Speech Room

Suitable For:

  • Civil Ceremony
  • Conference
  • Room Hire

Capacities:

  • Theatre Style - seats 500

Catering Options

We do not offer food or drink inside Speech Room (unless hired for that specific purpose), but provide interval refreshments and coffee breaks in the adjacent War Memorial Building. We are able to provide coffee breaks for up to 350, or standing receptions for up to 250 people. The Chapel Terrace is also close to Speech Room which provides an external outdoor reception space during the summer months.

Access

The Speech Room is accessed via a series of ramps through the adjacent War Memorial Building. Due to the nature of the building and its age, there are no dedicated wheelchair spaces, but provision can be made on the stage area for those needing wheelchair access. A Hearing Induction Loop is also installed in the Speech Room.

Technical

The Speech Room has a large projection screen, inbuilt Bose sound system, digital projector, DVD player, lectern, and microphones (both fixed and portable).

History

In 1871 the Governors and Head Master resolved to celebrate the tercentenary of John Lyon’s Charter by building a hall large enough to seat the whole School. The Head Master and Governors selected as architect William Burges, perhaps best known for his design for the restoration of Cardiff Castle. Burges was one of the greatest architects of the Victorian era, but his designs were often extravagant and strong disagreement arose over his plans for Speech Room. This caused a delay between the laying of the foundation stone in 1874 and the completion of the building in 1877. The final design was something of a compromise, not a characteristic for which Burges was renowned.

The building is semi-circular in shape, the east front being straight, following the line of the High Street. The exterior is of red brick with polychrome dressings but the two asymmetric towers were omitted from the original building. The north tower, by Sir Charles Nicholson, was added in 1919, thus realising Burges’s intentions. The south tower was to have been by far the higher of the two, but doubts arose as to the possibility of the foundations bearing the weight of the proposed structure, and this tower was not completed until 1925, when its plan was modified by Sir Herbert Baker to make it fit with the design of the War Memorial Building. On its completion the South Tower was given a bell to be used for summoning the School to Chapel as well as to Speech Room.

Internally the building is an amphitheatre, with steep tiered seating. The seats face a platform with two rows of choir stalls behind. The ceiling is of timber boarding, the central part flat, providing excellent acoustics. Beyond is an ingenious arrangement of vaulting supported on pointed arches on 14 paired columns, which follow the semi-circular shape of the building. The columns and arches are richly decorated in red, blue and gold. The principal windows to the auditorium are grand in scale, with semi-circular heads and an intricate design of arches and roundels. There is an organ whose console is in the well of the hall, the pipes being in the two towers.

In a niche in the external wall of the southern tower there is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I. She holds an orb and sceptre, finished in gold leaf. The statue, originally at Ashridge Park, was placed there in 1925.

Excerpt from ‘The Timeline History of Harrow School’ by Dale Vargas, available from the online shop.