Our history

The Hellenic Centre is a vibrant cultural organisation founded as a charity in 1994. We are located in a beautiful early 20th century Portland stone and red brick building just off the bustling Marylebone High Street in central London. This was purchased with the help of generous donations and support from many individuals and organisations.

The Hellenic Community Trust was established as a charitable body to take ownership of the building, and an appeal was then launched to raise further money needed for the renovations and refurbishment that were required. See list of donors, amongst them the A G Leventis Foundation, Fafalios Shipping SA, the Bank of Cyprus London Ltd, the Michael Marks Foundation, and the Governments of Greece and Cyprus.

Our building

Most visitors to the Hellenic Centre’s red brick Edwardian home on London’s Paddington Street walk through the front door without looking up to see the evidence to the building’s history inscribed on the façade. But if you raise your eyes to the worn stone cartouche above the grand front porch, you can just make out the words “Central Institute for Swedish Gymnastics” bracketed between a pair of carved curling leaves. Our building was commissioned in 1910 from the architectural practice of Forsyth and Maule by Allan Broman (1861-1947), a pioneer of Swedish medical gymnastics and massage—a forerunner of modern physiotherapy. This system of exercise was invented in Stockholm in the early nineteenth century by Per Henrik Ling as a way to improve the physical fitness of schoolchildren, the army and the general population, and to promote recovery after illness. The building also contained lecture halls and classrooms for training teachers of the Swedish system.

College of Physical Education, 16-18 Paddington Street: students exercise in the gymnasium. 1937

The building’s life as a Swedish gymnasium was brief. In 1914, with the sudden outbreak of war, it was transformed into the Swedish War Hospital for British Wounded; a stone inscription to the left of the front door commemorates that part of its history. The Great Hall was filled with iron cots for the 526 patients (464 of them officers) who were treated there for shell shock, gas poisoning, trench fever and wounds from shell splinters, shrapnel and machine-gun fire. Foreshadowing what was to come, concerts were given for the men to relieve the monotony. Two pioneering operations joining severed nerve ends were performed in the hospital’s modern operating theatres, whose equipment included sophisticated X-ray machines. King George V and Queen Mary were given a tour of the hospital, during which the lift—a newfangled piece of machinery—unfortunately broke down, trapping the royal couple for an unknown length of time. 

After the war, Broman sold the building to the London County Council as a teacher training college for physical education. The high walls of the Great Hall were lined with gymnastic bars, and exercise mats replaced the hospital beds on the floor. Both male and female instructors were employed; by the 1960s, photographs show women only classes with updated equipment and a basketball net on the far wall.  

Eventually the building passed to the Inner London Education Authority, but with its abolition in 1990, the training college closed. With the help of several generous donors, the Hellenic Community Trust acquired the premises for £1.25 million in 1992. Two years later, after an elegant conversion preserving many of its fine original features (including some of the gymnastic equipment, transformed into modern sculptures by the artist George Kyriakou), the building was reopened as the Hellenic Centre. The rest is our history. 

2019 – 25th Anniversary Celebrations

2009 – 15th Anniversary Celebrations

In 2019, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Hellenic Centre. In 2009, we celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the Hellenic Centre.
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download the 25th anniversary pdf download the 15th anniversary pdf