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The Wellcome Foundation Ltd

16 December 2008. By Penny Bailey.

In 1924, Henry Wellcome consolidated his commercial and non-commercial activities under a single corporate umbrella - the Wellcome Foundation Ltd.

Henry Wellcome had many different various enterprises - research laboratories, archaeological digs, a museum, a library and a pharmaceutical company. Towards the end of his life, he wanted to bring the different strands together under a single administration.

The Wellcome Foundation Ltd and the Wellcome Research Institute (later renamed the Wellcome Building) were both part of this drive for consolidation.

Wellcomeville

At the start of the 20th century, Wellcome had suggested the idea of housing the Wellcome Chemical Works (his company's drug production plant in Dartford, Kent) and research laboratories, along with accommodation for his employees in one location to form a 'live-work community'.

A plan of the site, termed Wellcomeville, was drawn up in 1911. It shows the Chemical Works and research laboratories alongside cottages, and a clubhouse, sports field and park for staff. It was probably to be located on the site of the drug production plant and surrounding land in Dartford.

The plan never left the drawing board, however, and Wellcome's production plant and research laboratories were never united on the same plot of land during his lifetime.

Wellcomeville - the plans for a ‘live-work community’.

The Wellcome Foundation Ltd

In January 1924, Henry Wellcome registered the Wellcome Foundation Ltd as a private holding company, which would coordinate and control all his diverse interests.

Burroughs Wellcome & Co. was subsumed into the Wellcome Foundation Ltd, and all the principal overseas branches were incorporated as separate private companies, owned by the Wellcome Foundation Ltd. The museums and laboratories likewise became assets of the holding company.

The headquarters of the Wellcome Foundation Ltd remained at Snow Hill, Holborn (formerly the administrative offices of Burroughs Wellcome & Co.). Henry Wellcome remained the sole shareholder and Governing Director of the Foundation, and used the dividends from the profits to pay for his non-commercial activities.

The Wellcome Research Institution

Although he had now united his different enterprises under one administrative body, his laboratories, museums, library and production plant were still scattered across London, Beckenham and Dartford. In the 1920s, Wellcome therefore searched for a building to house some of his activities under one roof.

In 1930 he bought a site on Euston Road, London, and the foundation stone for the Wellcome Research Institution (renamed the Wellcome Building in 1955) was laid in 1931.

The building was completed in 1932, and the Bureau of Tropical Scientific Research, the Museum of Medical Science, the Historical Medical Museum and the Chemical Research Laboratories were moved in.

However, during World War II the headquarters of the Wellcome Foundation Ltd at Snow Hill were destroyed by bombs and re-housed in the Wellcome Research Institution - occupying space intended for the display of Wellcome's museum items - and the Chemical Research Laboratories moved back to Beckenham.

Having consolidated his different interests under the umbrella of the Foundation and within the Wellcome Research Institution, Henry Wellcome spent the last years of his life planning for the continuation of all his interests after his death.

Sir Henry Wellcome (second from right) and the architect Septimus Warwick (second from left) inspecting stonework for the new Wellcome Research Institution building on Euston Road, 1931.
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