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Design for a dairy, 9 August 1789 (1)

Notes

Drawing 6 is a design for the dairy, sent to Mr Watson on the 10th of August 1789 (Journal No 1). The building occupies one side of a court, between the wood house and the wash house, with its rear elevation facing 'the lawns'. The building is simple and unadorned, with pencil alterations to suggest the inclusion of semicircular relief arches more characteristic of Soane's agricultural buildings. The plan is for a series of rooms facing the court. The centre space is the largest, measuring 14 by 20 feet, and is situated between coal and cheese stores. The ends of the building have smaller rooms containing basins. The roof over the middle section is hipped and covered in slate, while the flanking bays are beneath lean-to roofs.

A communication exists between the dairy and the cheese store, but the other adjoining rooms are only accessed via the courtyard. This was probably part of a strategy to keep the heat of the scalding rooms out of the dairy and storage. Rooms for churning butter, pressing, finishing cheese and storage had to be kept at a moderate temperature of between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but access had to be provided to a scalding room where utensils were sterilized in boiling water. Where one of the scalding rooms is adjacent to the store in drawing 6, a cavity wall has been introduced for insulation. Other dairies built by Soane included covered walkways to separate the dairy and scalding room in a similar fashion (Bentley Priory, Middlesex (q.v.) and Betchworth, Surrey). A closet for wood is on the plan, as is a large room for keeping coals; it is unclear whether these were directly associated with the dairy (possibly as fuel for the scalding rooms).

The dairy design in drawing 6 is not of the 'fancy dairy' type fashionable in the late 18th century (e.g. Hamels Park). John Martin Robinson writes that 'dairies are the most elaborate and highly ornamented of eighteenth-century farm buildings' (op. cit.). Surely the simple and utilitarian dairy in drawing 5 does not attempt to be one of these elegant pavilions. Its location, connected to the other offices, probably explains why it diverges from the fashionable type; the fancy 18th century dairy was a polite building for the occupation of ladies, and were thus usually idyllically isolated from the rest of the estate.

Literature

W. Papworth ed., The Dictionary of architecture, published in parts 1848-1892, volume II; J. M. Robinson, Georgian Model Farms: a study of decorative and model farm buildings in the Age of Improvement, 1700-1846, 1983, pp. 98-99.

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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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