engines within minutes.

The construction of the building began in 1874, and was completed in 1881. The building and the college were a £600,000 "gift to the nation" by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Holloway. It was designed by the architect William Henry Crossland, and inspired by the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley, France.

The building was officially opened in 1886 by Queen Victoria, who allowed the use of "Royal" in the college's name by Royal mandate. A statue of Queen Victoria sits in the centre of the north quadrangle. The centre of the south quadrangle contains a statue of Thomas Holloway and his wife Jane. The marble statues were sculpted by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Count Gleichen).

Founders quad 450pxThe Founder's Building houses the Picture Gallery, containing a collection of over 70 pieces of Victorian era art given to the college at the time of its founding by Thomas Holloway. The college's Main Lecture Theatre, non-denominational chapel, and one of three libraries on the RHUL campus are also housed within the building.

Today, the offices of the Department of Politics and International Relations, the Department of Classics and some offices of the School of Management are housed in the building, while other academic departments of the college are located in more modern buildings on the college's campus. Many of the college's main administrative offices remain within the Founder's Building. It is also a Hall of Residence for the campus, with rooms for over 470 students. A bar within the building is named "Crosslands" in honour of its architect.

It is the one aspect of the College that has remained most similar from outside - and inside, at first glance, but subtle changes in many areas have been made to make it more comfortable, more secure and more capable to deliver the facilities required by the student population today.



 The beautiful gilded chapel includes sculptures by Ceccardo Fucigna and a fine 3-manual organ. The Chapel is non-denominational and there are a variety of services and events held including Choral Evensong from the 1662 prayerbook, Compline and Catholic masses, with music usually playing a central role. Royal Holloway is also the only university that still maintains a tradition of sung morning services.

Picture Gallery

The Collection of paintings was to provide an essential element for the fulfilment of Holloway's ideal of a first-rate educational establishment. The importance he placed on the Collection illustrates a typically Victorian belief in art as the ultimate civilizing influence. Like literature, art could teach; not only in the obvious sense of portraying a moral lesson, or illustrating an edifying text; but, in its own unique and inimitable way, through the medium of visual beauty. A picture collection of the first quality would add the ultimate refinement to a programme of education for young ladies.

Heedless of cost, and using the only criterion he understood — his own judgement — Holloway made his selection, with the aid of his brother-in-law George Martin, almost exclusively from Christie's sales' catalogues.

Quads and Statues

The quads were typically those places you passed through when travelling from one part of Founders to another but they also provided a venue for the occasional event such as a poetry reading or summer tea.