History of the Building

The RUSI building sits on the very site of what was Henry VIII's private bed chamber in the Tudor wing of old Whitehall Palace and adjoins the Banqueting House, the only part of the Palace to escape destruction by fire in 1698.

RUSI began its existence in Whitehall Court, but moved to a house in what was then known as Middle Scotland Yard in 1832. RUSI played its own small role in the history of Whitehall's development. The Institute's sites were time and again the objects of desire by various offices of state eager to expand their premises. That it still resides in Whitehall is largely down to the timely interventions of its Royal patrons. In 1845 it additionally acquired the remainder of a lease on an adjoining house in Whitehall Yard from Lord Stuart de Rothesay. This house, originally designed by Sir John Vanbrugh for his own use, had its appearance ridiculed by Jonathan Swift:

"One asks the watermen hard by Where may the Poet's Palace lie? Another of the Thames inquires If he has seen its gilded spires. At length they in the rubbish spy A thing resembling a goose pye."

The 'Goose Pie House' (together with the house behind) contained RUSI until the early 1890s and was located on the southeast corner of what has become the Old War Office Building, at the place where the statue to The Gurkha Soldier now stands in Horseguards Avenue. Once it became clear that the Commissioners of Woods intended to clear the site in preparation for the new War Office, many suggestions came forward within the Government and Civil Service for new premises (a site in Jermyn Street was particularly favoured by those seeking to remove RUSl from Whitehall). In the end, Queen Victoria graciously allowed the Institute the use of the Banqueting House. Following the disastrous reception of initial plans by RUSI to partition the interior of the Banqueting House (among other protests, a petition was signed by most of the leading architects of the day), it was decided to build the present RUSI building, which was opened with much fanfare in 1895.

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