It’s been a long journey to become the iconic venue we know today…

The Business Design Centre began back in 1862, as the Agricultural Hall. The building was originally designed to house the ever-growing Smithfield Cattle Club Show; it was the perfect site for it – three acres of unoccupied land on Upper Street. The large indoor space, with an enormous single-span roof was tailor-made for agricultural shows, with a record attendance over one event of 134,669 guests. 

Over the coming years the venue welcomed many different events, and became such a success that its patronage soon earned it the ‘royal’ prefix. Circuses, balls, military tournaments, walking races and motor shows made the Royal Agricultural Hall an early destination for events in London.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, such activities were brought to an end and after being requisitioned by the Post Office in 1943, the building fell into neglect.

Royal Agricultural Hall BDC
SME Office Space

In the 1980s, Sam Morris, founder of the Business Design Centre Group, identified the potential of the Islington site and rescued it from demolition. He set about restoring the building to its former greatness. In October 1986, the new Business Design Centre opened for business.

Since opening, the BDC has welcomed an incredible variety of events. From conferences, awards and galas, to exhibitions, launches, and fundraisers. Some of the most longstanding shows include the London Art Fair, The Country Living Fairs and New Designers, all organised by the now Immediate Media. These multi-day exhibitions welcome tens of thousands of visitors from both across the country and globe. The initial concept of the Business Design Centre being a destination for the design industry to meet and grow has been renewed in recent years with a range of events including the Surface Design Show, HIX – the Hotel Design event of the year and the Workspace Design Show, among others. Tech has become a strong focus in the portfolio of conferences, including the large scale Devoxx UK and Droidcon events that have been hosted annually at the venue for many years.