Photo by Alice Marsh

The history of giving to the British School at Rome

The British School at Rome was founded over a hundred years ago by a group of visionaries who recognized the intimate historical and cultural relationship between Italy and Great Britain.

They also saw, quite literally while visiting Rome, that France and Germany had established research centres dedicated to the study of all things Italian, but the UK was noticeably absent, a situation they were to rectify in short order.

Our first home

Through a massive public relations campaign, one that wouldn’t look radically different from those of today, this small group of philanthropists launched the British School in 1901 in rented accommodation at Palazzo Odescalchi with a base of private support totalling £1200.
Original Library at Palazzo Odescalchi
In the first year, there were 4 students living and working in Rome (including future BSR Director, Thomas Ashby) and the presence of a British research community was firmly established.

Upwards and Onwards

Within fifteen years the British School at Rome established a permanent home, designed by Edwin Lutyens, on the edge of the Villa Borghese. The campaign relied on significant private support with a total of £60,000 being raised to construct the building which stands on the hill above the Valle Guilia today.

In addition to funds contributed by individuals, the UK government responded to thousands of petitionary signatures and established a grant that would underpin the basic operating costs of the BSR. This combination of state and private support has evolved and fluctuated over the past century with a constant theme throughout: during those times the State was unable to provide the BSR with the necessary resources, private funds somehow always found a way to fill the gap.

The 1990s saw an ambitious building and renovation campaign headed by tireless and resourceful volunteers who raised over £3 million pounds which enabled the BSR not only to expand its activities, but to significantly extend and improve its physical facilities.