In 1907, the Royal College of Science, the Royal School of Mines and the City & Guilds College were combined to form Imperial College London. It continues to be a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial is committed to developing  the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines, noteably in the STEMB subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Business. 

For more information about Imperial College London, visit our About page or explore the campus on our Tourist Information page

About Imperial

The Queen's Tower

Queen's Tower Visible across London, the Queen's Tower is at the heart of Imperial's South Kensington campus.


The Queen's Tower is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. The Imperial Institute was established by Royal Charter for the purpose of carrying out research into the resources and raw materials of the Empire and to provide a meeting place for overseas visitors. It was administered by a Governing body with the then Prince of Wales as President.

The Imperial Institute was designed by T E Collcutt in the neo-renaissance style. It was 700 feet long with a central tower (the Queen's Tower) and smaller towers at the east and west ends. It contained a library, laboratories, conference rooms and exhibition galleries with gardens at the rear. Construction work took six years and the Institute was opened in 1893.

From the outset, the Institute was not a great success and in 1899, the University of London took over half of the building as administrative offices. This arrangement continued until 1936 when they moved to their present site in Bloomsbury.

Between 1902 and 1953, the Imperial Institute was the subject of various committees of enquiry and changes of administration. At various times the Board of Trade, the Colonial Office, the Department of Overseas Trade and Ministry of Education all ran the Institute. In 1953 the government announced the scheme for the expansion of Imperial College and by 1956 it was public knowledge that this would involve the demolition of the Imperial Institute.

There was considerable opposition to this from the Royal Fine Arts Commission and other bodies, as a result of which it was decided to retain the central tower.

Partial demolition began in 1957. In 1958, the Imperial Institute changed its name to the Commonwealth Institute and in 1962 it moved to its present buildings in Holland Park. The main demolition work could then begin and this continued until 1967.

Between 1966 and 1968, work was carried out to enable the central tower to stand on its own. This involved creating massive foundations and then substantially rebuilding the lower portion of the tower.

The Queen's Tower has since been in the custody of Imperial and can be seen from various points around London.

Points of interest

The Queen's Tower is 287 feet tall, clad in Portland stone and topped by a copper covered dome. There are 324 steps from the ground to the base of the dome. Much of the route to the top is via narrow spiral staircases.

Entrance area

Near the entrance to the tower are two large stone lions. These are two of the four lions which flanked the entrance to the Imperial Institute. The other two are now at the Commonwealth Institute in Holland Park.

On the lower staircase walls is a display of terracotta medallions commemorating famous scientists. The building used to house a marble statue of Queen Victoria. Commissioned by London University in 1888 to mark the Golden Jubilee, it remained there when the University administration moved to Bloomsbury in 1936. The statue was moved to Imperial's Main Entrance in the late twentieth century.

Water tank

Half way up the Tower one can see the remnants of the water tank for the Imperial Institute. The tank itself has gone but the massive compound beams which supported it remain.


The belfry contains the Alexandra Peal of bells, the peal consists of 10 bells and is named after Alexandra, the Princess of Wales. The bells were a gift to the Prince of Wales from Mrs Elizabeth M Millar of Melbourne, Australia in 1892. Each bell is separately named after members of the Royal family - Queen Victoria, her three sons, her daughter-in-law Alexandra and her five Wales grandchildren.

Viewing gallery

The viewing gallery presents an unrivalled panorama of London. The absence of tall buildings in the vicinity of the Tower means that there is an uninterrupted view of London in all directions. It is estimated that the furthest visible point is 20 miles away in good viewing conditions. The Tower is not open to the public at present.

The dome

The internal wooden structure of the dome is an interesting example of Victorian craftsmanship. On the upper stone cornice are inscribed the names of those who built the tower and an inscription which reads:

"The stones on this top cornice of the Queen's Jubilee tower were fixed on the 17th day of November 1892 by the persons whose names appear on them and who have all been closely associated with the work from its commencement."


Facts and figures

  • Imperial is home to 14,700 students and 8,000 staff.
  • Over 6100 degrees are awarded by Imperial College London every year.
  • We are an international community, attracting undergraduates from more than 125 countries.
  • The College focuses on the four main disciplines of science, engineering, medicine and business and is renowned for its application of these skills to industry and enterprise.
  • Imperial holds a Silver Athena Swan award, which recognises advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine in academia.

170 Queen's Gate

170 Queen's Gate Norman Shaw designed this house for Frederick Anthony White, a wealthy cement manufacturer and amateur of art and architecture. It was completed in 1889. The initials of the first owner and his wife may be seen on the rainwater heads on the south façade, and the White family crest forms part of the decoration of the front door. Mr White seems to have been very proud of his house and issued a portfolio of photographs in the early nineties, with exterior and interior views of his home. "When Mr Fred White lived there, with all his beautiful things round him, [170] was one of the most attractive houses in London" wrote Sir Reginald Blomfield in his biography of Shaw.

Mr White sold his house in 1925 to the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, who lived there until about 1938, when he put it on the market. Imperial College made enquiries about a possible purchase but nothing came of this and the house was leased to the Secretarial Appointments Bureau for 21 years. The College became interested in the house again after the war, and its purchase was stated to be part of the College quinquennial policy for 1947-52. After some negotiation, the University Grants Committee offered to help to buy the house and the College became owner in 1947, with vacant possession in 1959. The lease of the occupiers, the London College of Secretaries, was in fact extended to 1960.

It was agreed that the house should be adapted for use by the Governing Body and the Senior Common Room, with provision for the Rector's Lodging and other staff accommodation. The consulting architect to the College, Sir Hubert Worthington, was at first in charge of these alterations, which were continued by Mr T W Sutcliffe and completed in 1962. Dame Sylvia Crowe designed the landscaping of the garden, the original southern boundary wall was moved, and some minor architectural features were changed.

Norman Shaw (1831-1912) was one of the most important English architects of the 19th century, specialising in town and country houses. 170 Queens Gate was scheduled as a building of special architectural or historic interest in 1958. It is generally agreed to be a very important example of English domestic architecture of its period.

170 Queen's Gate is avaialable to hire for weddings and conferences. Visit 170 Queen's Gate website to find out more. 

The College Crest

College Crest Imperial College London was assigned a coat of arms on 6 June 1908 by royal warrant. The motto is ‘Scientia imperii decus et tutamen’which can be translated as Scientific knowledge, the crowning glory and the safeguard of the empire’

The College arms are simple, confined to a shield, and display the Royal Arms together with a book representing knowledge.

The College’s coat of arms is an important part of the graphic identity of Imperial College London. It is reserved for uses which promote the heritage and history of the College, such as degree certificates, invitations to formal College events, and sports team apparel and merchandise.

Coats of arms find their origins in the twelfth century and since then have been borne as marks of identification by both individuals and corporates. Corporate bodies that bear arms must be well-established, of sound financial standing, and be leading or respected bodies in their respective fields. The organisation which bears arms can be incorporated by Act of Parliament, by Royal Charter, or under the Companies Acts. 

Our history

Discover some of the definitive moments, scientific advances and great individuals from Imperial's history.