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  • History

    The house in Tavistock Square as the BMA found it in 1923

    The Court of Honour with the newly installed Gates of Remebrance on the day of opening ceremony of BMA House, 13 July 1925

    The royal procession through the Court of Honour during the opening ceremony of BMA House, 13 July 1925

    Early stages in the construction of Wontner Smith's extensions for BMA House in 1929
    BMA House is home to the British Medical Association, the UK’s professional organisation for doctors. Founded by hospital physician Charles Hastings in Worcester in 1832, the Association created its first London headquarters in the 1870s and bought and redeveloped a range of buildings in and around the Strand in London’s West End.

    While the BMA was busy outgrowing its various HQs, the famous architect of Delhi’s redevelopment Sir Edwin Lutyens was designing a headquarters for the Theosophical Society – an organisation founded in New York in 1875 to promote the wisdom of God through all religions.

    The relationship between the Theosophists’s leading light (Mrs Annie Besant) and Lutyens was tempestuous and when the religious group ran out of money, the two parted company in 1914. Hasty completion of part of the building enabled the Ministry of Munitions of War to use the site. It was later considered as a possible new home for the Imperial War Museum before the lease was put up sale. So it was then the BMA took possession of an unfinished building in 1923 on a lease of 200 years.

    The BMA needed to bring the building up to standard and also planned to extend the building towards Tavistock Square and across the small rear garden, which Lutyens had planned. The garden area had been occupied by Tavistock House, whose 18 rooms had been the home of novelist Charles Dickens in the late 1850s.

    Escalating costs for the building, which had led Lutyens to fall out with the Theosophists, now had the same effect with the BMA. Consequently, over the next 40 years different architects and builders worked on extending and modernising the building – including Cyril Wontner Smith and Douglas Wood.

    Lutyens was re-engaged and in July 1925 BMA House was opened by King George V and Queen Mary (grandparents of our current Queen). Wrought iron gates in the courtyard – designed by Lutyens as a memorial to BMA members killed in the 1914-18 War were dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    In 1954 James Woodford designed the central courtyard fountain and its surrounding statues as a memorial to doctors killed in World War II.

    Increasingly, the BMA realised its needs were changing and were not being adequately met
    by the restrictions of the previous 80 years of growth and change.

    In 2006 HOK were appointed architects to oversee a radical plan to combine the best of Lutyens and his successors with the modern needs of the BMA’s members, staff, tenants and many outside users.

    The building had become more than just the national headquarters of a professional organisation with over 140,000 members. It is home to 200 other businesses and organisations and is hired for meetings, conferences, product launches and weddings throughout the year.

    HOK’s vision, was to preserve and restore the best of the old traditional designs in what is after all a Grade II listed building, but bring in modern techniques and modern facilities to make the building once again the showpiece it had originally been.