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History of One Great George Street

Westminster address

The history of our events venue starts with the Westminster address and SW1 postcode. It is affectionately known as OGGS, short for One Great George Street or OGGSVenue by our Twitter and Facebook fans and followers.

The building, designed by James Miller, is the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the world's first professional engineering body.

The spread of government offices down Whitehall led to the compulsory purchase of the previous headquarters building in 1908 which was on part of the site where the Treasury building now stands. ICE was offered the freeholds of 1-5 Great George Street and £30,000 as compensation; ICE purchased 6-7 to enable construction of the current building with the north-west corner being completed in the 1930's once the freeholds of 8-9 Great George Street expired.

Monday 25th October 1910 marks the date the foundation stone was laid, followed by the building's opening on 4th November 1913. In 2010 we celebrated 100 years since our foundation stone was laid with a commemorative centenary time capsule and plaque. 

Historic building

This leading Westminster Collection conference, meetings, events and wedding venue was first Grade II listed on 26th July 1984. It is a magnificent, Edwardian building with rich neo-Palladian and Baroque interior.

The front and side elevation as well as entrance hall and area under the main dome are of Whitbed Portland Stone. It is a steel framed structure, the second to be erected in London after the Ritz hotel in 1905. This was made possible by the London Building Regulation changes in 1909.

Significant thought was given to the names of the function rooms and all have been dedicated in remembrance of eminent engineers with particular connection to the Institution or with engineering history.

Light and space throughout

Particular emphasis in the design was the desire to create the feeling of light and space throughout. This was achieved by the inclusion of four glass domes, installed over the entrance foyer and rotunda, the main staircase, the Presidents' staircase and in the Telford Theatre. (This depiction of the domes now forms the present day One Great George Street logo).

The founding of One Great George Street

The building was first used as a commercial conference, event and wedding venue in the early 1980's when it was hired for the filming of 'Reds' and 'Gandhi' released in 1981. The venue was then known as ‘The Civils Conference Centre' and launched as One Great George Street in 1991. Soon afterwards the first significant conference was hosted for the Association of Project Management. The first wedding was held in 1989 for a high profile politician's daughter.

Since then the building has continued to grow and develop to keep up with the times while maintaining its traditional foundation.

Refurbishments and Modernisation

The rooms on the ground and first floors have not changed and are still the main 'state' function rooms of One Great George Street. However the rooms on the lower ground floors, which were originally cloakrooms, administration areas and boiler rooms, underwent significant modernisation and redevelopment between 1987 and 1991 and in the early 2000s. During these times the Godfrey Mitchell Theatre, the Palmer, Rennie and Tredgold Rooms were added.

Recent changes include the renovation of the main kitchens and the installation of state-of-the-art catering equipment. Audio Visual facilities are constantly being updated; most recently fibre-optic cabling has been installed allowing for superfast Wi-Fi, plus other specific services such as dedicated bandwidths and static IP addresses.

Video steaming capabilities have been upgraded to provide a superior service and cope with growing demand. Sustainability and accessibility also continue to play a significant role in the constant improvement to One Great George Street; the building is fully accessible and has a unique platform lift with integrated steps allowing access via the main entrance.

War times

There are memorials around the building for civil engineers who fought and died during the First World War. The building was used for night-time fire watching on the roof during the Second World War. It was also hit a couple of times during the Blitz; fortunately both bombs burnt out before any damage could be done.

Historic, Royal and High Profile Events

The Smeatonians

John Smeaton was the first to label himself as a civil engineer and since his death in 1792 the Society has been known as the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. The Smeatonians - who include HRH The Duke of Edinburgh among its members – still meet at One Great George Street to this day.

Her Majesty The Queen

From the outset, emphasis was placed on the importance of constructing a prestigious building with large meeting and function rooms appropriate to hold important social functions, meetings and events. Many notable events have taken place here; The Queen visited in 1978 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the grant of the Institution’s first royal charter. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh sat his Royal Navy examinations in the Great Hall and in 1945 the signing of the charter establishing UNESCO also took place in that room.

Fashion shows and filming

As well as providing the preferred venue of choice for corporate and social events, One Great George Street also is used for numerous special events including fashion shows and filming.

The building has been used in a large number of feature films including Bridget Jones - Edge of Reason, Gandhi, Mr Bean and In the Loop, plus various TV series including: several episodes of Spooks, Foyles War, In Deep, Between the Lines and Kavanagh QC.

Exclusive building hire

Under certain conditions, the entire building is available for exclusive hire. The venue housed the London Media Centre during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for a three-month period.

Our historic Westminster venue continues to add to its history each day while we host and look after many visitors, clients as well as fellow employees and members of the Institution of Civil Engineers.