Society of Antiquaries of London
The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) is a learned society
Learned society
A learned society is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline/profession, as well a group of disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honor conferred by election, as is the case with the oldest learned societies,...

 "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House
Burlington House
Burlington House is a building on Piccadilly in London. It was originally a private Palladian mansion, and was expanded in the mid 19th century after being purchased by the British government...

, Piccadilly
Piccadilly is a major street in central London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is completely within the city of Westminster. The street is part of the A4 road, London's second most important western artery. St...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 (a building owned by the UK government), and is a registered charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...



Members of the Society are known as Fellows and are entitled to use the post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...

 FSA after their names. Fellows are elected by existing members of the Society. Fellowship is regarded as recognition of significant achievement in the heritage field.

The first secretary for the society was William Stukeley
William Stukeley
William Stukeley FRS, FRCP, FSA was an English antiquarian who pioneered the archaeological investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, work for which he has been remembered as "probably... the most important of the early forerunners of the discipline of archaeology"...


The Society has grown to more than 2,700 Fellows.

History and antecedents

A precursor organisation, the College (or Society) of Antiquaries, was founded circa 1586 and functioned largely as a debating society until it was forbidden to do so by King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 in 1614.

The first informal meeting of the modern Society of Antiquaries occurred at the Bear Tavern on The Strand
Strand, London
Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. The street is just over three-quarters of a mile long. It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length...

 on 5 December 1707. This early group, conceived by John Talman
John Talman
John Talman was a British antiquary and art collector. He was the eldest son of William Talman and his wife Hannah. From 1709 to 1717 he toured in Italy, collecting antiquities, becoming friends with the antiquarian pope Clement IX and enjoying the freedom to practice his Catholicism...

, John Bagford
John Bagford
John Bagford was a British antiquarian, writer, bibliographer, ballad-collector and bookseller.-Life:...

 and Humfrey Wanley
Humfrey Wanley
Humfrey Wanley was a librarian, palaeographer and scholar of Old English, employed by manuscript collectors such as Robert and Edward Harley. He was the first keeper of the Harlein Library, now the Harleian Collection.-Life:...

, sought a charter from Queen Anne for the study of British antiquities; its projected ventures included a series of 35 books to be issued. The proposal for the society was to be advanced by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, but his dismissal from government caused it to become idle.

The formalisation of proceedings occurred in 1717, the first minutes at the Mitre Tavern, Fleet Street
Fleet Street
Fleet Street is a street in central London, United Kingdom, named after the River Fleet, a stream that now flows underground. It was the home of the British press until the 1980s...

, are dated 1 January 1718. Those attending these meetings examined objects, gave talks and discussed theories of historical sites. Reports on the dilapidation of significant buildings were also produced. The society was also concerned with the topics of heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

, genealogy
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 and historical documents.

In 1751, a successful application for a charter of incorporation was sought by its long-serving vice president Joseph Ayloffe
Joseph Ayloffe
Sir Joseph Ayloffe, 6th Baronet FRS F.S.A. was an English antiquary.-Life:He was the great-grandson of Sir William Ayloffe, 1st Baronet, through his third wife , their first son was Joseph Ayloffe, of Gray's inn...

, which allowed the society to own property.

They had begun to gather large collections of manuscripts, paintings and artefacts, housing such gifts and bequests while a proper institution for them did not exist. The acquisition of a large group of important paintings in 1828 preceded the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery, London by some 30 years. A gift of Thomas Kenwich, which included portraits of Edward IV, Mary Tudor and two of Richard III, reveal anti-Tudor bias in their later portrayal.

In 2007, the Society celebrated its Tercentenary with an exhibition at the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

 named Making History: Antiquaries in Britain 1707-2007. The tricentennial year recognises the first, less formal meetings.


The Society maintains a large archaeological and cultural heritage library. The catalogue include rare drawings and manuscripts, such as the Domesday book and the inventory
Inventory of Henry VIII of England
The Inventory of Henry VIII of England compiled in 1547 is a list of the possessions of the crown, now in the British Library as Harley Ms. 1419....

 of all Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

's possessions at the time of his death.


