Designed by Edward Gruning, the German Gymnasium was the first purpose-built gymnasium in England and was influential in the development of athletics in Britain. It was built in 1864-65 for the German Gymnastics Society. This sporting association established in London in 1861 by Ernst Ravenstein.
The building cost £6,000 and was funded soley by the German community in London. The National Olympian Association held the indoor events of the first Olympic Games here in 1866. These games continued annually at the German Gymnasium until the White City games in 1908.
The main exercise hall was a grand and elegant space with a floor to ceiling height of 57ft. Long forgotten sports were practised here, including Indian club swinging and broadsword practice. The German Gymnastics Society had a forward-thinking approach to women’s exercise, with classes taking place here from as early as 1866.
This beautiful building has been brought back to its former glory inside and out and is today home to the German Gymnasium Restaurant. The restaurant is styled after the grand cafés and brasseries of Europe. Many of the original features remain, such as the vast laminated timber roof trusses, and the original cast iron hooks from which budding Olympians swung. Even the menu is a nod to the building’s German heritage.