Biography

The Commonwealth Institute was an educational and cultural organisation promoting the Commonwealth of Nations that was based in Kensington, London. It was established, as the Imperial Institute, by royal charter from Queen Victoria in 1888 on Imperial Institute Road (now Imperial College Road). Its name was changed to the Commonwealth Institute in 1958 and it moved to Kensington High Street in 1962. By statute, the operations were the responsibility of a Minister of State from 1902 to 2003 and the property occupied for the purposes of the Institute, and of the same name, was held separately by Trustees as a charity asset. In 1999, prior to the end of the statutory regime, arrangements were made for both the property and the operations to be transferred to a company limited by guarantee also called the Commonwealth Institute. The members were the representatives to the United Kingdom of all countries of the Commonwealth, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on behalf of Her Majesty's Government (HMG), the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and four independent UK citizens.

The organisation in corporate form proved not to be viable and in 2002 the members resolved to close the operations and sell the property which was too costly for the charity to maintain. Following this it was put into liquidation and the net proceeds were vested by the members of the company in a successor registered charity, The Commonwealth Education Trust which is now based at New Zealand House in Central London. The property on Kensington High Street closed in 2004 and the name Commonwealth Institute is no longer associated with it. After an £80 million redevelopment the site became the home of the Design Museum, opening in late 2016.

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