The tour starts off with Henry VIII having passed away, but his son Edward VI, who would have been the next in line to succeed him was too young to take the throne. Edward’s VI’s uncle, Edward Seymour, saw the opportunity and seized it. Edward Seymour named himself Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, with an aim to create a palace for himself. Renovations started to take place with graves being dug up and moved to Finsbury Fields as well as churches and chapels being knocked downed, which included some of St Paul’s Cathedral buildings. His choices led to him becoming very unpopular and ultimately led to him being stripped of his titles. He was arrested as well and was not charged. He left the old Gothic style moving towards the style of English Renaissance. In 1551, he was arrested again and was charged with felony.
Elizabeth I moved in once it was completed in 1553, but she mostly resided in the palaces of Whitehall or St. James’s. Somerset House became the Somerset House Conference, and was mainly used for apartments for the lodgers and for Elizabeth I’s council meetings.
Elizabeth’s death came at 1603, so was handed to the next successor who was James I of England and VI of Scotland. James had married Anne of Denmark, who was given Somerset House and renaming it to “Denmark House”. She had an affinity for English Dramaso she employed Indigo Jones for designing stage sets and Ben Johnson to create the stage plays. She too begun to reconstruct the building some of which followed from Jones’s stage designs such as building an extension.Charles I became king and married Henrietta Maria of France in 1625. Henrietta Maria begun remodelling and modernising for the French inhabitants. A Roman Catholic chapel was built on the construct. Civil War broke out which led to Somerset House becoming the headquarters for the parliamentary army. Henrietta Maria fled and Charles I was executed.
Charles II became king and moved into Somerset House as opposed to his wife, Catherine of Brazanga, who settled in Whitehall instead. When Charles II died, he had no children so essentially had no heir to succeed him. Catherine moved in to Somerset House.
When George III became king and Somerset House was then used for office space for clerks. The building was eventually given to the government who had the building flattened. William Chambers was given 2 year planning to get Somerset House back up and running but he had completed it within 3 months. Chambers studied Italian architecture and employed a lot of sculptures into the designs and avoided any use of greenery. Some of the sculpture can be seen on top of the North Wing from the courtyard of four figures representing the trades from African, America, Asia and Europe. Some of the sculptures found on the embankment side are of Mermen, sea monsters and sea-related images
With the new building, the Royal Academy was given a section what is now known as the North Wing and the government moved in next to them. The West Wing created separate sections for different apartments. The Tax Office moved into the West Wing. Another occupier was the General Register Office, where you the registry for births and deaths are found. Somerset House was opened to the public in 1990.There is a chance to see the Miles Stairs designed by architect EvA Jiřičná. The threads and landing are made entirely of ductal, which is a substance 1000 times stronger than concrete. Then heading the Navy’s quarters of Somerset House, there is a chance to compare the designs and age of both stairs. The final section of the tour explored the Deadhouse underneath the courtyard which had memorials. There are also rooms that used to hold coals which are still there. You can view the full height of Somerset House from this area.
There are other tours on offer such as the Old Palaces Tour on Tuesdays and Spotlight on Style Tours on ongoing exhibitions and displays on Wednesdays and Fridays.