The 1930s and early 1940s saw the IHR relocated several times. In the summer of 1938, the IHR finally moved into the new Senate House building, although not yet into the space that it occupies today. In the early years of its tenancy, it was located on the third floor of the Senate House south block – the location to which it will be returning for the two years that it will take to refurbish its existing rooms.
There was, inevitably, further disruption during the Second World War. The IHR was forced to close in May 1940 when the Ministry of Information took over the Senate House building, although a skeleton staff remained to deal with postal enquiries. In 1943, the Ministry of Information required room to expand, and the IHR’s rooms were occupied by ‘overseas propaganda specialists’. New accommodation was provided for the Institute’s staff in the almost completed British Medical Association Building in Tavistock Square. The ‘work in progress’ nature of this building caused staff considerable discomfort. Cynthia Hawker, MBE, recalled that ‘We had several disasters in that building: during the very cold winter of 1946–7 the pipe carrying the water for the central heating from BMA House to our wing either burst or froze, and we sat shivering miserably while we could see the BMA staff sitting with their jackets off, complaining they were too hot! Then one morning … I came in to find that the cold water tank in the unfinished part of our wing had burst and the water was pouring down the stairs, flooding the ground floor, which included the bindery, where volumes of The Times were shelved on floor level’.
In early 1946 plans were drawn up for the removal of the IHR into its new Senate House home, and the grand reopening finally took place on 13 February 1946.