Famous Feet: The Refurbishment of Swedenborg Hall

This summer, Swedenborg Hall will be undergoing a major refurbishment thanks to the Society’s enhancement programme. As part of a huge investment for the Society, the hall will be renovated and its usage expanded which will include the replacement of the carpet, marking the end of an era for the Swedenborg Society—and the beginning of a new one!


Swedenborg Hall has been in use since 1925, when it was built onto the back of Swedenborg House. This gracious, ground floor lecture room is designed in a grand, neoclassical style and can accommodate up to 100. The hall has hosted some spectacular events over the years, making the carpet an important part of the history of the Swedenborg Society.


The carpet was laid on 4 October 1963, bought from Maples the furniture retailer on Tottenham Court Road. An extra super sultana Axminster carpet, it has been a wonderful asset to the Society, a particularly resilient and durable purchase which has lasted until the present day.


The rug has witnessed many a famous presence in Swedenborg Hall, and countless dignitaries, academics, poets and writers have walked its surface. The carpet has even been graced by royalty in recent years—on 7 March 2012, Princess Michael of Kent visited the Society as part of a night put on by the Biographers Club. (Incidentally, her fellow royal, Princess Margaret, was discovered to be a reader of Swedenborg not long before this, her possession of a copy of Conjugial Love being noted when her library was auctioned in 2006.)


There have been stars of stage and screen, including José Carreras, the Spanish tenor known for his performances in the operas of Verdi and Puccini. Carreras has received the Bavarian Order of Merit, the Steiger Award and the St George Order of the Semperoper, and is renowned for launching his own international foundation after being diagnosed with leukemia.


Other famous people include the internationally acclaimed writer and literary critic A S Byatt, winner of the Booker Prize and the Irish Times Prize for International Fiction in 1990; the poet, essayist, writer and filmmaker Iain Sinclair; the poet and broadcaster Simon Armitage, one of our finest writers; and the internationally acclaimed ‘Sun Poet’ Homero Aridjis who used the hall for a bilingual rendition of his poetry in May 2012.


In addition to this the hall has also welcomed numerous Swedenborgians, both old and young, including former Society Trustees and Presidents, Church Ministers, Bishops and other individuals who have supported the Society with such dedication and generosity. In fact, with such an abundance of famous and familiar feet walking the carpet of Swedenborg Hall, it can be seen as a fitting memorial for the past fifty years’ of activity at the Society.


For a chance to have a fragment of this unique object, and also to celebrate its prominence in the history of the Swedenborg Society, we will be holding a fundraising event whereby sections of the carpet can be purchased. For our own archive we will have small sections framed, and for a modest donation similar framed sections will also be available for general sale.


Any proceeds raised from the sale will go directly towards the refurbishment of the hall, which in turn will help us to offer greater flexibility with more exhibitions, performances, film screenings, talks and lectures, including the expansion of the Society into a National Museum. The sale will take place during August, after which the carpet will be removed, giving way, no doubt, to new and equally exciting events, luminaries and famous feet.


More details will be posted soon. For further information please contact info@swedenborg.org.uk, or call 02074057986.


By Victoria Rood


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