Die Turnhalle: Britain’s first gymnasium

By , 20th July 2010 15:36

The German Gymnasium, originally known as Die Turnhalle, is believed to have been the first purpose built gymnasium in Britain.

Designed by Edward Gruning (1837-1908), it was completed in 1865 as the home for the German Gymnastics Society.   Founded by the German-born cartographer and geographer Ernst Ravenstein in 1861, the German Gymnastics Society was ground-breaking: it was one of the first clubs to hold classes for women.

Alongside William Penny Brookes of the Wenlock Olympian Society and John Hulley of the Liverpool Gymnasium, Ernst Ravensteinwas a member of the triumvirate that masterminded the creation of the National Olympian Association in 1865.  The Gymnasium hosted the indoor events of the inaugural National Olympian Games in 1866.

The building stands between St Pancras and Kings Cross stations in London.  As part of the large scale redevelopment of this area, part of the Grade II listed building had to be demolished to accommodate the re-routing of St Pancras Road.   Behind the new facade, many original features remain including the arched roof beams made of laminated timber and the hooks which suspended ropes and gymnastic equipment from the beams.

Today, the German Gymnasium is the marketing suite for the Kings Cross Central redevelopment project and contains a fascinating scale model of the plans for the area.  The ground floor is accessible to the public during office hours.

From the adjacent St Pancras Station, Javelin trains will run a high-speed shuttle service from central London to Olympic Park in Stratford for the 2012 Olympic Games.

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