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Design drawings and presentation copies of a design that includes an alternative staircase, one dated 9 August 1799 (5)


Soane wrote to Mr Pitt on August 6th 1799 that he was not quite satisfied with the drawings he submitted and that he has made some more for improvements to Holwood: 'be assured, Sir, no exertion on my part shall be wanting to make the house as worthy of the possessor as I possibly can, for I can safely say it is now almost the only wish of my life to see the whole building completed' (Letter Book 1797-1800, p.55). Drawings 31 to 35 show this improved design. Despite his persistence, however, Soane never presented the new design to Pitt. An estimate was settled August 2nd 1799 but, as Soane records in his 'Designs for Public and Private Buildings' (1832), Pitt was not able to build because of his 'limited means'.

Drawings 31 to 51, dating from August 1799, are fair drawings of the unexecuted house. Drawings 33 and 34 are copies of drawings 31 and 32. Drawing 35 is a copy of the same designs but in reverse. The drawings show a principal staircase that follows the same design as in the rough plan on drawing 30, starting as one flight and returning in two quarter-turn flights. It ascends from a central corridor that is on axis with the front entrance and the library. The entrance hall has columns arranged to support an entablature on a half-oval plan. The eating room is also altered, with a bowed south front opposite a chimney-piece within an apsidal recess at the north wall.

The first floor has seven bedrooms and seven dressing rooms. The principal bedrooms are on the south side of the house and surrounding the principal staircase. Another corridor on the north end leads from the common staircase to several bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a 'servant's room' and the steward's bedroom and office. Beds are added in pencil within the bedrooms. The 'Lady's dressing room' occupying the large bowed room was for entertaining, as William Pitt was never married and his sister, with whom he lived from 1785-6, died in September 1786 (J.P.W. Ehrman and A. Smith, Oxford DNB).

The upper-left hand margin of drawing 31 has a list of Soane's clients: William Moffatt of Weston, Southampton, was a client in 1797; Henry Peters of Betchworth Castle, Surrey was a client in 1798; William Praed of Tyringham, from 1793; John Dennis of Ossington Hall, Nottinghamshire, from 1786; and Rene Payne of Sulby Lodge, Northamptonshire, and Maze Hill Greenwich, from 1792 (P. Dean 1999, pp. 176, 187-188, and P. Dean 2006, p. 239). The second name on the list, Mr Marnell (possibly Mansell), is as yet unidentified.

Drawings 32 to 34 are dated 'July 1799' but, according to their fit in the design sequence and their similarity to drawing 31 dated 'August 1799', it is more likely that the drawings were made in August. The date on drawings 32 to 34 appears to be added by a later hand, possibly George Bailey (1792-1860, pupil and assistant 1806-37, curator 1837-60).


P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, pp. 176, 187-188, and P. Dean Sir John Soane and London, 2006, p. 239; J.P.W. Ehrman and A. Smith, 'Pitt, William', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online (accessed July 2011).



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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Design drawings and presentation copies of a design that includes an alternative staircase, one dated 9 August 1799 (5)