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Main Reception Room

A brief history and overview of the Main Reception Room at Chartered Accountants' Hall, home to ICAEW since 1893.

The main reception room (formerly the council chamber) has a high domed ceiling and elaborate wall-paintings, representing the Triumph of the Law and Science bringing Order to Commerce.


Chartered Accountants' Hall was designed in the 1880s by architect John Belcher, who used a Baroque Revival style inspired by Baroque architecture he had observed while travelling in Europe.

Belcher based his Council Chamber (now known as the Main Reception Room) on early Renaissance church design, with a square domed centre to give an impression of soaring height.

It was always Belcher's intention that the walls of the Old Council Chamber should be decorated with murals, with the first designs prepared by Scottish artist M. Moudan Loudan, one of which would have depicted the trial scene from the Merchant of Venice. However, these designs were never carried out. Instead, Belcher turned to George Murray who came up with a decorative scheme that considered the entire space.

George Murray's elaborate frescos were executed in the room between 1913-14, though Belcher would not live to see the finished work. One of the murals shows the Triumph of Law, with a crown being placed on the head of the figure of Justice. Another dramatic scene shows the figure of Justice slaying the figure of Anarchy with a flaming sword. The murals use an image of the room itself as their background, to produce a clever mirror-like enlarging effect.

The fresco images are:

  • Science bringing order with scales and rule to commerce represented by Eastern merchants (opposite the door)
  • Triumph of law (over the clock above the door)
  • Time holding a scythe and seated upon a globe, crowning Justice, who with sword and scales is accompanied by an attendant angel holding the Tables of Law (centre panel)
  • Peace secured by Justice (left group)
  • Judgement slaying Anarchy (right group)
  • Wisdom, Truth, Prudence, and Justice (spherical triangles below the domes)

The figures of Wisdom, Truth, Prudence, and Justice contain the arms of London, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester, the four cities whose associations of accountants first formed ICAEW.

In 1959 architect William Whitfield was commissioned to report on the feasibility of a new building. It was decided to extend the existing building substantially and the new headquarters featuring Whitfield's designs were opened in May 1970. The total cost of the new building came to almost £2.5 million and added 63,000 square feet of space. It was at this point that the Council Chamber became the Main Reception Room.

Before the 1960s' alterations there were further murals on the walls of the room. In the last renovation of the room tests were carried out to see whether these were simply painted over or completely destroyed. Sadly, no trace could be found of these.

Extracts on this page taken from Chartered Accountants' Hall: The Building and its contents

On entering the Main Reception Room one has the impression of an ecclesiastical building with its columns, dome, stained-glass windows and wall paintings."

Peter Boys, Chartered Accountants' Hall - the first hundred years (1990)


ICAEW council chamber, photographed 1936
Main reception room (formerly the Council Chamber), photographed 1936

Image gallery

A selection of images taken over the years.

The Main Reception Room is the focal point of One Moorgate Place with its impressive domed glass ceiling and colourful stained-glass windows. Striking murals by George Murray gives the room a sense of history and life from a different era."

Further sources of information

The ICAEW Library & Information Service holds a collection of books and articles on Chartered Accountants' Hall, covering the original building and the later extensions. See our Further reading page for details of these, as well as links to web pages on the sculptors and artists whose work decorates the building.

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One Moorgate Place

Information on how to hire One Moorgate Place, home of Chartered Accountants' Hall, for conferences, meetings, weddings, parties, private dining and special occasions.

Main Reception Room