The Society publishes Archaeologia and Antiquaries Journal "international journals of record". The Antiquaries Journal (1921 to present), is known as Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The Society also publishes and a fortnightly online newsletter called Salon (Society of Antiquaries Online Newsletter).

Early publications included the talks given at the meetings, and engraved views and reproductions; these were issued to members as single issues and were collected for the volumes of series Vetusta Monumenta
Vetusta Monumenta
Vetusta Monumenta is the title of a published series of illustrated antiquarian papers on ancient buildings, sites, and artefacts, mostly those of Britain, published at irregular intervals between 1718 and 1906 by the Society of Antiquaries of London...

from 1718. These volumes were published until 1906, giving an encyclopaedic arrangement of exquisitely engraved views and details to accompany the descriptions.

An engraver was employed by the society since its inception—the earliest were George Vertue
George Vertue
George Vertue was an English engraver and antiquary, whose notebooks on British art of the first half of the 18th century are a valuable source for the period.-Life:...

, James Basire
James Basire
James Basire , also known as James Basire Sr., was an English engraver. He is the most significant of a family of engravers, and noted for his apprenticing of the young William Blake....

 and successors—labouring to produce the copperplate used in the printing of the folio editions. The prints were often large and appealing, and were intended to satisfy popular demand for archæological subject matter; their quasi-scientific illustrations were often inset with multiple viewpoints of architectural details. A fellow of the society, Richard Gough
Richard Gough (antiquarian)
Richard Gough was an English antiquarian.He was born in London, where his father was a wealthy M.P. and director of the British East India Company. In 1751 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he began his work on British topography, published in 1768...

 (director 1771 to 1791), sought to expand and improve publication of the society's research, motivated by the steady dilapidation of examples of Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....


A later series of oversize issues was used to accommodate the format of some historical works, which the Society had commissioned to be reproduced by Edward Edwards
Edward Edwards (painter)
Edward Edwards was an English painter.-Life:Edwards, the elder son of a chairmaker and carver, who had come from Shrewsbury, and settled in London, was born in London 7 March 1738. He was a weakly child, with distorted limbs, and remained of very small size all his life...

 and Samuel Hieronymus Grimm
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm was an 18th century Swiss topographical artist who worked in oils , watercolours, and pen and ink media.-Life and work:...

 in water-colour in 1771; the first issues of these were mostly done by Basire. The first of these with a reproduction of a 16th century oil painting of the historic scene at the Field of the Cloth of Gold
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The Field of Cloth of Gold is the name given to a place in Balinghem, between Guînes and Ardres, in France, near Calais. It was the site of a meeting that took place from 7 June to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting was arranged to increase...

. The paper for this series required a larger size than was available, the manufacturer James Whatman
James Whatman (papermaker)
James Whatman , the Elder, was a paper maker, born in Kent, who made revolutionary advances to the craft in England. He is noted as the inventor of wove paper , an innovation used for high quality art and printing...

 was instructed to create a sheet 31 x 53 inches; the name given to this format is 'Antiquarian'. The engraving of the plate, measuring 4ft 1in by 2ft 3in, required two years to complete. The standard printing for this series was 400 prints; the plates were carefully stored by the society and used occasionally to fulfill later requests; only three of the seven plates still exist.


The Society of Antiquaries has two societies to which Fellows may belong. The older of these is the Cocked Hat Club (founded 1852), and the younger (founded 1908) the Essay Club. The two clubs are rivals of sorts. Bernard Nurse noted that, "the Essay Club does not go in for the strange rituals that still persist in the Cocked Hats".

The Cocked Hat Club was thus named because a cocked hat is placed before the President during meetings. The Club's first meeting was held on 3 January 1852 at the house of W. R. Drake. The Club then met at the Albion, Drury Lane
Drury Lane
Drury Lane is a street on the eastern boundary of the Covent Garden area of London, running between Aldwych and High Holborn. The northern part is in the borough of Camden and the southern part in the City of Westminster....

, until 1885, thereafter at the Holborn Restaurant.

The Essay Club got its name from the initial letters "SA" for "Society of Antiquaries".

External links

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