South Kensington

21 Cromwell Road


Following recommendations from the Lee-Warner Committee that met in 1907 to inquire into the position of Indian students in the UK, the Secretary of State decided to find a building that would house various organizations concerned with Indian students to provide a focal point for visitors to London.

A detached corner house was found at 21 Cromwell Road, opposite the Natural History Museum and near to the Imperial Institute and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was rented by the India Office. The National Indian Association, the Northbrook Society and a newly-created Bureau of Information for Indian Students were all housed in this building in August 1910. However, the costs of renting rooms in the building soon became high. This was regarded as one of the reasons for the financial decline of the National Indian Association by the end of the decade.

The building was used for 'at homes', lectures, meetings and soirees by the National Indian Association. It provided newspapers and recreational activities such as billiards for British and Indian visitors to the Northbrook Society. A number of rooms were provided by the Northbrook Society for short-term lodging by Indian students - primarily for Indians when they first arrived in the country, before they were able to make other arrangements. The Educational Advisor met Indian students and provided them with advice about courses, degrees and lodgings in the UK.

Date began: 
01 Aug 1910
Key Individuals' Details: 

Thomas Arnold (Educational Advisor), E. J. Beck (Honorary Secretary of NIA).

Archive source: 

Indian Magazine and Review 476 (August 1910); 477 (September 1910)

The Times, 2 June and 27 September 1910, 21 January 1911

NIA minutes, Mss Eur F147/10-11, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras 

See references to 21 Cromwell Road in 'Passage to Oxford', K. P. S. Menon papers, Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi


South Kensington
London, SW5 0SD
United Kingdom

The Imperial Institute


The idea to build the Imperial Institute originated in the late 1870s with the idea to build a permanent Empire museum or exhibition in London. An Indian Museum (of art objects) was opened at South Kensington in 1880, and then following the success of the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition the Prince of Wales enlisted the colonial representatives in a scheme to perpetuate the exhibition for the celebration of the Queen's approaching Jubilee.

The building was designed by T. E. Colcutt. The foundation stone was laid by the Queen in July 1887 and the official opening by the Queen took place on 10 May 1893 in a temporary hall as the Great Hall was not completed. Initially under Central Government control, the management of the Institute was transferred to the Colonial Office in 1907 and then to Department of Overseas Trade in 1925. The Institute provided information about trade and the buildings were used for a number of events. It housed a number of departments and exhibition galleries were used to promote trade and research. The building was also used to host overseas visitors. It was at the Imperial Institute that the National Indian Assocation held their 'At Home' event on 1 July 1909 at which Sir Curzon-Wyllie was assassinated by Madan Lal Dhingra.

In the 1950s, parts of the buildings were demolished for the expansion of Imperial College. The Institute was renamed the Commonwealth Institute in 1958 and moved to Holland Park in 1962.

Published works: 

Imperial Institute Journal

Imperial Institute: Report of Progress from the Date of its Establishment to the 26th Nov. 1892, etc (London: Waterlow & Sons, 1892)

Imperial Institute, 1887-1956 (London: Commonwealth Institute, 1956)

Leckey, William E. H., The Empire, its Value and Growth: An Inaugural Address delivered at the Imperial Institute (London: Longmans, 1893)

The Year Book of the Imperial Institute : A statistical record of the resources and trade of the colonial and Indian possessions of the British empire (London: Executive Council, 1892-1895)

Secondary works: 

Golant, William, 'Image of Empire, the early history of the Imperial Institute, 1887-1925' (Exeter: University of Exeter, 1984) [Pamphlet]

Mackenzie, John M., 'The Imperial Institute', The Round Table 76.302 (1987), pp. 246-53

MacKenzie, John M., Propaganda and Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984)

Sheppard, F. H. W., 'Imperial Institute', Survey of London: volume 38: South Kensington Museums Area (1975), pp. 220-7

Date began: 
04 Jul 1887
Archive source: 

Royal Archives, Windsor


United Kingdom

E. J. Beck


E. J. Beck was Honorary Secretary of the National Indian Association from 1905. She was the younger sister of Theodore Beck, Principal of the Mahomedan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh, and lived in India with him when he was Principal. After his death, she returned to London and became involved in the National Indian Association. On the death of E. A. Manning in 1905, Miss Beck became Honorary Secretary. She did not however edit its organ, The Indian Magazine and Review, for long, and employed Miss A. A. Smith to take on editorial duties. Beck was present at the NIA event at the Imperial Institute at which Madan Lal Dhingra assassinated Sir Curzon-Wyllie and was called as a witness to Dhingra's trial. She retired in 1932 and The Indian Magazine and Review stopped printing.

She died in Allahabad on 1 January 1936 while on a tour of India to visit friends. Cornelia Sorabji was in Allahabad at the time and recounted the last days of Miss Beck for the NIA.


Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Ali, Theodore Beck (brother), Sir Curzon-Wyllie, Madan Lal Dhingra, Elizabeth Adelaide Manning, Sarojini Naidu, Miss A. A. Smith, Cornelia Sorabji, Mrs J. D. Westbrook.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Daily Telegraph (interview about Curzon-Wyllie murder, 3 July 1909)

Precise DOB unknown: 

The Times, 4 and 15 January 1936 (obituaries)

Archive source: 

Special Issue: Commemoration of Miss E. J. Beck, The Indian Magazine and Review, March 1936, Mss Eur F147/23, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

NIA minutes (1905-29), Mss Eur F147/9-14, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

Present at murder of Sir Curzon-Wyllie at Imperial Institute, 1 July 1909

Other names: 

Emma Josephine Beck

Miss Beck

Jessie Beck

Date of death: 
01 Jan 1936
Location of death: 
Allahabad, India
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