Clare Hall History

The Lincoln's Inn Fields (LIF) and Clare Hall (CH) laboratories were the principal research facilities of the former Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), prior to its amalgamation with the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) to form Cancer Research UK in 2002.

Clay Hall, as it was originally called, was built around 1745 by Thomas Roberts, a linen draper of St Albans who had bought a number of small properties and 40 acres of land in South Mimms. In 1750, this Manor was renamed Clare Hall.

Clare Hall served as a private residence until 1886, when its ownership passed to Teresa Southwell, who founded St. Monica's Priory, a Roman Catholic nunnery. After only 10 years, however, it was converted to a smallpox isolation hospital for patients living in central and north London. An additional single storey hospital was later built next to the Manor on the site of the present Clare Hall Laboratories, to cope with the overflow of smallpox cases. With the decline of smallpox, the hospital became a centre for treating tuberculosis and other thoracic cases, finally closing in 1974.

The buildings remained empty until 1980 when they were acquired by the ICRF to provide scientific laboratories and support services. The site was also used to house staff from the nearby ICRF Mill Hill laboratories, following the reversion of the lease of those laboratories to the Medical Research Council.

The Clare Hall laboratories were officially opened in 1986. Under the direction of Dr Tomas Lindahl, Clare Hall has become a leading centre for studies of DNA repair, recombination and replication, cell cycle control and transcription. In addition, the site has provided scientific support services of increasing sophistication to scientists throughout the ICRF. Clare Hall Manor was renovated in 1998 to provide a restaurant, meeting rooms and accommodation.

In February 2002, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Cancer Research Campaign amalgamated to form Cancer Research UK. Within the new charity, the Clare Hall laboratories and former ICRF's central laboratories in Lincoln's Inn Fields combined as the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (LRI). In late 2005 Dr John Diffley became Director of the Clare Hall laboratories until it became part of the Crick in April 2015.

  • Blue skies and Bench Space, an unconventional history of Molecular Biology and the LRI is available to buy or download. For more information visit the BSBS website.