William Shipley, Founder and First Secretary of the Society of Arts

Image credit: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

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William Shipley while living in Northampton first envisaged the establishment of a Society for the encouragement of arts, manufacture and commerce. Shipley’s vision was simple; he believed that industry should be stimulated by means of prizes drawn from a fund contributed to by public-spirited people. In 1753 Shipley left Northampton for London and in June of that year made public his proposals for a new Society. On the 22 March 1754 the first meeting of the Society was held at Rawthmell’s Coffee House in Covent Garden. His proposal to offer awards was a feature that was to characterise the (R)SA for its first hundred years. The Society encouraged developments, ideas and inventions in six areas of contemporary importance: Agriculture, Chemistry, Colonies and Trade, Manufacture, Mechanics and Polite Arts.

Royal Society of Arts



William Shipley, Founder and First Secretary of the Society of Arts




oil on canvas


H 72.5 x W 59.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

presented by the artist through the intervention of Caleb Whiteford, Vice-President of the RSA, 1785

Work type


Inscription description

Inscription in Shipley Room


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Royal Society of Arts

8 John Adam Street, London, Greater London WC2N 6EZ England

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