The History of Notre Dame's London Global Gateway.

The University of Notre Dame has had a presence in London since 1968 when the Law School opened a study abroad program in the city for its students. Notre Dame’s position in London was consolidated in 1981 with the acquisition of larger accommodation in Albermarle Street in Mayfair, enabling the Colleges of Arts & Letters, Business Administration, and Engineering to develop their own programs in London as well. The steady expansion of these programs created demand for more space, and so in July 1998 the University moved into new premises at 1 Suffolk Street in St James’s.

1906 illustration of the building

 

The first building on this site was erected in 1823 to provide accommodation for the new United University Club, an exclusive gentlemen's club for members of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. As the club expanded larger premises were required, and so the entire property was re-built on a grander scale in 1906 according to the designs of the eminent Edwardian architect Reginald Blomfield. The need for further space resulted in the addition of an extension on the north side of the building in 1924 (once again under the supervision of Sir Reginald) and a smaller extension on the east side in 1939/40.

As with so many gentlemen's clubs in the period after World War Two, the fortunes of the UUC went into decline, and in 1971 is was forced to vacate its premises and amalgamate with the Oxford and Cambridge Club which occupied a building further down Pall Mall. Number One Suffolk Street was then taken over by the bankers Coutts & Co., who remained on site until 1980 when the British School of Osteopathy took up a new lease on the premises. Once again, however, the cost of maintenance in a difficult economic climate proved too much for the BSO and in June 1997 it was forced to relinquish the remainder of its lease.

Photograph of listed stairwell As a result of a generous bequest from Mr Charles Kennedy Fischer, a Trustee of the University, Notre Dame was able to take over the lease and initiate an extensive 10-month-long building project to refurbish 1 Suffolk Street. The plans included installing modern teaching facilities within the building, while at the same time sensitively restoring the interior to its former Edwardian grandeur. As a result, many of the original features of an elite gentlemen’s club remain, including a particularly fine central staircase which merits “Listed Building” status. The main reception rooms fronting Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street also retain many of their historic qualities such as mahogany doors and wainscoting, ornate marble fireplaces, and intricate ceiling mouldings.

The building opened for use in July 1998, and at a formal dedication ceremony in February 1999 the President of the University, Fr Malloy, officially named the building the Marian Kennedy Fischer Hall in memory of Mr Fischer’s late mother.

Fischer Hall is now a most worthy flagship building representing the presence of the University Notre Dame in the UK and indeed in Europe as well.

In August 2011, the University opened its second building in London, a residence building close to Waterloo Station in the South Bank area. The new hall is named in honor of Robert and Ricki Conway, and offers nearly 50,000 square feet of living space and contains a chapel, six common rooms, study space, laundry room and luggage storage. Conway Hall is another historic building, built in 1823 and originally used as an infirmary for indigent children, known at the Royal Waterloo House.