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Finished drawings for the house, 1760, executed with minor alterations to the internal arrangement, and minus the southern quadrants and pavilions (5)


The general plan of Kedleston Hall, with a central block and four quadrants connecting to pavilions, can be compared to other English Country Houses such as Houghton Hall, Holkham Hall and Nostell Priory, but the design for all of these stems from Palladio’s Villa Mocenigo, as illustrated in the second book of the Quattro Libri.

According to Harris, these plans for Kedleston can be accurately dated to May 1760 owing to the survival of a letter from Adam to Curzon discussing the door on the east wall of the music room which had been included in Adam volume 40/6 in error. There is also a plan of the principal floor in the Kedleston drawings collection, but this is datable to 1765, after the abandonment of the southern pavilions. Moreover, the state apartment had been rearranged by Scarsdale in the interim, swapping the bed room and dressing room. The plan within the Kedleston drawings collection is closer to the house as executed in 1768, and the fabric retained this layout until minor changes were made in 1916.

Adam volume 40/7 shows the semi-state rooms, for secondary guests, on the upper floor, above the principal and state apartments, to the east and west of the hall and saloon. Adam had initially designed his great staircase to extend only as far as the principal floor, as we can see in Adam volume 40/7, but prior to execution it was extended to these rooms on the upper floor. Presumably Scarsdale was reluctant to force prominent visitors to use the adjacent backstairs to reach their bed chambers.

There are similarities between Adam's designs for the north and south fronts of Kedleston, and James Paine's engravings for them in his Plans, Elevations and Sections of Noblemen and Gentlemens Houses (1783). The pavilions and north front were largely dictated by the preceding work of Brettingham and Paine, with the hexastyle portico and half-turn double stairs (which were derived from Colen Campbell's Wanstead). Adam did make some changes to the north front however, including the advanced exterior wall of the hall, the reduced depth of the portico on the central block to a single column, and the inclusion of skylights in the hall rendering the windows underneath the portico unnecessary, and allowing them to be replaced with niches. The idea of including a Pantheon-like rotunda containing the saloon on the south front had been Paine's also (we can see this from his 1783 engraving), but Paine's design shows an unrealistically costly colonnaded bow front. Adam's design for the south front, as seen in Adam volume 40/2, does make use of the domed rotunda, but with a more flat - and therefore affordable - Arch of Constantine motif applied to the façade. The application of an imitation of the Arch of Constantine was not new, as we know from Nicola Salvi's Trevi Fountain in Rome (1732-62), but Adam was innovative as it was the first time that the motif had been utilised within a domestic context. Adam was to use the same motif again that year in the ante room at Syon.

There are elevations of the north and south fronts, corresponding to Adam volumes 40/1 and 40/2, in the Kedleston drawings collection. Moreover, the engravings of Adam's scheme for Kedleston included in the fourth volume of Vitruvius Britannicus (1767) closely follow these drawings, with a few minor alterations in the ornamentation of the north front.



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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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 Finished drawings for the house, 1760, executed with minor alterations to the internal arrangement, and minus the southern quadrants and pavilions (5)